“The Start of Stéphane Denève’s Farewell to the RSNO Mixes Excitement and Subtlety” = Simon Thompson reviews The Rite of Spring for Seen and Heard International:

Simon Thompson
(…) Any conductor who takes on The Rite has to make a choice about how to tackle it: do you create an impression in all its power, or do you focus on the detail and bring out each individual aspect? Denève came close to assimilating the two approaches. In his hands The Rite seems to be focused on its death-ridden finale right from the start. Those gnarled, sinuous wind phrases that open the work sounded pale and emaciated, for all the scale of the playing, and the work seemed set on a steady trajectory towards the catastrophe of the final dance. En route, however, we were treated to playing of extraordinary subtlety in the midst, most especially at the opening of Part Two where the Mystic Circles were played with almost forensic precision, Denève eliciting remarkable clarity out of the texture. Present throughout was the constant, thumping sense of rhythm that drives the music on its headlong path towards its climax. Denève kept his foot on the pedal for the most cathartic moments, increasing the adrenaline levels for the big orchestral climaxes, but he opened out when necessary and controlled the frequent tricky changes of tempo with the skill of a musician whose eye was always on the music’s ultimate trajectory. That end, when it came, was punctuated with passages of such staccato violence that the music seemed fit to burst, as it almost did in the final crash.

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