Norman Lebrecht
Sinfini Music
May 2013

Stravinsky was merciless to conductors who attempted his signature work. Herbert von Karajan’s recording he dismissed as ‘too bland’, Pierre Boulez’s as ‘effortless … too fast’. Leonard Bernstein he berated for adding ‘excessive dynamics’. Even Pierre Monteux, who conducted the riotous 1913 premiere, came in for muttered criticisms of his subsequent performances. If the man who wrote the music declares a performance to be wrong, why should we listen? Given that Stravinsky’s own three recordings differ widely from one another in tempi and ambience, the composer is the last person on earth to preach consistency. Still, if the man who wrote the music declares a performance to be downright wrong, why should we bother to listen to it? … The older Stravinsky would probably have preferred Yuri Temirkanov’s 2009 recording with the St Petersburg Philharmonic—measured, manicured and unmistakably Russian in its intermittent melancholia. There are episodes of exquisite natural beauty and organic sounds. What’s missing is Bernstein’s abandon, but the details are delicious.