The Rite of Spring, The Firebird Suite (1919)
London Symphony Orchestra
New York Philharmonic
Leonard Bernstein, conductor
The present recording brings together two works by Stravinsky (The Rite of Spring and The Firebird Suite) and one by Prokofiev (the Scythian Suite). The first is performed by Leonard Bernstein with the London Symphony Orchestra, the other two with the New York Philharmonic.
Bernstein Conducts The Rite of Spring
Bernstein recorded The Rite of Spring with the London Symphony Orchestra in 1972. In Bernstein’s rendition, The Rite of Spring is a solid, impulsive work, where a chthonian force that shakes the music to the core. With the rhythmic precision and the cohesiveness he maintains throughout the work, the result is memorable. Each note seems engraved on stone and the colours are essential, dry and sharp.
The entire orchestra plays as one. It seems that the asperity of the music influenced the players too. Its sound is full, round and the nuances of orchestral effects are highly imaginative.
The Firebird Suite
The Firebird Suite, recorded in 1957, is miles away from the Rite. This is a completely new world, a delightful and charming one. While the Rite is tough and severe, the Firebird is light, sinuous and fluid. Even the sound of the orchestra is more relaxed and warmer, ideal to represent a mythical creature as the firebird. Here, Bernstein describes true magic, as in the arcane Introduction, in The Firebird and Its Dance and in the Variations (where the white hot sound flickers like a flame) and finally in the Infernal Dance with its sinister hues.
After Stravinsky’s works, the album ends with Prokofiev’s Scythian Suite. This work, in Bernstein’s rendition, is full of shimmering and deeply atmospheric passages. What is valuable above all is Bernstein’s energetic firmness, which conveys a picture of dramatic intensity, where, from time to time, the music is flickering (The Adoration of Veles and Ala), menacing (The Enemy God), ominous (Night) and soaring (The Glorious Departure).