Music Review

Igor Stravinsky / The Rite of Spring – MusicAeterna, Teodor Currentzis

By Jack Lawson · 21st Jun 2017

A bold new interpretation that dares to delve deeper into the music.

Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring is probably the supreme musical masterpiece of the twentieth century. It has received excellent performances in the studio and live concerts issued on vinyl and compact disc. You can buy it conducted by Stravinsky for CBS, which is now Sony Classics. The composer conducting has a lot of authenticity and energy.

Sony Classics issued this new version eighteen months ago with some marketing ceremony and a unique cover artwork of trompe d’oeil. Under certain lighting you can read the names of the composer and conductor. The serious claim of this performance with Teodor Currentzis conducting MusicAeterna is that it goes deeper than the orchestral showcase treatment of western orchestras; it brings to life the devils and dervishes that come from the Russian folk tradition which inspired Stravinsky.

It contrasts with the opposite – the recording by Karajan who was accused of smoothing things to achieve great beauty and precision of sound. (Allegedly Stravinsky described the Austrian maestro’s interpretation as like a powdered savage.)

The Rite is, and should be, terrifying music; it depicts the sacrifice of a maiden, under the trance of tribal and diabolic possession. For this to work you need musicians who develop waves of polyrhythms into a complex of enchantment. You need musicians who take leave of the world of reason and dance on fire.

When Hi-Fi can reproduce such a recording event, then audiophiles are tapping into something cosmic, a time vault, let’s call it the recording angel. With real hi-fi the work of a genius like Stravinsky transports you to a parallel world – in this case of raw psychic energy that is inhuman, the spring of our uncivilized impulses.

This album is awesome. Performance and engineering deliver a thrilling experience. It is important to play the work in its entirety. Your mood should not matter because the music soon creates the authentic mindset. Avoid the modern trend to listen to short excerpts or download “songs.”

Stravinsky leads you into a world in which naivety is more powerful than reason. The musicians, the engineers, and the label have captured it and at last we can hear a monumental document on the human condition. How such profundity and consciousness survives a 16-bit digital disc is an enigma proving Stravinsky was right: at the dawn of the gramophone he differed from most “vitalist” genius musicians by suggesting recorded music not as stifling music but as a vital document.

MUSIC:
*****
SOUND:
*****

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