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Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring
As early as spring 1910 Igor Stravinsky had a vision of a "great pagan festival" the climax of which would be the death of a young girl who dies of exhaustion after a frenzied dance, surrounded by the elders of her tribe. A further eighteen months would elapse however, during which Stravinsky consulted with the archaeologist and painter Nikolai Roerich to produce several versions of a libretto, before the composer set about realizing his vision by writing the score for this, his most famous ballet.
Initially, the score bore the working title The great sacrifice, but was then renamed The Rite of Spring, and marked the international career breakthrough for the composer, not yet 32 years old, following his two earlier ballets for Sergei Diaghilev and his Ballets Russes, Firebird and Petrushka. And it has to be said that that breakthrough came with a mighty drumroll: when Le Sacre was premiered on May 29, 1913 at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, choreographed by the young Vaslav Nijinsky and under the musical direction of Pierre Monteux, the ballet caused one of the greatest scandals in the history of music and theatre ever – though it has to be said that Nijinsky's choreography, with its stamping, twitching body movements that seem to truly mock the ideal of weightless grace normally expected in dance, was at least as much to blame as Stravinsky's music. That said, this was not a performance suited to those of a nervous disposition, since the composer had transformed the orchestra to a great extent into a gasping, snorting, and above all hammering monster producing a sound that bore no resemblance whatsoever to the elegance of traditional ballet music.
“Stravinsky designed the four-hand version as a rehearsal-aid, but as played here it fascinatingly brings out elements not obvious in the orchestral score.” BBC Music Magazine, January 2015 *****
“Russell Davies doesn't give us fast-lane Stravinsky. The Introduction to 'The Adoration of the Earth' approximates a slowly evolving undergrowth...this isn't the sort of performance you're likely to five up on then return to, or sample. It draws you in for the duration...Fascinating...and what's more important, utterly new.” Gramophone Magazine, January 2015
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Zubin Mehta conducts Stravinsky and Mahler
In 2012, conductor Alex Briger brought together for the first time Australia’s orchestral diaspora - musicians born, bred or trained in Australia, now largely working overseas – and the Australian World Orchestra was born. AWO based out of Sydney, is now an annual event and this recording is the result of the orchestra working under Zubin Mehta in 2013. These performances take Briger’s original idea to a whole new level, this musical offering achieving a quality which unites musicial and artistic aspirations. Under Mehta, the AWO produces a richly coloured reading of The Rite of Spring, heard here in a revelatory pairing with Mahler’s first symphony in its original five-movement version. Mahler is a composer synonymous with Mehta. Zubin Mehta has conducted Mahler in concert extensively for over five decades the world over including orchestras sharing a direct hertitage with the composer the New York Philharmonic, of which Mehta has been their longest serving Principal conductor, and Vienna Philharmonic being two such orchestras. Mahler’s Symphony No.1 is the symphony Mehta chose to program when celebrating his 50th anniversary debut with the Berlin Philharmonic in 2012. AWO attracts Australian musicians from far and wide. Notable Australian’s violinist Natalie Chee, concert-master of the SWR Orchestra in Stuttgart, through to violist Toby Lea, principal viola in the Vienna Philharmonic are two of over 50 attracted back along with musical colleagues from the Bavarian Radio, Singapore Symphony, Philadelphia, Osnabruck Symphony, Comiche Opera, Chicago Symphony, and Gewandhaus Orchestras.
To the delirious Sydney Opera House audience at the conclusion of the concert and pointing to the orchestra behind him Mehta said: “Do you realise what you’ve got here?” After a resounding “Yes” from the audience, the 77-year-old maestro added: “Don’t let go of them!”
This whole project is put together in 7 days and if nothing else it is clearly evident that maestro Mehta extracts impressive energy from the assembled forces!
For downloads, see ABC359622A (Stravinsky) and ABC359622B (Mahler).
“the sense of occasion in both performances is inescapable, whether you warm to their demonstrably grandiose manner or not. The Rite of Spring throws its credentials down from the get-go...It's a lumbering beast of a performance...The Mahler is writ similarly large but, drawing upon Mehta's Viennese credentials, it has an echt authenticity and turn of phrase that is never less than enticing.” Gramophone Magazine, Awards Issue 2014
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Stravinsky: Le Sacre du Printemps, Petrouchka
recreation of the 1913 premiere
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 endeavored to restore the 'Rite' as it was given on the evening of May 29 1913.
“Those who heard Roth and his orchestra perform The Rite of Spring at last year's Promswill remember the lithe transparency they brought to the score...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 Guardian, 29th May 2014 ***
“It’s certainly hard to imagine the first performance, under Pierre Monteux, being as well played as this...The sound of their French-made turn-of-the-century (mostly 1880s to 1920s) instruments throws fresh light on these modern masterpieces.” Sunday Times
“The textures are more pellucid, the woodwind timbres more characterful, and the music sounds springier and less brutalistic – though François-Xavier Roth could have unleashed more wildness in places.” The Times, 5th July 2014
“plenty to admire in the playing from Les Siecles … this disc is mandatory listening.” International Record Review, September 2014
“there’s a heart-lifting sense of renewal and rediscovery...these are very worthwhile performances; indeed, those who think they know these scores will be surprised at how much other performers seem to miss...Illuminating and individual.” MusicWeb International, 19th January 2015
BBC Music Magazine
Orchestral Choice - September 2014
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Leonard Bernstein conducts Stravinsky
This memorial concert took place at the Royal Albert Hall in April 1972 on the first anniversary of the death of Igor Stravinsky, ‘the last great father-figure of Western music’ (Leonard Bernstein). Conducted by Bernstein, this electrifying, unique event is now being reintroduced to the public in DVD form.
