Leonard Bernstein / New York Philharmonic – Le Sacre du Printemps (2013, 180g pressing)

# Composer: Igor Stravinsky
# Orchestra: New York Philharmonic
# Conductor: Leonard Bernstein
# Vinyl (1958 / 2013)
# Number of Discs: 1
# Format: Flac
# DR Analysis: DR 15
# Label: Sony Classical | 88765469152
# Size: 752MB (24/96) + 201MB (16/44.1)
# Recovery: 5%
# Scan: yes
# Servers: File Factory / File Post

From the label:

“Wow!” a galvanized Igor Stravinsky reportedly exclaimed after listening to Leonard Bernstein’s astonishing recording with the New York Philharmonic of Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring), a performance that was captured more than a half-century ago in a single electrically-charged recording session. Fifty-five years later, this legendary album still sounds as galvanizing and revolutionary as Le Sacre du Printemps itself, a work that Bernstein characterized as “only one of your everyday volcanic masterpieces…a miraculous new creation of such originality and power that still today it shocks and overwhelms us.”

It was exactly a century ago that Le Sacre du Printemps shocked and overwhelmed its first audience, provoking a now legendary riot at its Paris premiere whose notoriety and magnitude was unprecedented in the history of classical music. The opening night audience included, among the ladies, gentlemen and diplomats, such luminaries as Pablo Picasso, Marcel Proust, Gertrude stein, Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy.

This reissue of Bernstein’s 1958 recording of Le Sacre du Printemps is a brand new audio transfer from the original analogue reels pressed on 180-gram audiophile quality vinyl. It includes the original cover art of the now-iconic image by Gray Foy that would turn out to be the quintessential visual equivalent to Stravinsky’s music. In addition, the package has photos of Bernstein and Stravinsky plus images from the New York Philharmonic recording session and an essay by Jonathan Cott, writer and editor for Rolling Stone magazine.


Certain musical documents stir particular memories: the Sony reissue of MS 6010, the 20 January 1958 performance of Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps by Leonard Bernstein, recalls my own first experience of this powerful score in live concert – with Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic, circa 1961. The program included: Wagner: Siegfried’s Funeral March; Brahms: Violin Concerto in D (Francescatti); and Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring. After the performance of the Brahms, setting up the intermission, an elegant young couple behind me and my chaperone, they wearing elegant evening clothes, rose from their seats, and the gentleman whispered loudly to his companion, “Let’s not ruin the Brahms.” I had no idea what he meant, for I was innocent even of the Disney treatment of the score. And had I heard it, I could not have named it.

Then, after I returned to my seat, so did Lenny appear before the orchestra that was soon to be his alone, Lenny’s having “usurped” the position from his mentor, Dimitri Mitropoulos. From the opening bassoon solo through the gripping poundings of the tympani (eleven times), to the blaring of the four trumpets and six French horns, I became transfixed, unnerved and weirdly moved by an extremely primitive experience. Now, with the return of Bernstein’s original document – recorded in the mammoth space of the Colorama Ballroom of the Hotel St. George in Brooklyn – which restores artist Gray Foy’s shamanic cover art, we have a shattering reminder of how fully Lenny controlled this score. Producer Howard Scott ensured the intensity of the performance by placing spot microphones within three to twelve inches of selected individual instruments. Even Stravinsky found the recording blood-rousing, having literally been lifted out of his seat when he auditioned it at the CBS studio.

The accompanying booklet includes a host of reminiscences by conductors and composers about their relationship to Le Sacre and its musical significance. The record itself had its release 14 July 1958, the celebration of France’s Bastille Day. So, too, do musicians and connoisseurs conceive Le Sacre as a form of liberation from the musical past, equal to what Beethoven achieved in his own time. Everyone in the music industry is busy paying homage to Le Sacre on its centennial anniversary, that fateful 29 May 1913 in Paris when its own springtime music making suddenly erupted into emotional and physical violence. Curiously, Stravinsky always recalled more fervently the work’s second performance, less riotous, perhaps, but ending in his embrace with conductor Monteux, which Stravinsky labeled “the sweatiest kiss of my life.”

So, once more, we say “Bis! Maestro!” and turn our attention to performances old and new, historical and hysterical, of Le Sacre du Printemps. And Lenny Bernstein’s remains one of the best. — Gary Lemco, audaud.com

Nowadays The Rite presents a vexing performance problem – how to restore the original impact. The score was intended to assault audiences with startling freshness, yet listeners now take its innovations for granted and thanks to Fantasia remember the work more as a cartoon soundtrack for dancing dinosaurs than as the bold cornerstone of twentieth century music. In a stunning January 1958 record, Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra restored The Rite to its rightful place in musical history.

