STRAVINSKY: The Rite of Spring – London Symphony Orchestra/ Sir Eugene Goossens – Classic Records HDAD

by | Sep 9, 2010 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

STRAVINSKY: The Rite of Spring – London Symphony Orchestra/ Sir Eugene Goossens – Classic Records HDAD (2 discs; CD + DVD – one side DVD-Audio, either 192K 2-channel or 96K 3-channel; other side DVD-Video either 96K 2-channel or Dolby Digital 3-channel) HDAD 2023, 37:42 [Distr. by Naxos] *****:

Composed in 1912 and premiered in Paris the following year, Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring lays claim to being the single most important orchestral work written in the 20th century. Originally composed as a ballet for Sergei Diaghilev’s famed Ballet Russes, the premiere of this avant-garde work was greeted with a scandalous riot that broke out amongst the first night audience. The ballet’s extreme modernity and rhythmic complexity contributed to a breakdown in its performance and the choreographer Vaslav Nijinsky was forced to stand on a chair and count to the dancers who were unable to hear the music. In any case his untraditional choreography contributed to the audience’s displeasure. In later years Stravinsky encouraged musicians to play The Rite of Spring as a concert piece which is the way the work is usually experienced today.

Sir Eugene Goossens conducts the London Symphony Orchestra in a recording originally released on the original Everest in 1960. His performance of the ballet is meticulously expansive, precise in its expert use of texture and orchestral dynamics, leisurely in its pace and lyrical during the Rite’s reflective passages. Although Goossens eschews the constant urgency found in Leonard Bernstein’s highly regarded recording with the New York Philharmonic, he ratchets-up the tension whenever the ballet calls for it making for some stunning climaxes. There is a wide dynamic and emotional range in his interpretation that is invigorating in its freshness and exhilarating in its musical intelligence.

This recording was originally made on 35mm magnetic film which accommodated three channels, each of which was as wide as standard ¼-inch recording tape. The use of this more robust recording medium yielded less background noise and greater dynamic range. The base material of the 35mm film was five times thicker than that of conventional tape permitting a recording of greater sonic intensity without distortion. To celebrate this special recording technique Classic has been releasing two disc sets that feature the original recording remastered in stereo on standard CD along with a two sided DVD-10 or HDAD containing remastered two-channel 24 bit/192 kHz and three-channel 24 bit/96 kHz DVD-Audio recordings on one side and two-channel 24 bit/96 kHz and three-channel Dolby Digital AC-3 DVD Video recordings (playable on a standard DVD player) on the other.

The remastered stereo CD sounds spacious and well focused with a sonic depth and acoustic warmth reminiscent of well-made vinyl discs. The broad powerful dynamics of this recording one can attribute to the 35mm magnetic tape used in the original session. The second disc features an easy menu system to access the various versions of the piece. The DVD video side of the HDAD offers a bright and forceful though slightly coarser three-channel Dolby AC-3 version of the original. The two- channel 24 bit/96 kHz incarnation is a recording of greater finesse and clarity, reminiscent of the original but more spacious and airy. The DVD-A side offers a stunningly clear 24 bit/192 kHz two- channel recording that is the most lifelike of all five choices. The three-channel 24 bit/96 kHz version gains spaciousness at the cost of the lifelike warmth of the two channel one. It is fascinating to experiment with all five versions: psycho-acousticians will have a field day. This impressive package combines an excellent performance with a rich sonic palette of choices. This is a set that is well worth adding to your collection. [Some of this Classic transfer series from the original 35mm mag film have dropouts and speed variations due to deterioration of the originals, but evidently this one and the Bartok Concerto for Orchestra pass muster…Ed.]

— Mike Birman  

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