It was much easier to define each conductor of this piece if I used a specific section. In the audio tracks, Bernsteins is about a three minute section opposed to Boulez’s minute and a half rendition and Solti’s two minute version.
Each conductor has their own style when it comes to re-working someones masterpiece and Rite of Spring is no exception.
Leonard Bernstein’s version of the piece is at the pace that I have come to love for the music. I like that the music is a little slower than most renditions of the work. Because of it’s slow pace, accents are brought out into the score more and create more tension and dynamics. I believe it is the speed that actually helps the movement in the piece. Overall, the balance of the instruments and the dynamics of the orchestration is amazing. Also, it should be notes that out of all three versions of this song, this sounds the most polished and well recorded. One final thing that sticks out to me from this piece is the clarity of the instruments, specifically the brass. Because the brass is so clean and clear, it create more tension in the music as you continue listening.
The second recording is the same section from a conductor named Pierre Boulez. His version of this piece was much faster. I found that this version of the piece was not as dramatic or dynamic as Bernstein’s version. This seemed very technical and in a way, it seemed to be a way for Boulez to show off how fast he could do the piece. It’s obvious that he demanded perfection from his orchestra due to the lack of emotional content that is present in this very dense, overbearing version of the piece. Something else that was disappointing in this piece is that every instrument was intense. It was disorienting to be on the listening end of this song because it became harder and harder to enjoy due to the fact that every instrument that could make sound was blaring. Also, I couldn’t help but think of Beethoven after he had gone deaf. It seemed like the orchestra was desperately trying to keep up with the perfection and tenacity that Pier was bringing to the composition.
In Georg Solti’s rendition of the piece, compared to the other two this one falls somewhere in the middle. There are strong accents to each pulse within this movement which is great and it also has extreme dynamic range between instruments. This rendition also seemed to have a pretty flawless orchestra performing for it and was technically perfect however it was able to capture the emotional context of the music. Also, something that I really enjoyed was the additional layers in the strings section. Solti really brought out the tremolo in the strings and this added a lot of depth and clarity to this particular part of the movement.
After listening to each of these recordings and seeing which each one had to offer, I would say that my favorite version is Leonard Bernstein’s rendition. I enjoy the amount of dynamic range, the recording quality of the piece, the space of the orchestra in the recording and the overall tempo. When I first heard his version of the score it really shoot my emotions. I was unprepared for the pure raw power of the dissonant chords and the intense bass. I really enjoyed each version, but I particularly loved Bernstein’s version.