Leonard Bernstein's 1958 recording of Igor Stravinsky's Le Sacre du printemps with the New York Philharmonic is ranked among the most exciting renditions ever recorded. Indeed, Stravinsky was sufficiently impressed with this recording to exclaim, "Wow!" Additionally, it was one of the best sounding stereo versions available on a major label. Reissued by Sony for the centennial of the ballet's notorious 1913 premiere in Paris, Bernstein's legendary performance has been remastered from the original analog tapes, and though there is occasional background noise and tape hiss in exposed passages, nothing essential seems to have been lost in the transfer to digital. Some things sound better than others: the undulating chords of the Introduction to Part II have rarely sounded this full and rich, the eruptions in Glorification de l'élue are shockingly vivid, and the Danse sacrale is pungent and incisive. However, the percussion is surprisingly thin in spots in Part I, with the timpani often sounding more prominent than the bass drum, and the entire battery is somewhat underwhelming in the Danse de la terre. There are many all-digital CDs and SACDs that offer superior audio, especially in terms of a wider dynamic range and acoustic resonance, and even acknowledging the excellence of this recording for its time, Columbia didn't have the technology to match today's state-of-the-art audio. All the same, Bernstein certainly gets the orchestra to play in top form, and his elastic tempos in the slow sections and driven pacing in the fast ones keep the listener spellbound. There are no perfect recordings of Le Sacre du printemps, but it's easy to see why this one has stood the test of time and become a favorite of many.
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