This is a curious release. Apparently, it represents two thirds of a concert where the other work was Debussy’s La Mer.

Orchestra de Paris

It’s Pablo Heras-Casado’s first foray into the recording studio with the Paris Orchestra. Most of his previous recordings have been made with wither the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra or the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. I can only agree with one reviewer who sensed a Gallic refinement and nuance in the playing. If it’s the visceral attack you’re after in The Rite of Spring – say Bernstein’s original CBS recording or either of Igor Markevich’s mono and stereo ones with the Philharmonia at the zenith of its glory, (admittedly, they had the unique ability to combine it with suavité) you might be initially disappointed but, at no time, could the dismissive comment made by the composer about Karajan’s first recording “Tempo di hoochie coochie” be levelled at the Dance of the Adolescents, here. The detail of the recording is impressive, allowing inner voices to be heard and the climax is as scabrous as any I’ve heard. 

The other work is a curious choice: Peter Eötvös’ (pronounced urt-versh, in case you’re wondering) Third Violin Concerto, Alhambra, inspired not surprisingly by the Alhambra palace of Charles V in Granada and dedicated to Isabelle Faust, the soloist here. It’s hard to put my finger on the idiom. It’s not easy listening and certainly not your 21st-century music for people who don’t normally enjoy 21st-century or, for that matter, 20th-century music. The Spanish flavour is rather oblique and abstract – a bit like that in Roberto Gerhard’s Don Quixote Dances. There’s a nervous energy suggesting a restless spirit within a haunted palace. 

For me, the most interesting element, apart from Faust’s masterful command of what must be a diabolically demanding score, was the persistent sinister presence of a scordatura mandolin (tuned differently from the usual, as in the violin part in the Scherzo of Mahler’s Fourth Symphony. Interesting but not overwhelmingly so. 

Listen on Apple Music.

Composer: Stravinsky, Eötvös
Works: The Rite of Spring, Violin concerto No 3
Performers: Isabelle Faust v, Orchestra de Paris, Pablo Heras-Casado
Label: Harmonia Mundi HMM902655

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