Video: Monteux conducts ‘Le sacre du printemps’

I was listening to this recording again the other night for the first time in a while and was struck by not only how good the performance was but also by how it must be quite close to how this piece sounded at the premiere in 1913 (or at least what you could hear over the riot and jeers).

Pierre Monteux was the conductor at the premiere and he led an orchestra of French musicians, as here. French orchestras in the 1950s still had a distinctive sound (tart and clear), and the Paris Conservatoire Orchestra is captured in fine stereo sound in this recording, made in 1956. The performance is not as slick or as powerful as they have become in our time, but it is incisive and primitive and teeming. I’ll post just the first two sections below (the others are available on YouTube). Monteux said he always pictured the dancers at the premiere in his head whenever he conducted the score subsequently.

Audio: Stravinsky: Andante

Stravinsky’s music is often thought of as a relentlessly bold, spiky and angular, but he also wrote in gentle pastels. Here’s one such piece, his Andante for piano four hands (which I’m learning at the moment).

And now listen to his enchanting orchestration of same.

Video: Stravinsky conducts ‘The Firebird’

Stravinsky conducts the last three scenes of his own “Firebird” with the New York Philharmonic in 1960. After a bit of a slow start, this is a very nice performance, with considerable heat. Stravinsky didn’t have a strong conducting technique, but he knew how to get what he wanted. Notice the ending — he gets the most out of the final brass peroration and that marvelous “lift” of the fourth to last chord. Leonard Bernstein gives the intro.