Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Readers' Poll: Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring (Le Sacre du Printemps)

What are your favorite vinyl performances and recordings of Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring (Le Sacre du Printemps)?

Please click on the comments link below to tell us your top choices.


  1. Le Sacre is certainly one of my favourite pieces of classical music. And since I've really been enjoying following this blogspot for quite a while, what better time to make a contribution of my own!

    I have to say my favourite vinyl performance of this piece must be that of Pierre Boulez with the Cleveland Orchestra (among a lot of contenders). I've gone through a few vinyl versions of this record and my best sounding one is for some ? reason a german pressing CBS S 72804 (blue label). The sonics are of course not of demonstration quality, but still it gets the job very well done. Both dynamics, detail and ambience are quite sufficient not to detract in any way from a really exciting performance. I tend to like most things with Boulez at the helm, especially this one.

    A close runner-up for favourite recording would be the 1959 classic with Igor Markevitch and the Philharmonia Orchestra. This one always makes me increasingly uncomfortable as the intensity builds. And I mean that in the best way possible. I have the Regal SREG 1024 reissue and sound-wise it's fine but nothing special. There's nothing seriously wrong here to really spoil the listening experience, but nothing that impress much either (especially when compared to other great classical recordings from the same period). Perhaps the original ASD or later issues might be worth tracking down for better sonics?

    1. Dear Brian,

      Thank you very much for your comments! I'd have to agree with you on both of your choices. I recently got the Boulez on a US CBS pressing (I believe it was a 2-eye pressing but have to check again) and while it may not be, as you say, demonstration quality, it is a great performance with decent sound. I've always enjoyed the Markevitch/Philharmonia 1959 recording, which I have as an EMI Classics for Pleasure that does the job. I briefly owned the Italian green/gold EMI HMV pressing but parted with it when I was less impressed with its darker, murkier sound. I wonder how the Regal that you have compares.

      Two other vinyl recordings to consider are the Mercury Living Presence stereo recording with Antal Dorati and the Minneapolis Orchestra and the Columbia/CBS recording with Leonard Bernstein and the NYPO.

      The Solti/CSO Decca recording is often praised as a TAS list recording, but I actually prefer the recordings we previously mentioned.

    2. I'm amazed that there is no audiophile collector favored recordings of this piece. Brian's recommendations are excellent (mentioned by other reviewers online, etc.) Here is Boulez conducting the piece with live video:

      Youtube has Boulez from 1963 (Orchestre national de l'O.R.T.F.) and it may be a sleepr:

      Cleveland performance:

      I've certainly enjoyed Stravinksy with the Columbia Symphony Orchestra (aka NY Philharmonic). I have the Solti as well which is well liked (London CS). Sheffield Lab 24 is direct to disk recording with LA and Leinsdorf which I own, but would not rave.

      So many audiophile Firebirds, and I wonder if its just the more subdued nature of the Rite of Spring that stops it from getting that much attention.

      The Regal may be close to as good as it gets. Often EMI reused stampers. ASD 313 goes for very big money and popsike shows the following stampers for the most valuable copy:
      ASD 313...Matrix Codes: A Side. 2YEA 264-9...B Side. 2YEA 265-12

      Please report back if your Regal is the same. A difference of 1 may imply a remastering. If your copy is the same then it may be close to as good or better than some originals. Stamper condition at the time of pressing can remove some high frequency detail which is often an ASD strong suit.

    3. "Igor Markevitch, Philharmonia Orchestra (1959)

      One of the true Rite scholars, Markevitch actually advised the composer on errors in the 1947 revision. In 1951 he made a fine mono recording with the Philharmonia. Then in 1959, when a Klemperer session was cancelled at the last minute, Markevitch stepped in and they decided to redo his Rite in stereo. Mastery of the notes, combined with the spontaneity of the session, results in an unforgettable reading, one which finds all the elements, poetry, excitement, precision and mayhem, in perfect balance. "

    4. Both Markevitch versions can also be found on a Testament CD reissue:

  2. I have now revisited the Markevitch/Philharmonia Regal SREG 1024 as requested by Meles. Side 1 reads 2YEA 264-9, identical to the reported ASD 313 stamper number. Side 2 however shows 2YEA 265-I5 in the deadwax, a different number compared to the ASD original. Upon closer listening it in fact appears to me that side 2 on the Regal clearly has better sonics than side 1. The second side sounds markedly less compressed and has better instrument separation and detail even in crescendos and busy passages.

    I wonder if mother/stamper numbers may help explain this? The Regal Side 1 has the number 1 above the number 2 for mother and 'M' for stamper (fourth stamper). While the Regal side 2 on the other hand might be pressed from a different lacquer than the original ASD side 2, the Regal side 2 mother number is '1' and stamper number 'R' (second). A late or second generation mother for the stamper to side 1 could point to a likely degradation in sound quality compared to an original ASD pressing. While side 2 on the Regal possibly benefits from a first mother and early stamper. This is pure speculation though and I'm clearly guessing here. It may mean nothing.

    I have a few other titles on gold-cream ASD's in my collection and I don't think the Regal in question quite matches the sonic level of any of these. On the other hand, it could simply be differences in the recording quality and mastering. Difficult to tell as I only have this one version of the Markevitch performance. I do however have some other excellent and better sounding Regal reissues, especially Bruch/Ferras on SREG 2012 (original ASD 314) and Scheherazade/Matacic on SREG 1105 (no ASD).

    I certainly think the Regal Markevitch has a lot going for it and it is really a joy to listen to. Highly recommended all in all, although I'm very curious about the CFP previously praised by aqlam. I'll add that one to my wish list as the price for an original ASD is far out of my budget range.

    I would also like to second Meles' recommendation of Stravinsky conducting himself. I find that recording both engaging and quite interesting.