STRAVINSKY: Le sacre du printemps. Apollon Musagete.
STRAVINSKY: Petrushka. Concert Suite from Pulcinella. Symphony of Wind
RESPIGHI: The Pines of Rome. The Fountains of Rome. Roman Festivals
More treasures from the Exton label: two outstanding Stravinsky disks with Jaap van Zweden leading the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, of which he been music director since 2005. He also held positions with other Dutch orchestras and was concertmaster of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra from 1979 to 1995 (he can be heard as soloist in Riccardo Chailly's Decca recording of Scheherazade). Zweden also is conductor of the Hong Kong Philharmonic and in 2006 began an association with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and now is their music director. His dynamic performances and personality have created new excitement for the Texas orchestra, and some of their performances are now issued ed on the DSO's own label (REVIEW). Rite and Apollo were recorded August 21-25, 2006 in the NRPO's Hilversum studio; other works were recorded June 24-28, 2008. These are stunning performances of Sacre and Petrushka. This is a hard-driven Rite of immense power played with all stops out. In the "Evocation of the Ancestors" (tr. 12) the quiet three bars for strings are inaudible—perhaps an editing error? Or is this the way Zweden wanted it to be? At any rate, this is among the best Rites on disk, as is the Petrushka. The other Stravinsky works also receive excellent performances. The audio is perplexing. On-screen, it says these are 5.0 channels, but sounds from rear speakers are virtually inaudible, even for ambient sound. However, the sound is wide-range and rich in low bass with sounds that will delight audiophiles.
One really doesn't associate Vladimir Ashkenazy with Italian romantic music, but he turns out to be an imaginative interpreter of Respighi's Roman Trilogy. All three symphonic poems were recorded in the same venue as Zweden's Stravinsky, in March 2004, and April 2005. Sound is razor-sharp and one hears all of the sizzling upper percussion, and a very realistic nightingale in the third movement of Pines. Unfortunately on occasion we can hear Ashkenazy exhorting the orchestra, particularly in the opening of Pines. Although this supposedly is "surround sound," it really isn't, and it is unfortunate engineers didn't use the multiple channels to better effect, particularly in Pines. Still, a commendable issue.
R.E.B. (August 2012)