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Les Ballets Russes Vol 9 - Milhaud, Sauguet...

Milhaud / Reimer / Deutsche Radio Philharmonie
Release Date: 02/26/2013 
Label:  Hänssler Classic   Catalog #: 93296   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Vincenzo TommasiniDarius MilhaudHenri Sauguet
Conductor:  Robert Reimer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  German Radio Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

SAUGUET La chatte. MILHAUD Le train bleu. D. SCARLATTI-TOMMASINI Les femmes de bonne humeur: Suite Robert Reimer, cond; German RPO Saarbrücken Kaiserslautern HANSSLER CD 93.296 (64 :01)

With this ninth volume in their survey of the repertoire of the renowned Diaghilev troupe, Hännsler Classic and conductor Richard Reimer move into lesser-known Read more music—except for Volume 2, which paired two terrific Auric ballets, Les Facheux and Les Pastorales.

Here we open with the first complete recording of Milhaud’s 1924 ballet Le train bleu (The Blue Train), referring to the luxury transport the high society set of the 1920s took from Paris to the Riviera. The entire action takes place on a beach setting and involves sundry acrobats, sunbathers, and flirtatious youth and calls for various ensembles based on old-fashioned dance forms. These 36 minutes of music consist of more than a dozen relatively brief and drastically simplified numbers derived from operetta and music-hall idioms and eschewing most of Milhaud’s characteristic modernist devices such as polytonality and stark dramatic gestures. But throughout there is ample evidence of Milhaud’s intrinsic affinity for the everyday and common humanity, with the ghosts of Chabrier and Offenbach looking over his shoulder.

Some of this material tends toward the thin and repetitive but an earlier partial recording conducted by Igor Markevitch (once available in the U.S. on the Varese Sarabande label) gives a stronger sense of the geniality and energy this score often generates. Anyone who enjoys the somewhat superior charms of Le boeuf sur le toit or the later Suite Provençal will have no trouble getting into the spirit of this music.

In many ways Bordeaux-born Henri Sauguet (1901-1989)—the dates are incorrect on the CD housing—could have joined Les Six as their seventh member but his personality was considerably more reserved and less urbane than Milhaud’s. His music for La Chatte of 1927 is a tender, knowingly sentimental, and appropriately feline depiction of a Boris Kochno concoction based on an Aesop fable about a young man who becomes enamored with a girl who cannot escape her original incarnation as a cat. Behind the music’s beguiling innocence and modest charms—as in most of Sauguet’s work—there is a degree of self-conscious sophistication that emerges later in such superior ballets as Paul et Virginie (yet to be recorded) and the better-known Les Forains or the powerful Oedipus treatment Les Rencontres (once available on a two-LP Melodiya set). Once again Markevitch’s recording of this 23-minute score (mistakenly timed at 32:23 on this disc) shows off its éclat better with his larger orchestra than this ballet-company-size ensemble.

These two full-length dance scores are separated by a quarter-hour four-movement suite from the celebrated Good-Humored Ladies for which Vincenzo Tommasini (1878-1950) adapted themes from Scarlatti. Similar in its sparkling neo-rococo sprightliness to Casella’s Scarlattianna, this suite was frequently recorded back in the vinyl years by Irving and Desormière but this could be its first digital incarnation. As such there is nothing to dislike here by a composer who, though once championed by Toscanini, seems to have become more of a Hershey Kay type of secondary talent, though it might be illuminating to hear some of his more original efforts.

These performances are exemplary in their idiomatic character, giving us exactly what one would hear at a dance program rather than in a concert hall. Sonics and production values are comparably professional. Let us hope this series continues as there are plenty of relatively obscure scores from this source and period awaiting their first recording. Most important for the premiere recording of the complete Milhaud.

FANFARE: Paul A. Snook Read less

Works on This Recording

Les Femmes de Bonne Humeur by Vincenzo Tommasini
Conductor:  Robert Reimer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  German Radio Philharmonic Orchestra
Le train bleu, Op. 84 by Darius Milhaud
Conductor:  Robert Reimer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  German Radio Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1924; France 
La Chatte by Henri Sauguet
Conductor:  Robert Reimer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  German Radio Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 

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