IGOR STRAVINSKY: Le Sacre du Printemps – Duisburger Philharmoniker/ Jonathan Darlington – Acousence Classics audiophile vinyl ACO-LP21710 (2/25/14) [Distr. by Acapella] ***1/2:
I am pretty impressed with both the resume and skill set of conductor Jonathan Darlington but also with the quality of the Duisburger Philharmonic (an orchestra I know little about from this northern German city). In truth, it is not that there is a paucity of excellent performances of Stravinsky’s iconic Rite of Spring; even in audiophile recordings. In fact, the competition is fierce and, while everyone has some favorites, there is not even a real point to trying to identify the “best.” Here is some background on this present very good addition to the mix.
From Acousence’s own web site: the year 2013 saw the hundredth anniversary of the legendary 1913 premiere of Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps in Paris. Acousence chose to capture Jonathan Darlington’s highly energetic and dramatic interpretation of the work in a live setting as part of their “Living Concert Series” with the Duisburg Philharmonic. This recording was specifically intended to be a centenary commemorative release of this one of the twentieth century’s most important works.
The pressing was done with the highest quality audiophile manufacturer specs on 180g “virgin vinyl”. The result is a very fine record and I was pretty impressed even with my less than “state of the art” equipment. The sound really is spectacular and clean. The very helpful liner notes and booklet also make a point regarding wider spacing between the grooves that all but eliminates background noise. It does, indeed. This is one of the better pressings I have heard in awhile and while conventional compact disc technology has gotten better since its inception (ie..warmer, less bright) I still have an affinity for the darker, somewhat subdued sound of vinyl. In this case, Acousence seems to have really gotten it right with a sound that is natural but sonically very impressive.
As for Darlington’s performance and interpretation, it is very good to be sure. As I mentioned, the field is well planted. I am personally partial to the old Markevitch London recording or the more recent Gergiev and Kirov rendition. (Actually, I rather like the very recent Salonen and LA, too, but mostly for sonic reasons) I actually found Darlington’s performance just a little held back in places. (Certainly any number of conductors can overdo the eighth note pulsing in the “Dance of the Adolescents” or the paganistic splashes in the “Sacrificial Dance,” which Darlington does not)
I would really love to see Jonathan Darlington live sometime. His press is good and he seems charismatic (from the photo inserts!) The Duisburger Philharmoniker is a very good orchestra and this recording is truly topnotch! If you like essential masterworks on high quality audiophile vinyl (and at a reasonable cost I should add) then you would certainly like this one!