Notes and Editorial Reviews
At the beginning Don Quichotte looks all set to be Massenet's Falstaff. It was not his final opera, but it was his last great success; and if at the time of composition he was a mere lad of 67 compared with Verdi in his eightieth year when writing his comic masterpiece, Massenet had nevertheless plenty to contend with and to dampen the spirits. The opera opens in a brilliance of Spanish sunlight, reflected in music which dances and exults, youthful in its rhythmic vitality as in the sheer fecundity of invention. For four delightful acts the freshness is maintained, while at appropriate times (as with Falstaff) the mood deepens or simply quietens down. The trouble is that there is still an act to come, a death-scene which adds little to the
characterization (the apotheosis of Quichotte having been movingly achieved in Act 4) or to what is valuable in the music. It can be played with restraint, as here, but it remains thin and sugary, a dilution at the end of this otherwise finely concentrated score.
The recording, made in 1978, has not been replaced, and its return to the catalogue is most welcome. In it Nicolai Ghiaurov gives one of his finest performances on records: less touching and idiomatic than Vanni-Marcoux (the first Paris Don Quichotte) in his recorded extracts, but none the less sincere, with clear, well-schooled enunciation, and a sonorous beauty of tone which he disciplines so that it establishes authority without belying the saintly absurdity of the old knight. Bacquier, too, creates a character that comes to inspire respect and affection, and all the minor parts are well taken. Crespin, whose Dulcinée has been widely praised, seems to me miscast: the sound is too mature and gutsy. Fine orchestral playing and choral work under Kazimierz Kord are supported by the excellent production of Christopher Raeburn and his team, and all that is missing is the essay by Rodney Milnes which graced the booklet of the LP album, It was a good idea to use the orchestral suite, Scénes alsaciennes, as a fill-up: four colourful pieces, some having an affinity with the open-air scenes of Werther but also with the festival spirit of Don Quichotte, admirably caught in this recording under Richard Bonynge.
-- Gramophone [4/1992]
Works on This Recording
Don Quichotte by Jules Massenet
Régine Crespin (Soprano),
Gabriel Bacquier (Bass),
Michčle Command (Soprano),
Nicolai Ghiaurov (Bass)
Suisse Romande Radio Chorus,
Suisse Romande Orchestra
Written: 1910; France
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