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Stravinsky: L'Oiseau De Feu, Le Sacre Du Printemps, Persephone Box set

4.6 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Box set, April 27, 1999
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Editorial Reviews

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Here's a Stravinsky set to raise eyebrows. Where is Petrouchka, the standard coupling for Firebird and Rite in collections of the great early Stravinsky ballet scores? Instead, we get the too rarely heard Perséphone, and it's the highlight of the set. Premiered in 1934 to a text by André Gide, Perséphone is a retelling of the Greek fertility myth of the earth's winter death and spring renewal. The tale drew from Stravinsky some of his most delicate and beautiful music in the neoclassical style of the period, a sibling to the ballets Apollo and Orpheus and the cantata Oedipus Rex (it also includes string figures that recall those works).

Stephanie Cosserat, in the title role, is a youthfully persuasive narrator, very different from Vera Zorina's oracular reciter on Stravinsky's own recording. Stuart Neill's tenor is a big plus, and the orchestra and chorus play and sing with involvement. Michael Tilson Thomas brings out the cool tenderness of the score, and the recording, made at a live performance, is truthful. His Firebird is lushly dramatic, and the Rite's barbaric thrust is leavened by some soulful wind playing. Recorded competition in the two ballets is fierce (along with Gergiev's recent Firebird on Philips, there are classic versions by Ansermet, Dorati, Haitink, and others, including the composer) but Perséphone makes this set an attractive proposition. --Dan Davis

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Product Details

  • Performer: Michael Tilson Thomas
  • Orchestra: San Francisco Symphony
  • Composer: Igor Stravinsky
  • Audio CD (April 27, 1999)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 3
  • Format: Box set
  • Note on Boxed Sets: During shipping, discs in boxed sets occasionally become dislodged without damage. Please examine and play these discs. If you are not completely satisfied, we'll refund or replace your purchase.
  • Label: RCA Victor BMG
  • Run Time: 129 minutes
  • ASIN: B00000IOCZ
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #58,848 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
I agree with most reviews I have read--MTT takes overall a lyrical view of all three works. Persephone benefits most from this. All works clearly exhibit MTT's ability to maintain a rock solid rhythmic pulse. Recordings are clear and well-focused. Since I collect all versions of these works, they were must acquisitions. Now that I've heard them, I'd put all three works near the tops of my "lists". Haitink's Firebird on Philips provides more shear wonder and beautiful phrasing. Zander's Rite is still very thrilling, though I recall a late 50's Monteux on RCA with the Orch. Paris Cons. that struck me at the time as nearly overwhelming. Igor Markevich's several recordings are similarly in a special class. So, MTT provides intiguing insights into the workings of the Rite's orchestration, but you won't whisper "wow" at its end. Persephone is, on the other hand, altogether wonderful.
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Format: Audio CD
The San Francisco Symphony has experienced a rebirth with Michael Tilson Thomas, and nowhere are the results more dramatically demonstrated than in this outstanding CD set. Whether Thomas's personal relationship with Stravinsky makes any difference in his readings is hard to say - someone should ask him - but the ballet warhorses come to life in this CD and Persephone is a revelation to those who, like me, had never heard it before. The sound quality of these CDs is also outstanding, particularly on a system that can handle a wide dynamic range and present a realistic illusion of the orchestra arrayed across the stage. Most large label recordings do not match the sound quality of this one. It deserved all of its Grammys, including the engineering award, as in this case the engineering serves the music and proves what a big label can do when it tries hard enough.
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Format: Audio CD
This is the best recording of the Rite of Spring on CD ever! The engineering is top notch (much better than most recordings these days), which befits the Rite and the Firebird. As for the performance itself, the recording of the rite is excellent, with lots of contrast between the heavy percussive parts and the more lyrical passages. There are also some dramatic tempo changes in the work which are played out quite well. Overall, I prefer this Rite to the Bernstein recording.
The Firebird is acceptable. The finale is not as overpowering as the Gergiev recording, but the work is easier to listen to as a whole than the Gergiev version.
Then to top it all off, Persephone is included in this set, probably one of the few recordings made of this work, and is also a good listen.
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Format: Audio CD
Probably one of the best recordings of Le Sacre du Printemps and L'Oiseau Feu and the best recording I've heard of Persophone, Michael Tilson Thomas and the brilliant San Francisco Symphony brings a refreshing new look to classic Stravinsky.
Persophone is an abosolute gem of a work. Rarely performed or heard on the radio, SFS took a chance in putting in on this CD in lieu of the often coupled Petroushka. The soloists are superb.
Le Sacre du Printemps is a challenge for any orchestra, but this group is able to make it seem easy yet full of life. This interpretation can easily be compared to many of the great recordings. The brass are clear and pristine, the strings lush and, when need be, brash, the ensemble playing, succinct.
I have always preferred the full ballet version of the Firebird over the suite for reasons of orchestration and a fuller effect on the lister. There is so much more life in the full ballet, which can be heard with MTT and the SFS. It is dramatic, lush, powerful, full of life, colorful, and eminates youthful exhuberence. The winds in this recording bring such vitality to their parts.
If there were any complaints I would have for the recording, it would be Bernstein's influence on MTT sprouting in the score, from a few fermatas held too long and rubato that didn't seem to work. Nevertheless, the energy that this group puts into the piece is phenomenal and breathtaking.
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By A Customer on September 19, 2000
Format: Audio CD
I agree that this is an absolutely wonderful set, however I think that the thing that makes it most special is Persephone. I have Gergiev's Firebird, and frankly, I think it is better (and I don't think that MTT's Firebird is easier to listen to--the oppisite, as a matter of fact). Admittedly, MTT's Rite of Spring is wonderful, but what is truly exceptional--and absolutely beautiful is Persephone. Also, although it does take more than one or two listenings to begin to fully appreciate Persphone, it does not necessarily take five years...more like a couple of months! And it doesn't hurt to read the following in the accompanying pamphlet (complete with Gide's poetic French text to Persphone, also translated into English, following): "Persephone is also the composer's love song to Vera de Bosset who became Vera Stravinsky in 1940: 'Whatever tenderness or beauty may be found in the music is my poor response to those qualities in her.' "
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Format: Audio CD
As an orchestral trombonist, I looked a long time for the Rite of Spring recording to add to my collection. I finally settled on this one and "WOW!!" is all I can say. Tilson Thomas, while a very fine conductor, sometimes forgets about the emotion of a piece, that is, often I find his interpretations too smooth. Here, however, he allows the full savagery and fire of this music to come out - the brass searing,the strings raspy where necessary and the all important basson solo is smooth and gorgeous. I fully endorse the multiple Grammys this set was awarded. There may be other Rites of Spring that do individual things well, (namely the stellar sonics and bass drum/organ impact on the Salonen/LA Phil recording from 2003 or the visceral, primal, if flawed reading Gergiev gives) however overall this set rises above the rest. While I intend to get the others I just mentioned for comparison, this set will be the standard by which I judge future recordings; the playing is flawless and the interpretation is above reproach.
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