The Rite of Spring
Alexander Scriabin: The Poem of Ecstasy
Kirov Orchestra, Valery Gergiev Conductor
Review by Wayne Donnelly
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CD Stock Number: Philips 289 468 035-2
Valery Gergiev's Rite of Spring is the most subtly perceptive, sensuous, rhythmically vital interpretation I can remember, live or recorded. Gergiev has long been Music Director of St. Petersburg's Kirov Ballet and Opera, the crown jewel of Russian musical culture, and his theatrical flair is evident throughout this tour de force.
There must be something in the St. Petersburg water that produces great musicians. The St. Petersburg Philharmonic has long ranked among the world's greatest orchestras, and as this CD confirms, Gergiev's Kirov musicians have reached the same elite level. Their virtuosity is essential to the realization of Gergiev's conception; the eloquent woodwinds, searing brass and voluptuous strings, the flawless ensemble, are so riveting that I continue to listen with such rapt pleasure that the last notes of the closing "Sacrificial Dance" always evoke a moment of regret.
If Stravinsky pointed the way for music of the 20th century, Scriabin's music signals the end of an era -- that of mystical, chromatic post-Wagnerian romanticism. Scriabin's Poem of Ecstasy makes a good introduction to his orchestral style: just 20 minutes long and relatively easy to follow. I find it one of Scriabin's most successful works, and I doubt you will find a better performance than this one.
The warm and resonant sound, recorded with tube equipment, does justice to Stravinsky's orchestral color end potent percussion dynamics. Sure, Keith Johnson or Tony Faulkner would doubtless do even better, but the sound is better than the norm for the PolyGram labels. And even if the sound were not this good, the uniqueness of this Rite of Spring demands the attention of any music lover.
Sound Quality: 92