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Bolero - Symphonic Poems / Kitayemko, Et Al

Release Date: 01/24/2006 
Label:  Erato   Catalog #: 82134   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Paul DukasMaurice RavelClaude DebussyModest Mussorgsky
Conductor:  Dmitri Kitayenko
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 10 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

DUKAS The Sorcerer?s Apprentice. RAVEL Mother Goose Suite. Bolero. DEBUSSY Prélude á l?après-midi d?un faune. MUSSORGSKY A Night on the Bare Mountain (orig. version) ? Dmitri Kitajenko, cond; Bergen P ? VIRGIN 82134 (69:53)

Although Virgin?s sparse booklet notes provide Read more no specific dates, these recordings were made (originally for EMI) early in Kitajenko?s tenure as chief conductor of the Bergen Philharmonic (1990?98). Sonics are outstanding: a wide, deep soundstage, with imaging of instrumental solos that?s very realistic. Interpretively, it?s fairly straightforward, but with enough nuance and shading to make each work distinctively individual. While the Bergen Philharmonic may not be a prestigious, world-class group, their playing is first-class. Only a mild lack of plush in the strings will remind you that this is not, say, the Concertgebouw or the Vienna Philharmonic. Be that as it may, two of these readings, the Bolero and A Night on the Bare Mountain, are among the finest ever recorded.

Except for Mother Goose, all of these works have inescapable cinematic associations for listeners of a certain age. Of course, The Sorcerer?s Apprentice and A Night on the Bare (aka Bald ) Mountain are most famous (or infamous) for their performances under Stokowski in Disney?s 1940 Fantasia; the Mussorgsky also appears in The Wizard of Oz (1939), when Dorothy and her friends are trying to escape from the castle of the Wicked Witch. For better or worse, Bolero immortalized Bo Derek in 10, and Debussy?s ballet about a carnal, daydreaming faun was choreographed with blatant erotic overtones in Herbert Ross?s controversial 1980 Nijinsky.

It may be hard to banish memories of Mickey Mouse when listening to the Dukas, but it remains one of the most effectively scored of all orchestral showpieces. The reading here is well played and adroitly paced, if lacking some of the swagger and menace heard in Constantin Silvestri?s brilliant account with the Bournemouth Symphony. The latter is in a sadly deleted 10-disc Disky set that includes the Mussorgsky (stunningly played), an elegant and wistful reading of the Debussy, and a Bolero that rises to levels of almost animal intensity. To my ears, Mother Goose is Kitajenko?s least successful offering: it?s just a little too muscular for Ravel?s gentle evocation of childhood. For a superbly well-recorded alternative, try Jean Martinon?s expressive reading with the Chicago Symphony (RCA), where the closing bars are delivered in dazzling fashion. But my favorite account is still the out-of-print Ernest Bour/SW German Radio (Astrée E 7800). It was Bour who first recorded Ravel?s other most childlike work: L?dnfant et les sortileges (on mono Testament). Incidentally, Bour may be nearly forgotten, but most people have heard him conduct (his Ligeti is in the soundtracks of 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Shining ).

Coming to the Debussy, I have to admit my personal bias for hearing French orchestral works performed by old-style French orchestras, with their luminous strings, billowing brass, and reedy, vibrato-laden winds. Those qualities are what Debussy (and Ravel) surely had in mind when composing, and for me they add a special pungency that most non-French ensembles lack. The old-fashioned French sound (regrettably now extinct) survived into the early stereo era, and it can be heard in recordings by such noted stylists as Ravel pupil Manuel Rosenthal and Debussy protégée Desiré Inghelbrecht (who gave the orchestral premiere of Debussy?s March ecossaise with the composer present). Here, Kitajenko gives us a beautifully executed Debussy, with a capable flute soloist, even if it hasn?t the unique timbre characteristics of the Paris Conservatory under Silvestri (Disky), the Paris Opera with Rosenthal (deleted Adès), or the Orchestre National de France performing live under Inghelbrecht (in a six-CD set from Naïve).

Kitajenko?s Bolero lasts 17:11, a little slower than Ravel?s prescribed 16-minute duration, and the conductor uses the extra time to build a remarkably hypnotic account (the fastest Bolero I?ve heard is the 1940 Stokowski/All-America Youth Orchestra on Music and Arts, which is over in 12 minutes flat). The Bergen wind soloists play with little vibrato, but there?s some delightful portamento and a few nice little smears from the trombone. This is a fine complement to such excellent stereo accounts as Silvestri with the Paris Conservatory (Disky) and René Leibowitz?s Chesky CD (with a pseudonymous ensemble that?s possibly the old Concerts Lamoureux).

The Mussorgsky has enjoyed a wide range of excellent stereo recordings, which include the Silvestri/Philharmonia (Disky again) and the quite terrifying Svetlanov/USSR on Musical Heritage Society. Svetlanov perhaps comes closest to the sheer drama of the old mono Golovanov (deleted Arlecchino; one of the couplings is a hair-raising Pictures at an Exhibition). Those all use Rimsky-Korsakov?s orchestration, while Stokowski?s rather outrageous re-tooling is Rimsky-based (most entertainingly heard in Stoky?s ?Phase-4? recording for Decca). But what Kitajenko gives us here is Mussorgsky?s original version of 1867. It?s almost a different piece: longer, more daring, wild and vulgar, with extra dance episodes, unusual instrumentation (e.g., ostinato strings at the beginning of Rimsky?s are given here to fast-tonguing trumpets), and the peaceful ending with church bells is missing altogether. This original version has been recorded by Abbado RCA) and Kuchar (Naxos), but the Leningrad-born Kitajenko provides far more Russian flavor.

This disc is worth its modest budget price just to hear the original Mussorgsky and superb Bolero. Highly recommended.

FANFARE: Jeffrey J. Lipscomb
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Works on This Recording

L'apprenti sorcier by Paul Dukas
Conductor:  Dmitri Kitayenko
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1897; France 
Ma mčre l'oye by Maurice Ravel
Conductor:  Dmitri Kitayenko
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: France 
Notes: Composition written: France (1908 - 1910). 
Prélude ŕ l'aprčs-midi d'un faune by Claude Debussy
Conductor:  Dmitri Kitayenko
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1892-1894; France 
Notes: Composition written: France (1892 - 1894). 
Boléro by Maurice Ravel
Conductor:  Dmitri Kitayenko
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1928; France 
Night on the Bare Mountain by Modest Mussorgsky
Conductor:  Dmitri Kitayenko
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1866; Russia 

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