The Rite of Spring
Symphony in Three Movements
Bamberg Symphony Orchestra
Recorded in Sinfonie an der Regnitz, Joseph-Keilberth-Saal, Bamberg – on 2 & 3 February 2006 (The Rite) and 19 & 20 January 2005
Reviewed by: Andrew Achenbach
Reviewed: October 2007
CD No: TUDOR 7145
Duration: 57 minutes
Most refreshing! Not for Jonathan Nott the tawdry, self-parading sensationalism of so many modern Rites to have come my way (I’m thinking in particular of Valery Gergiev’s horror-show with the Kirov Orchestra from a few years back); rather Nott leads a lucid, clean-heeled display mercifully devoid of flashy thrills and spills, and evincing a most satisfying cumulative impact, unflustered poise and rhythmic acuity to remind the listener afresh that this seminal score did indeed begin life as a ballet.
I don’t know whether Nott has conducted The Rite in the theatre but his unforced and obviously painstakingly prepared conception has an agreeable whiff of greasepaint about it. Some will doubtless find it all too non-confrontational, small-scale and lacking in elemental abandon – and the engineering, while perfectly acceptable, has neither quite the lustrous definition nor depth of perspective of the very best productions (in which respects the spectacular analogue Los Angeles/Mehta version on Decca really does take some beating!) – but discerning collectors should, I think, lend Nott’s Rite an ear.
The Bambergers made a fine recording of the Symphony in Three Movements under Ingo Metzmacher a decade ago (the concluding item on the penultimate volume of their invaluable Hartmann symphony cycle for EMI) and this new account boasts similar virtues, not least a scrupulous dedication and lissom grace (above all in the exquisitely chaste central Andante). In the outer movements, however, Metzmacher extracts that crucial bit more pep and purpose from Stravinsky’s springy motor rhythms (and I do prefer the more rounded, ‘concert-hall’ balance of EMI’s airier production – both performances were in fact recorded in the same venue but sound very different).
Still, Nott’s remains a thoroughly recommendable coupling, and here’s hoping Tudor give us plenty more releases of comparable excellence from what currently must be one of the most thoughtful musical partnerships around.