Symphony No.8 in G, Op.88
The Rite of Spring
Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: 16 March, 2013
Venue: Orchestra Hall, Detroit, Michigan
It was 8 p.m. in Detroit and the turn of Sunday morning in London where Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos makes too few appearances these days but has a full dance-card of engagements in the United States, particularly with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Here with the Detroit Symphony, in one of its very welcome webcasts, Frühbeck paired the outgoing Eighth Symphony by Dvořák with The Rite of Spring, Bohemian fauna and flora coupled with Stravinsky’s violent and ritualistic winter moving into its eponymous successor. Conducting from memory, and taking advantage of a chair, the 79-year-old Frühbeck (80 this November) led an elastic account of the Dvořák, measured, trenchant and generous in the first movement, rather grand, and with time to pin-point and place detail. After a soulful slow movement, the third’s courtly elegance was lightly sprung and, in the coda, gently frisky. If the finale was not the fieriest, then the horns’ trills rang out exuberantly in an account that was well thought-out if just a little contained.
This year is the centenary of the premiere of The Rite of Spring, in Paris on 29 May. Surprisingly The Rite did not reach the Detroit Symphony until 1958 when Paul Paray conducted it. Frühbeck led a mighty fine performance, one head and shoulders above those (many) renditions that seem unable to go beyond fast, loud and crude. Following a shapely and poised bassoon solo, Frühbeck found an element of mystery in the opening pages. Overall this was an eminently danceable performance in which textures glistened and folk-music roots were attended to, all under the umbrella of well-judged tempos and a lightness of touch and lucidity of detail that was refreshing. Passages that can drag, such as the opening of Part 2, were kept on the move, and the whole had an unforced vitality, not perfect but unambiguous and a long way away from the coarse showpiece that this seminal score is often coerced into being. The spirit was right and the DSO responded admirably to the Spanish maestro’s considered and clear conducting. The webcast’s sound and picture were more than acceptable.