STRAVINSKY Le sacre du printemps - Collector's Edition
Le Sacre du Printemps' 100th Anniversary is celebrated in a major way on Decca and on Sony as well.The impressive 20-disk set contains most of the recordings made by labels now associated with Decca since 1946, a feast for those who love this music. Undoubtedly most collectors already will own many of them. However, here they are at budget price, and the collection is impressive. Of prime interest to me is the 1947 recording conducted by Eduard van Beinum with the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra, a stunning performance that occupied four 12-inch 78 rpm disks, to my knowledge never issued on LP. There have been three CD issues I know of, the earliest on Beulah (2PD11), others on LYS (43l) and Music & Arts (1054). The first two have been discontinued, but the M&A issue is still in the catalog, valuable as the four disks contain other important early Van Beinum recordings. The :LYS issue states it was recorded Sept. 11, 1946 in the Concertgebouw, the Beulah says it was recorded in Walthamstow Town Hall September 10, 1946, the M&A release states September 1946. The official Concertgebouw discography states the recording was made Sept. 11, 1946, but does not indicate it was recorded in England (when the orchestra was on tour) although it does mention that March 9, 1946 excerpts from The Damnation of Faust and Beethoven'sLeonore Overture No. 2 were recorded in Walthamstow. At any rate, the audio never was outstanding, with muddy, undefined bass and considerable distortion—surprising as the engineer was Kenneth Wilkinson, very early in his legendary career. The M&A transfer is the best of the three previous CD issues, and now we have this remastering presumably from original disks. It surely is the preferred version of this performance although the sound picture is still cloudy and distortion at climaxes still is there. However, those who love Sacre surely should own it.
Stravinsky made many small revisions to Sacre over the years, sometimes at the suggestion of conductors including Ansermet and Monteux, and rewrote the final sacrificial dance, reportedly to make it easier to perform. However, not all of his changes have been incorporated into current performing editions and it is unclear just what they are. .It is very unlikely any listener will be aware of them.
There is a major unavoidable omission from the Decca sets—there is no recording conducted by the composer, as he recorded for Columbia. Stravinsky made three recordings, the early 1929 French version, then in 1940 with the New York Philharmonic, and again in 1960 with a pickup orchestra identified as the Columbia Symphony. The latter two can be found in Sony's set. Appropriately there are two recordings by Antal Doráti, both high fidelity showpieces. His 1953 mono Minneapolis version is one of the fastest ever and while the percussive climaxes have remarkable impact, the overall dry acoustic does not favor the music. Doráti's later Detroit recording also is included, in stunning stereo sound, but his reading has tamed considerably. Producers wisely have selected Ozawa's 1979 Boston recording rather than the rather poorly-recorded 1968 performance with the Chicago Symphony—which you can find this in the Sony set.
I authored a Basic Library in the November 1991 issue of the esteemed audiophile magazine Stereophile. In it I compared 36 recordings of Sacre, many of which are included in Decca's new budget set. In that article, I related the saga of the first recordings of the music. Both the composer and Monteux wanted to make the first recording. Stravinsky made his for French Columbia May 7-10, 1929 with the Orchestre des Concerts Walter Straham which, for contractual reasons, was identified as Orchestre Symphonique. Monteux founded the Orchestre Symphonique de Paris in the fall of 1928 and after a concert performance of Sacre, French Gramophone made their recording. The Monteux recording (with the orchestra identified as Grand Orchestre Symphonique, was the first issued (1929) followed a few months later by the composer's. It's interesting to note that on the latter, recording engineers overlapped music on connecting 78 rpm disks. Because of this, collectors of the time heard a version of Sacre with more repeats than written! But at the time, who could tell the difference? :Lovers of this music should hear these two first recordings, one by the composer, the other by the conductor of the premiere—if you can find them.
Sixteen of the performances in the Stereophile feature are no longer in the catalog, versions by Karel Ancer;. René Leibowitz, Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos, Daniel Barenboim, Pierre Boulez (French National Orchestra), Eliahu Inbal (Philharmonia Orchestra),. Igor Markevitch (Suisse Romande Orchestra), Sixten Ehrling, Eugene Goossens, Charles Mackerras, Lorin Maazel (Cleveland Orchestra),.Zubin Mehta (New York Philharmonic), Riccardo Muti, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, Stanislaw Skrowaczrewski, and Leopold Stokowski—an impressive list of major conductors only three of whom are in Decca's new set. Only one of these is included in the Sony set, the early Stokowski, a major issue as it was the first American recording of the score. .
However, there are a number of major performances that should be investigated by those who lover Sacre. In particular, I would mention Riccardo Muti/Philadelphia Orchestra, Karel Ancerl/Czech Philharmonic (one of my favorites!), and Igor Markevitch with the Philharmonia.
While it is interesting occasionally to hear the composer's own arrangement for two pianists, there is no question that the score demands orchestral sonorities. The Decca set includes three recordings in the two-piano version, all expert but of limited interest; one would have been sufficient; the Ashkenazy/Gavrilov is perhaps the finest. The final disk in the compilation is the first recording of Stravinsky's Violin Concerto recorded in October 1935 with the composer conducting the Lamoureux Orchestra. with Polish-American violinist Samuel Dushkin as soloist. Dushkin had collaborated with Stravinsky on composition of the work, and he gave both the U.S. and European premieres. This is a valuable recording although audio is dated, orchestral playing sometimes insecure. It does seem odd that Decca could not find something else to include on this final disk: playing time is a mere 21:59.The 20-disk set is compact and contains an 82-page booklet with complete timings for every track, plus recording dates and locations. Nigel Simeone provides CD notes with commentary on the performances.This is highly recommended!
sacre du printemps - 100th Anniversary Edition
And thanks to Decca for doing their part to celebrate the most immportant piece of music of the century, and at budget price.
R.E.B. (May 2013)