Notes and Editorial Reviews
François-Xavier Roth, cond; Les Siècles
LES SIÈCLES LIVE ASM 06 (60:12) Live: Paris 10/2/2010, Laon 10/9/2010
Pas de deux; Bacchanale.
Sur instruments d’époque,
announces the cover. That is, the instruments of Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, “crafted in French workshops, gut strings, and a playing style straight out of the Conservatoire de Paris master classes.” The strings are 22/8/7/6. Every wind instrument is identified by maker and by date, from 1889 to 1930. There are three harpists and seven percussionists. It all works; the disc makes a charming, thoroughly engaging impression. Judging from recordings of French orchestras made early in the 20th century, these 2010 players are far more skilled and attentive than their 1910 counterparts. Even the names of the musicians generate a romantic, exotic aura: Amaryllis Billet, Quentin Jaussaud, Aurore Pingard, Valeria Kafelnikov—I could go on and on. The recorded sound from both venues is reverberant but gorgeous.
The miscellaneous pieces come first on this disc, because they are not encores but rather a reconstruction of a Diaghilev ballet,
, which preceded
at its June 25, 1910, premiere. The original scores may not have been available to Les Siècles, as the Sinding and Grieg pieces have been reorchestrated by Charlie Piper and Bruno Mantovani respectively. Most are familiar nuggets—the type of music Beecham called lollipops. Lots of fun, they would have made a delightful evening at the ballet, until
made people forget they existed. Today the Stravinsky score is so ubiquitous that
is a refreshing change, exotic in its own genteel way.
We have become accustomed to modern performances by crack symphony orchestras—I’m thinking of the Concertgebouw’s stunning
Suite on its own label—that deliver maximum excitement and whiplash precision. That’s a shame, in a way, as it makes this marvelously evocative performance seem a bit sleepy at times. (I’ve said it before: There are moments of routine fill in the complete
) There is no way that gut strings can deliver the punch of steel, but they offer their own rewards. I’m convinced that this is a realistic reconstruction of the original performances of both these ballets, and I recommend this disc as a wonderful time capsule. Oh! To have been there, for
The Firebird, Petrushka
Le Sacre du printemps.
FANFARE: James H. North
Works on This Recording
Firebird by Igor Stravinsky
Period: 20th Century
Raymonda, Op. 57: Excerpt(s) by Alexander Glazunov
Written: 1896-1897; Russia
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