Stravinsky - Le Sacre du Printemps, Petrushka
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Label: Actes Sud
Cat No: ASM15
Number of Discs: 1
Release Date: 30th June 2014
ConductorFrancois Xavier Roth
One of the biggest scandals in the history of music stirred Paris as the Ballets Russes created the new ballet by Igor Stravinsky and Vaslav Nijinsky, The Rite of Spring, conducted by Pierre Monteux. To celebrate this anniversary, François- Xavier Roth, with special permission from Boosey & Hawkes and with the assistance of musicologist Louis Cyr, have endeavoured to restore the 'Rite' as it was given on the evening of May 29, 1913.
"One of François-Xavier Roth's first releases with the period instruments of his orchestra, les Siècles, was the complete Firebird ballet. Here they complete their trilogy of the great scores that Stravinsky composed for the Paris seasons of Diaghilev's Ballets Russes before the first world war, all played, as is the Siècles way, on instruments that come as close as is possible to those used at their first performances. Those who heard Roth and his orchestra perform The Rite of Spring at last year's Proms will remember the lithe transparency they brought to the score, the subtle shading and shifted emphases that dispel any hint of mechanistic brutalism.. But it's the Petrushka that's the real revelation here. Roth's restraint, and the elegance his woodwind players bring to their contributions, pays real dividends. The score emerges as a more fascinating than usual intersection between Stravinsky's Rimsky-tinged Russian heritage, the groundbreaking modernism that he was establishing for himself, and the French refinement that he was absorbing in Paris." - Andrew Clements, The Guardian, 22nd May 2014
The Europadisc Review
2013 marked not only the centenary of Stravinsky's Le Sacre du printemps, but also the tenth anniversary of the pioneering French orchestra Les Siècles. Founded in the summer of 2003 by its conductor François-Xavier Roth, this ensemble champions the use of both modern and period instruments in its quest to perform music of all repertoires on the instruments to which it is best suited. It was logical, then, for it to tour a special programme including Stravinsky's orchestral masterpiece around European centres, and this disc, which also contains the complete 1911 Petrushka, was recorded at concerts in Metz, Grenoble and Frankfurt.
Both works present huge challenges when using 'period' instruments. Time was when French orchestras, and their distinctive wind instruments in particular, were often the butt of jokes. By contrast, the musicians of Les Siècles are hugely accomplished, so that the highly characterful timbres of woodwind and brass are one of the main attractions of this fascinating and invigorating disc.
The difference this approach makes is evident at the very outset, where the famous opening bars of Le Sacre take on an almost vocal quality thanks to the notoriously difficult but superbly played turn-of-the-century Buffet Crampon bassoons. The narrow-bore brass and piston-valve horns cut through the textures with splendid bite, and the strings are tremendously gutsy (metaphorically and literally!). Roth's radical approach isn't confined to using period instruments, however; building on the musicological research of Louis Cyr in particular, and with special permission from the work's publisher Boosey & Hawkes, Les Siècles here play the version of the score heard at the riotous première, before Stravinsky embarked on an extensive and protracted series of revisions. Many of these changes were cosmetic, but some – like the sudden drop in dynamics in the Augures printaniers section and the alternating string pizzicato and arco in the concluding Danse sacrale – are strikingly different. But above all it's the thrill of the music, combined with incisiveness of the playing, that really makes this performance special, and a must for Stravinskians everywhere.
The performance of Petrushka is similarly revelatory, and here it's not just the wind and brass that make a characteristically 'French' sound, but also the two Érard harps and the wonderfully evocative 1892 Pleyel piano which plays such an important part in the unfolding narrative. The Danse russe has a particularly ebullient freshness to it, while the more delicate passages of Chez Petrouchka shimmer delightfully. Even on modern instruments there are few if any performances of this work that are more involving. As with Le Sacre, details leap out with an unforced naturalness that has everything to do with well-suited instruments and musicianship, and nothing to do with technological spotlighting.
All round, a hugely important release, stunningly recorded and beautifully presented.
1The Rite of Spring - Part I Introduction
2The Rite of Spring - Augurs of Spring
3The Rite of Spring - Ritual of Abduction
4The Rite of Spring - Spring Rounds
5The Rite of Spring - Ritual of the Rival Tribes
6The Rite of Spring - Procession of the Sage
7The Rite of Spring - Dance of the Earth
8The Rite of Spring - Part II Introduction
9The Rite of Spring - Mystic Circles of the Young Girls
10The Rite of Spring - Glorification of the Chosen One
11The Rite of Spring - Evocation of the Ancestors
12The Rite of Spring - Sacrificial Dance
13Petrouchka - Fete populaire de la semaine grasse
14Petrouchka - Le tour de passe-passe
15Petrouchka - Danse Russe
16Petrouchka - Chez Petrouchka
17Petrouchka - Chez le Maure
18Petrouchka - Danse de la ballerine
19Petrouchka - Valse
20Petrouchka - Fete populare de la semaine grasse (vers le soir)
21Petrouchka - Danse des nounous
22Petrouchka - Danse des cochers et des palefreniers
23Petrouchka - Les deguises
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