Klaus Mäkelä, the first conductor signed to Decca for forty years, brings the Orchestre de Paris to the label for a major new album of Stravinsky’s most iconic ballet scores. The album represents Mäkelä’s first recording with his French orchestra, which will be followed by a further Ballet Russes release in 2024 featuring Stravinsky’s Petrushka and Debussy’s Jeux and L’Apres midi d’une faune.
Klaus Mäkelä has electrified the musicians and audiences of the Orchestre de Paris since the start of his Music Directorship in September 2021. One of the major projects of his second season at the Philharmonie de Paris was a traversal of Stravinsky’s pivotal ballet scores The Firebird and The Rite of Spring that proved anything but routine. The performances captured live on Decca’s new release carry the combination of intensity, intelligence and authority on which the young conductor is building his extraordinary career.
Introducing the project Klaus Mäkelä says “For me, these two works represent a conclusion and a new start. The Firebird is like a last statement of late-romantic orchestral expression with its harmonic language and orchestration stretched beyond imagination, and carrying the narrative of the story with every slightest gesture. The Rite of Spring opens up a completely new world. The colours and sounds he gets out of an orchestra are different from everything heard before. When performing this work one feels the aspect of a ritual very strongly. This is music that has the craziest rhythmic drive imaginable.”
Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring helped usher the art of notated music into the modern era. More than a century after its first performance in 1913, it retains its capacity to dazzle, provoke and shock. It calls for a huge orchestra while demanding absolute discipline and control from musicians and conductor, who must conjure an uncanny range of colours and moods. That score’s predecessor by four years, The Firebird, had already ensured the eyes of the world were on Stravinsky with its cinematic vividness and coruscating ‘infernal dance’.
Dominic Fyfe, Decca Classics’ Label Director, says “Right from the opening bassoon solo in Sacre there’s an immediate sense of a sound world unique to one city and one orchestra. We open the next chapter with Klaus in Paris and the first in a series of albums with the Orchestre de Paris exploring music of the Ballets Russes. Made in the Philharmonie de Paris these sonically spectacular recordings will surely set a new benchmark in this repertoire.”
Klaus Mäkelä and the Orchestre de Paris toured both works throughout Japan in 2022 and will return to them for this summer’s Festival Aix-en-Provence, in a major new multi-media project. This new release from Decca coincides with the orchestra’s European tour under Mäkelä’s leadership that will take in major concert halls of Amsterdam, Hamburg, Munich and Vienna.
In 2021 Mäkelä became the first conductor signed to Decca for forty years and only the third since Georg Solti and Riccardo Chailly. He is a conductor who cares deeply about recorded sound. Part of the attraction of the Decca contract, he told Gramophone magazine in 2022, was ‘the sonic brilliance that is at the label’s core.’
Mäkelä’s first recording for Decca – also his first commercial recording – returned the Oslo Philharmonic to the label’s microphones for the first time since the age of Kirsten Flagstad. A complete cycle of Sibelius’s symphonies, it has already won multiple awards including the Sibelius Prize, an Edison Klassiek Best Album Debut (Netherlands) and Classica Choc de l’année (France). The album has also been nominated for a BBC Music Magazine Award (UK).