Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Stravinsky, Jansons, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra|
Stravinsky: L'oiseau de feu; Le sacre du printemps [Hybrid SACD]
Genres: Special Interest, Classical
Listen to Samples
Magnificent new versions of two well-known works
Marc Haegeman | Gent, Belgium | 12/13/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It takes a truly inspired orchestra and an imaginative conductor to justify yet another disc with these two popular and multi-recorded Igor Stravinsky works. Yet, it seems that these live recordings by Amsterdam's Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra under its chief conductor Mariss Jansons have done just that.
Both the "Firebird" (here in its 1919 Suite) and "Sacre du printemps" were culled from three different live concerts in 2006 and 2007, and the result is totally enthralling. Overall, Mariss Jansons who leads the orchestra since September 2004, opts for an essentially dansante approach of both works (anybody familiar with his much earlier Tchaikovsky Symphonies cycle will know what that means). They were after all made for the stage, although in the hands of many conductors focused on modernity the choreographic base of the scores becomes secondary. Jansons also looks back to the 19th century, reminding us that Stravinsky's roots are to be found in the sound worlds of a Rimsky-Korsakov or a Tchaikovsky. In this respect Jansons exactly knows how to exploit the qualities of his orchestra to the full, allowing his fabulous woodwind and strings sections to turn the Firebird into a ravishing feast of colour and magic (Danse and variation of the Firebird, and the Berceuse). Just as in certain passages of Sacre he even finds an appropriate (Slavonic) touch of sadness and melancholy, which I haven't heard that often in these works (Introduction of 2nd section). This basically atmospheric approach sheds a different light on an old warhorse, in other hands often limited to a slap-in-your-face demonstration of orchestral virtuosity and loudness. The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra provides virtuosity aplenty, but it's balanced by moments of reflection, and while the ensemble produces power like none else, there's no sign of aggressiveness.
After listening to this disc one is tempted to agree with the hype that the Royal Concertgebouw is indeed "the best orchestra in the world." Or better said, the orchestra of the old days of Bernard Haitink is back. The strings are breathtakingly beautiful (those pianissimi!), while the woodwinds and brass boast so much character they easily sound like solo parts. The sheer beauty of the sound makes one forget these are live recordings. The DSD recording is in the demonstration bracket and the warm, spacious acoustics of the Concertgebouw hall are rendered in a near-ideal way. The sections of the orchestra are exactly reproduced in space with a beautifully judged balance. Everything is rendered with taste and even during the sonic climaxes there is never any hardness or shrillness.
A minus perhaps is that the cover of the disc doesn't specify it contains only the suite of the Firebird, not the complete ballet. But otherwise this is an outstanding release. Even collectors owning several versions will find that Mariss Jansons and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra still have plenty to say in this repertoire.
Sonic Splendor, Great Firebird Suite
J. F. Laurson | Washington, DC United States | 12/24/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Gramophone Magazine wanted to list the 20 best orchestras in one of its last issues - a daft and highly entertaining venture. What they ended up doing, inadvertently, was crowning Mariss Jansons the luckiest conductor alive. Even without a list to tell us so, I've been happy to point out that he did in fact have the best deal in (orchestral) conducting: He heads the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam (voted No.1), one of the supreme "Old European" orchestras that has, more than most other bands, preserved its distinct voice even at the highest levels of playing - and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (voted No.6), one of the most skilled and flexible orchestral bodies in the world. Negligible travel time between the two cities sweetens the deal for a conductor who increasingly suffered from the effects of jet lag.
When Jansons took over the RCO in 2004, it coincided with them issuing their own audiophile record label. As I have pointed out in the "Almost Best of 2008" list, I had looked forward to every release with immense anticipation and excitement - and all too often found that if the conductor didn't suffer from jet lag anymore, at least the performances did. They were - are all-round excellent, as far as the playing is concerned, but at their best they lacked that last kick to make them special, at their worst they were dull run-throughs that happened to sound pretty good.
A little bit of that last kick - or in this case: bite - might be lacking from Janson's second Stravinsky recording with the RCO, too, but the combination of sensational, superlative playing and fantastic sonics overrides all possible other concerns on this disc with the Firebird Suite and Le Sacre du Printemps. In particular the Firebird here is stunningly rich and colorful, with plenty `oomph' and the softness of its hues contributing greatly. Le Sacre can be had with sharper rhythms and tarter climaxes, but once Jansons gets the score rolling, it develops an unstoppable force here, too. In any case, the all-around gorgeousness of this release overrides any and all such quibbles. If you want to hear why the RCO is so highly thought of, and can't make it to Amsterdam any time soon, this (and the Mahler Fourth) should give you all the answers you need.
(One of my "Best of 2008" choices. http://ionarts.blogspot.com/2008/12/best-recordings-of-2008.html )
Jaw-dropping sonics, and a very good Le Sacre
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 09/02/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Rite of Spring, like Holst's The Planets, is cursed to be served up every time recorded sound takes a leap (more often a small step) forward-- and this latest concert recording from Amsterdam keeps the tradition alive. It's stupendous in terms of clarity and impact, with hardly a single flaw: every section of the Concertgebouw sounds realistic and colorful. (I do not know the multi-channel SACD version, however, which must be even better.) The orchestra plays several notches better than they need to; this is really disciplined, perfectly blended ensemble even when the music roars and shrieks (James Levine produces the same immaculate effect with the BSO in Le Sacre.)
As for Janson's interpretation, I'd rate this one of his two best recordings on the RCO Live label, along with the Shostakovich Seventh. I learned long ago that his sense of phrasing and pace isn't sympathetic -- we just hear music too differently. So I chafed at some awkward transitions and bumpy phrasing. Even so, Jansons' Le Sacre is huge and powerful, if not the last word in savagery. It's preceded by a Firebird Suite that is beautifully played but faceless; at least Jansons doesn't fuss and worry over each phrase a la Gergiev. For other listeners who have a more positive view of Jansons, this CD could easily rate five stars."