Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring (CD review)

Also, The Nightingale. Olga Trifonova, soprano; Robert Tear, tenor; et al. Robert Craft, London Symphony and Philharmonia Orchestra. Naxos 8.557501.

I didn't care overmuch for Maestro Robert Craft's conducting of Stravinsky's Firebird, issued by Naxos a few months earlier than this release, but I found his reading of The Rite of Spring more to my liking. Craft is a noted expert in things Stravinsky, having been a close friend of the composer and a co-conductor on occasion. Still, that doesn't mean we're all going to warm to his interpretations.

While Craft seemed almost lackadaisical in his conducting of The Firebird, he seems positively energized in The Rite of Spring, if anything zipping through it at too hurried a clip. I compared his timing with several other conductors, Georg Solti and Colin Davis among them, and found Craft a full five minutes faster through a work usually lasting little more than thirty-five minutes.

Nevertheless, the quick tempo adds a degree of tension to the music that is most exhilarating in places, and it does little harm to the basic story idea. This is not to say I would recommend Craft's recording above classic interpretations from Muti, Solti, Monteux, Boulez, Dutoit, Dorati, Davis, Rattle, Stravinsky himself, and others.

Even more, I enjoyed the disc's coupling of Stravinsky's oft-neglected, complete one-act opera The Nightingale, although I am personally more keen on the music alone than on much of the rather static singing. Still, it's beautifully rendered by all concerned.

The sound, recorded in 1995 with the LSO for The Rite of Spring and in 1997 with the Philharmonia for The Nightingale and reissued here, varies only slightly from one work to the next. The Rite seems cleaner and stronger to me, the Nightingale smoother and softer. In louder passages there is a touch of stridency in the higher notes, but it's nothing to worry about, really. The bass line in the Rite is strong if not particularly deep. As we have a master conductor at the helm of both these pieces, it's hard to argue the worth of this bargain-priced disc.


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Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For over 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me--point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, as of right now it comprises an Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio High Current preamplifier, AVA FET Valve 550hc or Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer.
Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa