Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring; Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra

Reviewed on Tue 02 Aug, 2016

Good intensions aside, this is among the worst played Rite of Spring performances on disc. Try the string tuning near the start of ‘The Sacrifice’ (1:10, track 9) or the beginning of track 10) – hardly inspiring, to say the least.

This recent Rite comes with the legend ‘NEW EDITION’, meaning revised and edited with the assistance of the conductor, ‘correcting numerous errors, omissions and inconsistencies.’ A bold claim given that, good intensions aside, this is among the worst played Rite of Spring performances on disc. Try the string tuning near the start of ‘The Sacrifice’ (1:10, track 9 or the beginning of track 10) – hardly inspiring, to say the least. True, the bass drum packs a fair wallop, and momentum does build in places, but the ultimate assessment has to be, non-competitive. The Bartók Concerto for Orchestra is hardly any better. Brass near the quiet start of the work are none too secure, and when the strings enter, supposedly forte, their attack is feeble. Violas at 3:42 into the ‘Elegia’ are marked forte molto espressivo legato – or at least they are in my (Boosey & Hawkes) score – but here they sound alarmingly foursquare, as does the start of the ‘Interrupted Intermezzo’, and although the finale opens firmly enough, there’s too much elsewhere that is either shakily played or imperfectly balanced. If all this – and more – is the result of ‘correcting numerous errors, omissions and inconsistencies’ (which I very much doubt), then give me back the errors. OK, one or two altered details along the way may well be textual (with no list of specific emendations it’s impossible to tell), but in this sad context they hardly matter. A bit of a non-starter, I’m afraid.
–Rob Cowan