Bernstein was a regular visitor to the UK, performing with a number of London orchestras, but this glamorous concert – a memorial tribute to Stravinsky given in the presence of the UK prime minister Edward Heath – was a particularly special event. Bernstein called it an homage to Stravinsky’s universality and chose the three featured masterpieces for their suggestion of ‘the extraordinary range of his art’.
Leonard Bernstein was renowned for his passion for Stravinsky’s music, having first conducted The Rite of Spring with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Serge Koussevitsky in 1947, the only time Koussevitsky ever allowed a guest conductor to appear with his orchestra in that city – it was an indication of the success that was to follow for the young Bernstein. The performance on this DVD takes place twenty-five years later, with the virtuosic LSO on peak form, filmed in colour.
Humphrey Burton, an eminent broadcaster, biographer and director, enjoyed a twenty-year association with Bernstein, during which he directed over 170 concerts and documentaries. The author of the booklet note for this DVD, he also produced and directed the Homage to Stravinsky for television. He recently described the performance of The Rite as ‘the most stunning reportage of Leonard Bernstein’s conducting that I have ever seen’.
A few days after the performance on this DVD, Bernstein conducted the LSO in The Rite at Abbey Road in an experimental studio production.
Michel Béroff is the stunning soloist in Stravinsky’s Capriccio for piano and orchestra. At this time he was already making an international name for himself as an advocate of Stravinsky’s music, amongst other contemporary composers, having won the Messiaen competition five years prior to this performance.
Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms is the final work of the programme, a work that Bernstein felt revealed the ‘devotional Stravinsky, the true believer.’ He called it ‘undeniably the greatest musical celebration of the religious spirit to have been written in our century.’
ICA Classics’ previous two DVD releases featuring Leonard Bernstein (ICAD5082 and 5098) have received great critical acclaim. ICAD5082 was awarded a Diapason d’Or by Diapason magazine.
Sound format: Enhanced Mono
Picture format: 4:3
Running time: 82’
Menu languages: English
Booklet languages: E/G
Region code: 0
Territory Restrictions: None
“Burton is excellent...at deftly intercutting the orchestral with Bernstein's riveting conducting, which conveys an amazing range of rhythmic and dynamic distinctions...The performance itself is by turns mesmerisingly textured and blisteringly powerful, and is playing with coruscating brilliance by the orchestra.” BBC Music Magazine, June 2014 ****
“The conductor takes the limelight, animating old Russian tunes from within and giving the music’s primal urge tumultuous momentum.” Financial Times, 2nd March 2014
“a magnetic performance which is full of the primitive savagery and energy of the music but which also reminds us that Stravinsky’s score contains a wealth of subtle detail. On this kind of form I wonder if there has ever been a conductor better equipped to translate Stravinsky’s vision into aural reality.” MusicWeb International, 28th March 2014
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Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring & Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition
Pentaèdre wind ensemble tackles the twin peaks of the Russian repertoire, Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring and Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, in two astonishing transcriptions for wind quintet by Swiss horn player Stéphane Mooser (Mussorgsky) and American clarinetist Michael Byerly (Stravinsky).
A unique ensemble on the Canadian musical landscape, Pentaèdre explores a diversified and original chamber music repertoire, developed in the tradition of music for winds.
(also available to download from $10.00)
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Stravinsky & Stokowski
Introducing the international debut Deutsche Grammophon orchestral album from leading French-Canadian conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the distinguished Philadelphia Orchestra.
A powerful musical tribute to the mighty Leopold Stokowski (1882–1977), 35 years after his death, from the young conductor who now continues his legacy. Stokowski spent some of his most important and fruitful years in charge of the orchestra in Philadelphia, in a position that brought him some of his greatest accomplishments. Musical showmanship, free-thinking and a populist approach to contemporary music are characteristics of Stokowski’s distinguished conducting and recording career.
This new album focuses on Stravinsky’s daring, revolutionary and game-changing ballet score, The Rite of Spring – given its American premiere performance by Stokowski and his Philadelphia Orchestra, and a work that reaches its centenary milestone in 2013.
Plus a selection of popular Stokowski transcriptions, including the famous Toccata and Fugue in D minor (J. S. Bach), as heard in its Stokowski version in Disney’s classic Mickey Mouse movie, Fantasia.
“any newcomer needs a strong character and a good context – this has both. Yannick Nézet-Séguin treads well that line in Stravinsky between luscious depth and power and biting clarity and impact...A cunningly constructed, beautifully played programme.” The Observer, 29th September 2013 ****
“Nézet-Séguin’s army of admirers will love the young Canadian conductor’s affectionate homage to Leopold Stokowski, his greatest predecessor as maestro of the Philadelphia Orchestra...The playing is crystal clear in a dry acoustic, though stolid at times.” The Times, 2nd November 2013 ***
“The opening [of Rite] is especially memorable with a darkly wailing, characterfully intoned bassoon...Thereafter the performance rides a course somewhere between guarded brilliance and elevated routine until we reach the closing 'Sacrificial Dance' which...is granted one of the most balletic performances I've ever heard, edgy, buoyant and viscerally exciting.” Gramophone Magazine, January 2014
“Another Rite of Spring? Yes, and an absorbing one. Yannick Nezet-Seguin, mercifully, pulls no special stunts upon the listener. His is not an attention-seeking performance, but one which harnesses the exceptional virtuosity of the Philadelphia players towards actually making music of a score too often subjected to the crash-bang-wallop treatment.” BBC Music Magazine, April 2014 ****