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Stravinsky: Petrouchka; Le Sacre de printemps
Igor Stravinsky, Pierre Boulez, Cleveland Orchestra
Stravinsky: Petrouchka; Le Sacre de printemps
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (6) - Disc #1

Boulez's DG remakes for these landmark ballets score over his previous CBS versions on sonic and executional grounds. The Cleveland Orchestra's chilly proficiency and regimented perfection, though, seems achieved at the ex...  more »


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Boulez's DG remakes for these landmark ballets score over his previous CBS versions on sonic and executional grounds. The Cleveland Orchestra's chilly proficiency and regimented perfection, though, seems achieved at the expense of atmosphere and character, as exemplified in Chailly's Sacre with the same orchestra on London, or the composer-led Columbia Symphony Pétrouchka. --Jed Distler

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CD Reviews

Very good. But for GREAT, to back to 1969!
Mark I. Kaufman | Silver Lake, Ohio | 05/07/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"When George Szell was appointed Music Director of the Cleveland Orchestra in 1946, he sculpted an ensemble that even 35 years after his death remains the most technically proficient orchestra in the history of recorded classical music. Quite simply, this orchestra is so tight and precise that it is easy to forget that one is hearing 100-plus musicians!

However, much of the 20th century repertoire was beyond his intellectual purview. No greater evidence of this is the dreadful Szell/Cleveland Orchestra recording of Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra.

Enter Pierre Boulez, who seems to understand contemporary music at a cellular level.

Therefore, when a conductor like Boulez is leading an ensemble like the Cleveland Orchestra, the listener will experience such music in a way seemingly impossible with any other orchestra/conductor pairing. Clearly, these musicians love playing for Boulez.

As for this second recording with Boulez and the Cleveland Orchestra, it is as one might expect. That is to say, it is very good. Clean, well, conceived, with excellent balance, and for the most part, intelligently paced.

However, it can never be regarded as the definitive recording because of perhaps the most vivid and electrifying recording ever of this work, created in Severance Hall with the Cleveland Orchestra and Boulez in 1969.

The only criticism one might have is that the sound quality is obviously not up to the standards of this DGG digital recording. But the playing on the 1969 CBS recording so precise, so clean, so alive, that even the hardest of hardcore audiophiles, if he or she loves this work, will be taken completely beyond the sound, and into the music.

If I had only one recording of this 20th century masterpiece, it would be with this orchestra and this conductor. But not this recording.

Seek out the 1969 CBS recording, for which a five-star rating is inadequte. Once you hear THAT stunning performance, you will never be satisfied with anything less.

Some flaws..
Redgecko | USA | 02/02/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)

"I always find it amazing that record companies, in this case Teldec, don't take the little extra effort to turn a good product into a great one. In this case their error was to not split The Rite of Spring into 11 tracks for each of the subparts like everyone has done (this recording has only two for each of the two main parts) and include liner notes that explain each of the sections. For collectors that already have other versions this may not be a problem, but for novices that are trying to study the music, the omission is unacceptable. Also, the liner notes stink--2 pages total for the 3 pieces and then 3 pages on Barenboim!

DAVID BRYSON | Glossop Derbyshire England | 08/14/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Both Petrushka and the Rite date from 1911, and these performances of them were recorded in 1991. By that date Boulez himself was not in the springtime of his youth, and it may well be, as some comment seems to suggest, that his readings are less incisive than in earlier days. Myself, I am not even fully convinced that this is the case, and even if it is the compensations seem to me more than to make up for it. These readings are less strident than some, and there is no sense of straining to obtain effects of contrast. Petrushka's cry, for one thing, is relatively euphonious here, and the Rite in general is probably not quite as dramatic as my wonderful performance, extraordinarily well recorded on a Mercury LP about 50 years ago, by Dorati with the Minneapolis orchestra. On the other hand, Boulez at this stage of his career seems concerned more than before with beauty of orchestral tone, and I say without hesitation that this is the most beautiful Petrushka that I have ever heard in my own lengthening life.

In any case, even if the new approach is less forceful than previously, I detect no loss whatsoever of underlying strength. Boulez has always seemed to me ideally suited as a conductor of Stravinsky. His dynamics may be less `terraced' here than he would once have made them, but the clarity of texture that he obtains is as absolute as ever, and his strength of line and rock-steady firmness of rhythm mark him out as they always did. Above all what is bound to strike you in this performance is the sheer quality of it all. Listening to sound as magnificent as this, I was astonished that it had been achieved so long ago as 1991. Szell had turned the Cleveland Orchestra into a mighty playing-machine, so bring on the right maestro to mould and direct the virtuosity of every section of the band, give them all world-beating engineering, and the end product is an outright orgy of acoustical perfection and beauty. What an amazing bunch of orchestrators the Russian masters were! Stravinsky was a pupil of Rimsky himself, and the master might have envied his pupil if he had heard what we can all, in the third millennium, hear on this disc.

Occasionally everything seems to go right, just as all too often nothing seems to, and here, on top of the outstanding performance and recording, we have a first class liner-essay by Professor Richard Taruskin. I personally wonder whether, even in 1911, the Rite of Spring was as much of a shock to its hearers as Taruskin lets on - he himself admits that what caused the misbehaviour during the Paris premiere was more Nijinsky's choreography than Stravinsky's harmonies. However he has been given adequate space to set out his erudition and his insights, and he has the appropriate material to fill the space with. These days I find it hard to suppose that Stravinsky in general, and these two works in particular, are capable of shocking any but the least experienced music-lovers. To them, and to those who have been around the matter longer, I say that if the word that you would have used to characterise Stravinsky was not `beautiful' it will be after you have got to know this disc. He is my own favourite Russian composer of them all, but I'm not sure I had quite understood what he amounts to in all ways until I had heard what I have heard on this occasion."