The first volume of Hänssler Classic's series Les Ballets Russes commences with music from three of the legendary company's most famous productions -- Igor Stravinsky's Le Sacre du printemps, Claude Debussy's Jeux, and Paul Dukas' La Péri -- though these may not be everyone's idea of legendary performances. Sylvain Cambreling and the SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg give fairly imprecise readings of these scores, yet with intermittent sections of energy and vitality, so the album is a mixed bag. The most disappointing selection has to be Le Sacre du printemps, which has been played much more tightly and with better sound by many other conductors and orchestras, so Cambreling's interpretation was already up against tough competition before he even lifted his baton. All the same, there is no excuse for the loose rhythms and sluggish tempos that dominate this slack run-through, especially since the orchestra demonstrates it has the chops to play accurately and aggressively in the Glorification de l'Élue and Danse sacrale sections. Debussy's impressionistic Jeux seems somewhat better suited to the vague and dreamy treatment that didn't work in Le Sacre, so it fares best of the pieces here. Dukas' La Péri is similarly suited to the fluid style of playing used in Jeux, but its sound is somewhat murky and in and out of soft focus, so the performance seems to lack clarity. With these problems in mind, the listener should choose this disc only in the interest of collecting the series. Otherwise, superior performances of all three works are available on other labels.
AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Le Sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring), ballet in 2 parts for orchestra|
|La Péri, ballet|