This CD couples Bernstein's 1982 remakes of two Stravinsky works that were stunning when he first recorded them, twenty years earlier, in New York. The Israel Phil. can be rated alongside a good German radio orchestra from Frankfurt or Cologne, which means that they are highly competent but not inspiring. DG's early digital sound, in the latest remastering at least, has lots of presence and impact without much digital glare.
As to the performances, the Firebird is at times quite inspiring. Bernstein phrases so beautifully n the quieter movements, often at somewhat broader tempos than usual, that the socre weaves a spell other conductors find hard to match. This isn't the flashiest Firebird ever recorded, but it's totally engaging, one of the late Bernstein's best Stravinsky readings.
The Le Sacre is hit or miss--from the opening wind solos led by the bassoon, we are aware that these musicians can't match those in the NY Phil. or London Sym., the two orchestras who played under LB in his earlier, spectacular Le Sacres for Sony. But he so completely owns the work that many moments emrerge with great impact. This isn't a brutal, visceral Le Sacre, despsite the thudding percussion and screaming dissonances. I would rate the best parts among the best I've ever heard, except that LB loses tension too often, and there are sagging tempos here and there. Certainly this Le Sacre deserves four stars, however, and perhaps the Firebird one more.