Could listening to The Rite of Springfor 38 days drive a music critic to distraction? As Limelight’ssacrificial guinea pig, I found out.

To commemorate The Rite of Spring’scentenary, Universal Classics has issued a boxed set of 20 discs, containing 35 performances of the orchestral score and three of the composer’s four-hand piano arrangement. That’s 21 hours and 34 minutes – of the same piece! The recordings have been drawn mostly from the Decca, DG and Philips extensive catalogues. However, a few significant versions are missing: Stokowski’s soundtrack, Bernstein’s New York Philharmonic performance (about which the composer commented simply: “Wow!”), two EMI recordings under Diaghilev’s last protégé Igor Markevitch, and Stravinsky’s own 1960 recording for Columbia (Sony).

Three editions are used: the original of 1913, a revision made for the concert hall in 1921 and a further re-orchestration in 1947. The differences between them are almost undetectable to the naked ear. Limelightinvited me to take part in the rather daunting experiment of listening to one Riteper
day, chronologically, for 38 days. A bit like being chosen to test out a new drug. It’s a marathon, but I am prepared: coffee, tea, wine, spirits and chocolate (as...