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Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
The Rite of Spring (1913) [34:21]  
Symphony in Three Movements (1943) [22:31]  
Bamberg Symphony Orchestra/Jonathan Nott
rec. February 2006 (Rite), January 2005 (Symphony), Joseph Keilberth-Saal, Bamberg
TUDOR 7145 [56:52]

The British conductor Jonathan Nott has created something of a stir since his appointment as principal conductor of the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra. This splendid ensemble has a similar position in many respects to that of the Hallé, Royal Liverpool and Bournemouth Symphony orchestras, since it is an international-calibre orchestra based in a regional location rather than a capital city.
Certainly the quality of the playing on this Stravinsky disc means that Bamberg need make no apology as to the orchestra’s credentials. The results really are first rate, with accurate and disciplined ensemble playing combining with distinguished solo contributions. Lovers of orchestral music need ask for nothing more.
Stravinsky demands these high standards in order for his music to achieve maximum thrust and articulation. Once both these performances begin, phrasing and tempi seem completely convincing, as any good performance should.
It may seem an unexpected observation, but the most impressive moments of this Rite of Spring are the most sensitive and introspective, in particular the opening of Part Two, which is wonderfully atmospheric. This may have something to do with the recorded sound, which is pleasing enough but in a generalised kind of way. The tuttis lack depth of perspective, with the result that gradings of dynamic in the upper range might have made more impact. Compare this with, for example, another recent recording, on DG with Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic (00289 6198), and it is the latter who make the stronger impression as far as sheer physical power is concerned.
Nott has the measure of the score, however, and the tempi always feel appropriate for the music. The same can be said about the companion piece on the CD, the Symphony in Three Movements. For the prospective collector couplings can be an important issue, and whereas Salonen offers Bartók’s Miraculous Mandarin and Mussorgsky’s Night on the Bare Mountain, an all-Stravinsky programme may appeal more and is the norm in the catalogue.
The Symphony in Three Movements is notoriously tricky to bring off, in terms of rhythmic articulation and precision. Nott and his Bamberg Orchestra emerge from the challenge with great credit, and their corporate achievement is not in doubt. If they don’t quite create the electricity of Simon Rattle in his CBSO performance for EMI (CDC7490532), it is down to the same issue of recorded sound. Again it is good but lacks in depth and power of resonance.
Terry Barfoot

see also review by Leslie Wright


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