Leonard Bernstein

Igor Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring; The Firebird Suite

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This is the "Bernstein Century" edition of Leonard Bernstein's Quadrophonic 1972 London Symphony Orchestra recording of Igor Stravinsky's Le Sacre du printemps. It was Bernstein's second go at the work in the studio, the first being made at the tail end of the mono era in January 1958 with the New York Philharmonic. CBS was very heavily into "Quad," and this justified a second recording of Bernstein in Le Sacre du printemps in order to show off the boom and bang of the new system. Whereas the 1972 "Sacre" is definitely exciting in spots and is a wildly colorful performance, it is also inconsistent in tempo, orchestral balance, and intonation. The percussion and brass parts are really LOUD, however; which may help account for its popularity. The high end is very bright and brittle, and the middle of the orchestral picture is cloudy and clotted, yet other things are good, such as the amazingly long and precisely departing room decay captured at the end of the "Cortège du Sage."

In this instance, the filler consists of Bernstein's 1957 mono recording of Stravinsky's Firebird Suite, a good performance in which, this time, the brass is a bit too far back and the finale plods rather than strides. While this "Bernstein Century" installment has deleted, it has since been replaced by a "Masterworks Expanded Edition" sold at the same price point and with Bernstein's 1964 recording of Scythian Suite added -- a terrific idea that would've been the right one even the first time around.

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