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Adam: Giselle / Karajan, Vienna Philharmonic

Release Date: 06/13/2006 
Label:  Decca   Catalog #: 000641502   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Adolphe Adam
Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 0 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This release of Giselle is a midprice reissue on Decca's "The Originals" imprint. A few years ago it was part of their Jubilee series. In one format or another it's frequently been available since its 1962 release on LP. The title on the cover, I presume a facsimile of the original cover art, leads us to believe it is a recording of the complete score. It is not. Although Karajan only brings us about 60 percent of the score, he has included most of the key pieces and gives us a very satisfying hour of highlights. If you're familiar with Giselle, you'll be able to follow the plot from beginning to end.

If you want the complete score, Richard Bonynge recorded Giselle twice, both for Decca. The earlier recording with
Read more the Monte Carlo Orchestra (analog) does not seem to be currently available, the later digital recording with the Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra is currently available as a midprice entry. Another complete Giselle with Andrew Mogrelia leading the Bratislava Slovak Radio Symphony is available on Naxos. Mogrelia's act I runs about four minutes shorter than Bonynge's; act II is nearly seven minutes shorter. Tempos and inclusion of repeats explain much of the difference in timings. Both Bonynge and Mogrelia offer interpretations that are quite balletic, very dramatic, and keep in mind this score is an accompaniment to dancers. Karajan, however, stresses the symphonic elements. The Vienna Phil plays Adam's music as if it were a Beethoven symphony. This is not a criticism, but an acknowledgement of a different way of interpreting Adam's score.

Adam's music for Giselle is somewhat deceptive. The melodies, especially the peasant dances in act I with the beats accentuated, sound pleasantly simple. But listen to the ingenious orchestrations: many plot elements, such as Alberecht knocking at Giselle's door and the "loves me, loves me not" picking of the flower petals are woven into the score. Adam's use of leitmotivs, his ability to capture the flirtations in act I, Giselle's heartbreak when she learns that Loy is really Albrecht, a nobleman engaged to Bathilde, and the horror depicted in the final crescendo when Giselle dies at the end of the first act raises this score above the ordinary. Adam's music for the second act is in turns ethereal, mysterious, and sinister, all in contrast to the simple tunes for the peasants and the regal music for the nobles in act I.

This album is a more-or-less extended symphonic suite derived from Adam's score to Giselle. It's beautifully played, the 1962 recorded sound is full and rich, and at Decca's midprice, it makes a welcome addition to either Bonynge's or Mogrelia's recordings of the full score.

FANFARE: David L. Kirk
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Works on This Recording

Giselle by Adolphe Adam
Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1841; France 
Date of Recording: 09/1961 
Venue:  Sofiensaal, Vienna, Austria 
Length: 60 Minutes 17 Secs. 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Taken for granted November 27, 2012 By Anthony G. (SANTA FE, NM) See All My Reviews "Once the listener hears this music again, the listener is reminded of what truly God-like music composers can write, and, the effect such music has on our psyche. Adam, in Giselle, propels us into ethereal realms. We know this music and have just taken its splendor and inspiration for granted." Report Abuse
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