About Exactly Half-Awful
Karl Henning | Boston, MA | 01/11/2002
(2 out of 5 stars)
"The good news first (it won't take long, alas!) Boulez and the Ensemble Intercontemporain have a fine touch with the "Dumbarton Oaks" concerto. And Marriner's "Pulcinella" is reasonable.Considering what a cultural icon Karajan is for Germany, the city of Berlin, and the Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft, it is a chilling puzzle why the last have allowed this recording of the "Rite of Spring" to be published. In the annals of recordings of this work (itself an icon of the 20th-century literature), this recording is the equivalent of Star Trek out-takes. Only without the redemption of amusement.The return of the Lithuanian folksong just before the "Danses des adolescentes" must be the sloppiest bassoon playing on record (of any professional orchestra). The life has been so sucked out of the "Rondes printanières," this magical section has been somehow made so thoroughly and moribundly mechanical, that it sounds more like the soundtrack to a documentary about mid-century Pittsburgh, than like any remotely artistic work. Karajan's ungodly hurry with the introduction to part II, in a recording made in 1977, makes this preternaturally (if only slightly ahead-of-its-time) prescient of the John Williams Effect?. A mystifying riot of brass mis-coordination makes the "Cercles" unnecessarily "mystérieux." And the sopranino clarinet plumbs hitherto uncharted depths of underperformance in the "Danse sacrale".Klezmer would have had more dignity. Hey, even the "Circus Polka" (from a hidden corner of the Stravinsky catalogue of which the composer had least occasion to be vain) has more class.The other great oddity on the disc is Markevich's "Symphony of Psalms," a baffling mixture of the sloppy (notably, but not solely, the Russian State Academy Choir, which take singing in Latin much less in stride than any Western equivalent, and which therefore could have done with more preparation) and the keenly insightful (parts of this performance imbue this choral-orchestral "symphony" with more passion than any other I have heard).The Dutoit "Petrushka" and the Maazel "Firebird" are fair, without being anything to write home about. This entire compilation gives off an air of being thrown together for the sole end of helping to pad out the Panorama series.Avoid this. Especially since DGG have reissued a far superior Stravinsky compilation by the LSO under Claudio Abbado's direction."
Stephen Campbell | Dandenong Ranges, VIC Australia | 08/11/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"While the performances are variable - Maazel's Firebird and Karajan's Rite, are very good without being outstanding - others, like Markevich's Symphony, are average at best.
The exceptions are Marriner's Pulchinella and Dutoit's Petrushka - which was highly acclaimed when it first appeared and is still one of the best performances available, with its glowing colours and rhythmic subtlety.
At at the price it's worth getting for the Petrouchka, Pulchinella and Concerto in E flat."