Notes and Editorial Reviews
An outstanding disc offering what is surely an ideally chosen triptych. Bizet was four days past his 17th birthday when he began his Symphony (he completed it in four weeks), Britten's precocity came later—although the ideas were juvenile, he was 20 when the Simple Symphony was finished; while Prokofiev's pastiche was relatively mature—he was 26 when it was composed. The performances of all three works are strikingly fresh and splendidly alive. Both the Bizet and Prokofiev are surprisingly similar in pacing and spirit to the famous Marriner/ASMF accounts on Decca Ovation, although in the Bizet the Orpheus group observe the first movement exposition repeat to good effect, whereas Marriner plays the opening section of the finale twice, but
not that of the first movement. The Orpheus bring to the finale great elan and sparkle (they are fractionally faster) and make it an exhilarating moto perpetuo and I think their choice of the first movement repeat is the right one. Through all three performances their crisp articulation is a constant joy: the second subject of the first movement of the Prokofiev with its droll bassoon against the sparkling string figuration is a delight and the imaginative flexibility in the thrust of the opening of the scherzo belies the non-existence of a conductor.
Again in the delectable Bizet Adagio with its wistful and tender oboe solo, the preparation for the arrival of the melody has a natural fluidity while the jolly Scherzo has the strongest character especially in the drone effect of the Trio. In the Britten the youthful vigour of the music-making does lose a little of the work's geniality. The Bouree is certainly ''Boisterous'', and, like the finale keenly rhythmic in feeling, but the ''Frolicsome'' aspect of the last movement is not emphasized, while the ''Pizzicato'' is not so humorously playful as on the composer's famous ECO/Decca record (helped by the generous Maltings acoustics which made the Trio gloriously resonant). Yet the ''Sentimental Saraband'' is wonderfully gentle and affectionate the hint of Sweet Genevieve obviously relished—and in fact avoids sentimentality without any loss of feeling. The 25 players (all young, incredibly gifted and very personable too, to judge by their photograph) are again recorded in the Performing Arts Center, at New York State University and the ambience is splendidly judged for the music. Perhaps in the Larghetto of the Prokofiev and the Adagio of the Bizet the ear might have enjoyed a slightly more expansive violin timbre possible with a larger string group, the ASMF with the advantage of Kingsway Hall produce a slightly fuller effect, but the difference is not all that tangible and this new record can be welcomed in every way. With such an excellent overall balance the sound is very realistic.
Ivan March, Gramophone [1/1989]
Works on This Recording
Symphony in C major by Georges Bizet
Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
Written: 1855; France
Featured Sound Samples
Symphony no 1 "Classical" (Prokofiev): I. Allegro
Simple Symphony (Britten): IV. Frolicsome Finale
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