A performance can make or break one's attitude toward a piece of music. I have to confess, as much as I like Stravinsky, it took me years to warm up to The Rite of Spring. I was always excited by Par I, but I would begin to squirm and check my watch during Part I. The reason was plain enough; the only recording I knew (and I'm talking high school and college here), was Stravinsky's own, with the Columbia Symphony, which is something less than definitive. Later, I bought a cassette (so that pins us down to the early 80s) of Michael Tilson Thomas and the BSO, and when I heard that, I said to myself, "OK, I'm starting to get this." Then, on radio, I heard the version by Solti and the Chicago Symphony, and I said, "OK, I'm really starting to get this." I went right out and bought the London LP.
In the years since, I've collected and tried several versions on CD — by Gergiev, Abbado, Maazel, Boulez, Tilson Thomas again (with the San Francisco) — but none of them quite got into my blood the way Solti's did, and still does. I'm happy to report I've just supplemented the LP with an out-of-print, used CD from Amazon, and the performance is everything I remembered from the record: precise, controlled, clear, large-scale and dynamic, and it maintains its momentum right to the end. For me, it justifies the Rite's reputation as the breakthrough to the 20th century.
Anyone else in the blogosphere have any particular favorite recordings?