Stravinsky: Le Sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring); Pastorale; Bach (transcr. Stokowski): Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565; Fugue in G minor, BWV 578 (Little); Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 582

Reviewed on Tue 07 Jan, 2014

The saving grace of this Rite of Spring is the superb playing of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Yannick Nézet-Séguin chooses consistently fast tempos, which rob this seminal work of some of its power and ritual. It’s a vibrant outing, slightly soft-grained at times, and he can be finicky with details. The recorded sound is a lovely job of engineering. Leopold Stokowski (1882-1977) was one of Nézet-Séguin’s Philadelphian predecessors and he set down one of the earliest versions of The Rite (including unconvincing amendments). His orchestrations of Bach organ pieces are legendary, though, not least the D minor Toccata and Fugue, used in the original version of Disney's Fantasia. It’s opulent and sonorous here, so too the solemn C minor Passacaglia and its striving Fugue. Further C minor Bach, another Fugue, is played with similar athletic distinction to a roof-raising conclusion, and the tangy folksiness of Stravinsky’s Pastorale rounds things off with charming expressivity.
–Colin Anderson