Bernstein’s solution to the problem of historical perspective was brilliant and yet, as so often with artistic triumphs, disarmingly simple. He was well aware that what shocked audiences in 1913 would seem pretty mild stuff two generations later. He couldn’t expect audiences to turn back the clock, forget what they knew and participate in an aesthetic masquerade. Nor would he falsify the score by adding more “modern” elements. There was only one way to jolt contemporary listeners while preserving the integrity of Stravinsky’s original conception: to generate a level of energy so intense as to restore the disparity between what the audience expected and what they had to feel. Bernstein’s performance explodes with huge crackling sparks of rough, untamed excitement.

But all the frenzied podium gestures in the world would be unavailing without a corresponding contribution from the orchestra. The New York Philharmonic, in most critics’ view, had become lazy and unkempt by the late ‘fifties, sleepwalking through concerts without challenge. Recently appointed its permanent conductor, Bernstein’s hyper baton turned their unruliness to superb advantage, inspiring them to overcome the boredom of professional routine and to convey an urgent sense of creating art afresh.

Fully reflecting its conductor’s galvanic commitment, the Philharmonic’s attacks are razor-sharp, its outbursts perfectly synchronized, its dynamics startlingly precise, and its virtuosity staggering, even in the most complex and difficult passages in which the score abounds. Most amazing of all, the players manage to suggest primordial snarls and shrieks that heighten the raw excitement of Stravinsky’s conception.

The early stereo engineering provides startlingly vivid sound. A huge number of spot microphones must have been used, as we seem to crawl inside each of the instruments, and can actually feel the buzz of a vibrating reed, the grip of a rosined bow, the impact of a plucked string, the tense breath on a flute, the biting flatulence of the heavy brass. The very air reverberates with the sounds of primal nature, like an ancient forest pulsing with life. Above it all the percussion section is given extreme prominence, far louder than could be generated in any auditorium, with the tympani in particular tearing the sonic fabric with their harsh blows.

This is not the sort of realistic sound to which we have become accustomed nowadays, but Stravinsky’s was hardly a natural conception. If the performance is a vibrant dream, its recording is a thrashing hallucination. The all-important rhythm, which pounds home the structure, and the exaggerated presence, The only CD of Bernstein’s 1958 Rite which underlines the radical harmonies, grab our attention, pull us inside a terrifyingly intense world and batter us with their overwhelming power. This is classical engineering at its most creative level – using the resources of the studio to enhance the composer’s and performers’ intentions. – Peter Gutmann, classicalnotes.net

Track Listing:

Side One
Part I – Adoration of the Earth
         a) Introduction. Lento
         b) Le augure printaniers (Danses des adolescentes)
              (The Augurs of Spring (Dance of the Young Girls))
         c) Jeu du rapt (Mock Abduction)
         d) Ronde printanieres (Spring Round Dances)
         e) Jeux des cites rivales (Games of the Rival Tribes)
         f) Cortege du Sage (Procession of the Wise Elder)
         g) Adoration de la terre (Le Sage) (Adoration of the Earth (The Wise Elder))
         h) Danse de la terre (Dance of the Earth)

Side Two
Part II – The Sacrifice
         i) Introduction. Lento
         j) Cercles mysterieux des adolescents (Mystical Circles of the Young Girls)
         k) Glorification de l’Elue (Glorification of the Chosen Victim)
         l) Evocation des ancetres (Summoning of the Ancestors)
         m) Action rituelle des ancetres (Ritual of the Ancestors)
         n) Danse sacrale (L’Elue) (Sacrificial Dance (The Chosen Victim))

Ripping Info:

All vinyl is cleaned on a VPI 16.5

Technics SL1200-MK5 (modified)
– Rega RB300 arm with RB700 wiring
– Michell Tecnoweight
– SoundSupports armboard
– Trans-Fi Audio ResoMat
Shure V15VxMR (with Jico stylus)
SimAudio Moon 110LP preamp
Native Instruments Audio4DJ USB interface

Processing: Sound Forge 10, ClickRepair (manual mode only), iZotope RX2

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16 thoughts on “Leonard Bernstein / New York Philharmonic – Le Sacre du Printemps (2013, 180g pressing)

  1. For anyone who may be so inclined, there is a rerip of this album with the new cart in the Rerips section of the forum over at black circles…

  2. Many thanks Steve , it’s really a good interpretation with an exceptional sound.

    I’m looking for the LP, but I’ve not found it yet…

    Should you please let me know where is the above mentioned rerips ?

  3. I am not familiar with this piece of work but the sound is stunning! Appreciate if you could point me to your blog at black circles.. Thank You

  4. Very fine indeed.

    Dmitri Metropoulos was, then the mentor du jour? My understanding has always been that Serge Koussevitsky had been LB’s mentor. But he passed in 1951. So.

    Thanks for this – much appreciated.

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