CD review: Teodor Currenzis’s The Rite of Spring

First published in the Guardian on 22 October, 2015

Greek-born, Russian-based conductor Teodor Currentzis — self-styled badass of early music — usually goes in for the kind of shock tactics that make Rameau sound roguish and Mozart sound plain hyperactive. So what does he do with the brutal violence of Stravinsky’s earth-shakingly radical ballet? Weirdly, he smooths it out. Currentzis’s account of The Rite with his excellent Russian period-instrument ensemble MusicAeterna begins captivatingly enough with a sweet, wan bassoon solo and quiet, chamber-like suppleness, but as things progress the work’s energy never quite erupts. It’s all too easy, too knowing. The Augurs of Spring is pert, jaunty; Spring Rounds has a bright, brawny swagger more Spaghetti Western than Russian steppe. Dance of the Earth is clipped, tight and very clean. I often found my toe tapping away while I was listening — the rhythms are sprightly and the orchestral playing is faultless, but there’s nothing of the earthy power or cataclysmic fear that the best performances of this piece unleash.