MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2024
60,000 reviews
... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Support us financially by purchasing from

Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Ballets Russes
Le Sacre du printemps
(The Rite of Spring) (Reconstruction of version of 29 May 1913) [33:51]
Petrouchka (Petrushka) (1911 version) [34:53]
L’Oiseau de feu (The Firebird) (1910 version) [44:01]
Les Orientales
Choreographic divertissement by Michel Fokine (music by Arensky, Glazunov, Grieg & Sinding)
Les Siècles/François-Xavier Roth
rec. October 2010 to September 2013, Cité de la Musique de Paris, la Cathédrale de Laon, l’Arsenal de Metz, MC2 Grenoble and Alte Oper, Frankfurt.
Reviewed as downloaded in 24/44.1 sound with pdf booklet from
HARMONIA MUNDI HMX2905342.43 [68:44 + 59:57] 

This could be a very short review: these refreshing recordings of the three Stravinsky works for the Ballets russes and the Fokine pastiche received high praise when they were first released; at their new price, they are even more desirable. In fact, price is the only reason to have reservations, none of which impinge on the performances or presentation. The original releases, from Actes Sud, came on CD, but whereas until not long ago Harmonia Mundi could have reissued them on SACD, they have abandoned that superior format. While the reissue can be downloaded in hi-res 24-bit format, that costs more than the physical discs for no apparently logical reason. As I write, one dealer has reduced the CDs from £13.75 to £12.37, but is charging £18.44, reduced to £12.94 for lossless (16-bit) sound and £23.06 down to £16:14 for 24-bit. Another dealer, even less logically, is asking 50% more for mp3 than for the CDs - and more for a used copy than for new.  For purchasers in US$, is offering 24-bit at the same price as 16-bit for an initial period, at $19.88.

That’s the statutory grumble out of the way. Now it’s all plus, not least the fact that the downloads come with a pdf booklet, the lack of which was Dan Morgan’s reservation in describing the original release of Rite of Spring and Petrushka, CD1 of the reissue, as ‘illuminating and individual’ – review. In both ballets Roth and his team of period-instrument performers seek to recreate the original experiences of 1913, 1911 and 1910 respectively, and in doing so they produce a sound which allows the listener to cut through to detail often missed in other favourite recordings, even from Stravinsky himself (Rite of Spring and Firebird, Sony SMK89875, download only, or Rite of Spring and Petrushka, G010003468026K, also download only) or Doráti (Rite and Petrushka, Presto Mercury 4343312, or download) or Monteux (Rite and Petruska Decca Eloquence 4808903 – review).

That lack of a booklet meant that I couldn’t give a date for the recordings in 2014/9, and I still can’t give you exact dates for each of the recordings on the reissue: Harmonia Mundi list only overall dates and venues. Otherwise, what I wrote then about CD1 remains applicable: The performance of Rite of Spring aims to reconstruct how the music sounded on that fateful day in May 1913 before the alterations which Stravinsky thought necessary thereafter to make the work easier to perform, including dropping the alternation of plucked and bowed strings. If the music seems to lack some of the sheer power of classic performances which I admire, from Stravinsky’s own (originally CBS) and Doráti’s classic Mercury recording onwards, the gain is in terms of its sheer musicality, with the kinship with The Firebird, already recorded by this team, clearer than in most recordings. And from Rondes des printemps (track 4) onwards there’s plenty of power, too, where required. With a fine account of Petrushka as the coupling, this is an important release.

We seem to have missed CD2 when it was first released on ASM06, but I alluded to it in Autumn 2017/1 in the context of a slightly disappointing Firebird from Andris Nelsons. I referred to the coupling then as ‘a confection ballet with music by Arensky, Glazunov, Grieg and Sinding, Les Orientales. That’s merely an interesting pot-pourri but the Firebird, as close as possible to how it would have sounded when first performed, is as well worth hearing as the same performers in Rite of Spring’.

I stand by those words in regard to the Firebird, but I now find myself much more attracted by the colourful performance of Les Orientales. Hearing Roth and his players in the Glazunov Pas de deux from The Seasons makes me wish they had recorded the whole work, which I fell in love with many years ago when it was the opening music for a TV current affairs programme. Whatever you may think of this divertissement, it’s played with real gusto, and there doesn’t seem to be an alternative version. Indeed, some parts have had to be reconstructed for this recording.

That leaves me with an unenviable choice for an alternative inexpensive version of the three Stravinsky ballets. Simon Rattle with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra on Warner 9677112 – review – offers Apollo as the fourth work. That recording is now download only, but it’s slightly less expensive than the Harmonia Mundi in any format – around £11 in lossless sound. There’s no 24-bit equivalent, but the late 1980s sound remains good, and the set as a whole is well worth considering. Overall, however, Rattle’s slightly less than powerful Rite of Spring yields to other recordings, not least to Roth and his team. Even those who find period-performance of baroque music unappealing should have no problems with the early twentieth-century French instruments of Les Siècles – gut strings, narrow-bore trumpets and trombones and the like.

The clarity of their playing is matched by the quality of the recording – even better in 24-bit sound now than the mp3 of CD1 which I reviewed before. You would hardly know it from the lack of noises off – a very slight stifled cough at one point – and the lack of applause, which Roth doesn’t like to retain for posterity, but these recordings are live, sometimes with a blend of the performances at different venues and sometimes from the dress rehearsal, though the joins are not at all apparent from the acoustic.

Completists should not overlook Decca’s recent 11-CD Chailly Stravinsky edition (4851367 – review). Including two different versions of Rite of Spring, that’s excellent value at under £40 from some dealers, and deserves to be snapped up – such limited-edition box sets have a habit of disappearing. Overall, however, if asked to recommend a recording of just the three Stravinsky Ballets russes, this would rank very high on the list, irrespective of its special appeal in getting back as close as possible to the original performances – that’s an added bonus.

Brian Wilson

Les Orientales (1910)
Divertissement chorégraphique de Michel Fokine (1880-1942)
Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1936)
Raymonda (Acte II):
Entrée des Sarrazins [0:52]
Danse orientale [1:41]
The Seasons, Op.67:
Pas de deux, Bacchanale [3:16]
Christian SINDING (1856-1941) Orchestration (2010) Charlie Piper
Danse orientale, Op. 33/5 [3:14]
Anton ARENSKY (1861-1906)
Nuits égyptiennes:
Danse égyptienne [1:29]
Charmeuse des serpents [1:16]
Danse des Ghazies [2:15]
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907) Orchestration (2010): Bruno Mantovani
Lyric pieces, Op.71/3 Småtroll (Le Djinn) [1:58]

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing