Igor Stravinsky / Stefan Goldmann: Le Sacre Du Printemps

Giving new meaning to the word “simulacrum,” Stefan Goldmann assembles 146 sections from over a dozen classic recordings of Stravinsky's Le Sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring) to simulate a singular, seamless read-through of the classic. The composer's seminal work has lost little of its luster and brilliance in the nearly 100 years since it was composed, despite being today as much a staple of the classical canon as anything by Beethoven. The bassoon intro and the stabbing strings and asymmetrical rhythms that propel “The Augurs of Spring” sound as audacious today as they did when the work first appeared. In fact, the piece has been absorbed so thoroughly into the standard repertoire, it's hard to reconcile its relatively innocuous current status with the violent reaction it provoked during its infamous premiere on May 29, 1913 at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris where patrons responded with riotous outrage.

On the one hand, there's certainly nothing objectionable about giving Stravinsky's work additional exposure but, at the same time, one questions whether a stitched-together version is necessary when there are already so many renderings available. At the very least, in staying true to the original score, we should be thankful Goldmann chose the “minimally invasive” (his words) approach he did, given that all manner of indigestible desecrations could be imagined, something on the order of a Switched-On Stravinsky or a—heaven help me—techno treatment. Audio fetishists may delight in monitoring the shifts from one recording to another that occur throughout—signifying such shifts, varying shades of tape hiss are audible when the piece is heard via headphones—but, sans headphones, the less obsessive listener likely will hear it as an unedited version (a “live” version of the work performed in 1957 by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Pierre Monteux is appended to Goldmann's “edit”). An uncharitable assessment would regard Goldmann's version as an act of self-indulgence hardly meriting formal release; a kinder view might commend him for exercising restraint in the manner by which he honours the work and for helping Stravinsky's work become better known to listeners beyond the core classical audience.

June 2009