Andrew Litton / Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra

Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring; Petrushka (1911)

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For this 2011 SACD, Andrew Litton and the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra delivered meticulous and sonically transparent readings of Igor Stravinsky's classic ballets, the original 1911 version of Petrushka and the revised 1947 version of Le Sacre du printemps. Because these performances and the DSD recordings are so clear and pristine, one gets the impression that the goal was to showcase the sound of the pieces above all other considerations. To the extent that the music is executed with an eye to precision and an ear to every detail, Petrushka and Le Sacre almost seem to lack personal interpretations or even little liberties of expression, but seem instead to be closely studied and clinical. Still, since the music is Stravinsky's, the pursuit of musical objectivity is wholly appropriate, and Litton is certainly right to be self-effacing and to let the music speak for itself, because the true brilliance of these scores only becomes apparent when there is minimal interference from a conductor. Of the two performances, Petrushka holds the most surprises, because this version is played less often than Stravinsky's revised version and has a rougher, more experimental quality, as well as material that was later cut. Le Sacre is completely familiar and offers less novelty, but it is such an exacting reading, details that are often overlooked become important features, and the startling clarity of the playing makes this a riveting performance that listeners will want to hear again and again. Highly recommended.

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