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Les Ballets Russes Vol 6 - Stravinsky, Strauss, Ravel / Hogwood, Cambreling

Stravinsky / So Baden-baden Freiburg / Hogwood
Release Date: 04/27/2010 
Label:  Swr Music   Catalog #: 93237   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Igor StravinskyRichard StraussMaurice Ravel
Conductor:  Christopher HogwoodSylvain Cambreling
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Baden-Baden Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 11 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

STRAVINSKY Pulcinella 1. Fireworks. STRAUSS Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche. RAVEL La Valse Sylvain Cambreling, cond; 1 Christopher Hogwood, cond; 1 Arleen Augér (sop); 1 Robert Gambill (ten); Read more class="SUPER12">1 Gerolf Scheder (bs); SW German RSO HÄNSSLER 93237 (70:59)

What a marvelous idea choreographer John Neumeier and Hanssler Classics had to draw on the extensive catalog of Southwest German Radio (SWR) and the Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra (officially the SWR Sinfonieorchestrer Baden-Baden und Frieberg since 1998) to produce a series of releases chronicling the music written for or presented by Sergei Diaghilev’s generative Ballets Russes. Composers included in the survey so far have included Stravinsky (many times, of course), and also Debussy, Ravel, Dukas, Poulenc, Schmitt, Tchaikovsky, Falla, and Prokofiev, with more yet to explore. It is an amazing range of composers and works, given life by the daring impresario in defining productions by iconic dancers, choreographers, and designers: names like Pavlova, Rubinstein, Fokine, Nijinsky, and Massine, Bakst, Picasso, Matisse, Miró, and Dalí. In its short 20 years of existence (1909–29), the company redefined dance, establishing the idea of gesamtkunstwerk in this art as surely as Wagner had earlier in opera, and introducing an amazing number of new works into the standard repertoire. Thus far, the series has represented this range and innovation winningly, with telling juxtapositions of musical styles, interesting notes that cumulatively constitute a history of the enterprise, and performances that, if not on the top of anyone’s list, represent the works well. ( Fanfare reviews for Volumes 1, 2, and 5 can be found in 31:3, 32:1, and 33:4, respectively.)

This sixth volume broadens the explorations, for here we have works familiar, but not often associated with ballet, and also the promised less-frequently performed ballet scores. Of course, one could hardly call Pulcinella unfamiliar repertoire, but it is heard far less often than the big three, especially in its complete form. Hogwood’s 1985 SWR recording is charming, not as precise as his OP 1990 Decca release (available from ArkivMusic) but as well sung, though the writing for mezzo-soprano lies low for Augér. The performance stands comfortably in the company of the composer’s own rather tart performance on Sony, and Abbado’s (DG), which is suffused with Italian warmth and offers Berganza to melt the listener’s heart. Fireworks is, on the other hand, truly obscure repertoire despite more than a few outings as a makeweight. Cambreling may not have his players exploding with quite the vigor or impact of Zinman’s Baltimore band on Telarc, but the performance is a colorful one.

The performances of the other two works are technically fine, but less competitive interpretively, so neither of these recordings would be my only one. Till Eulenspiegel has got to be the unlikeliest of ballet scores. Cambreling makes a case for dancibility, though at some cost to characterization, creating a swift and high-spirited impression for the first 11 minutes or so, but he drives the reprise (the capture and execution in Strauss’s program) far too hard, shortchanging the irony. Nice brass playing here, but I prefer performances where one can savor Till’s end a bit more. The genial Kempe (EMI) and sardonic Zinman (Arte Nova)—similarly fleet—come immediately to mind. Cambreling’s La Valse —the work was written for but rejected by Diagalev in a rare lapse in judgment—is notable for its glow and texture, but it is too deliberate to suggest the score’s unsettled frenzy, and there have been any number of recordings—Munch (RCA) and Abbado (DG) foremost among them—with considerably more swirl and abandon.

Sound is uniformly impressive regardless of the 20-year range in recording dates, and varying locations and ensemble sizes. Only in the Fireworks could I wish for a sharper focus and more potent bass. The presentation—notes, endorsements, bios, recording information, and photos—adds to the appeal. Historic costume illustrations on the various covers are attractive, this one being a sample of Picasso’s designs for Pulcinella . Those who are collecting or attracted to the series need not hesitate.

FANFARE: Ronald E. Grames
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Works on This Recording

Pulcinella by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Christopher Hogwood
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Baden-Baden Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Switzerland 
Venue:  Hans Rosbaud-Studio Baden-Baden 
Length: 38 Minutes 45 Secs. 
Fireworks, Op. 4 by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Sylvain Cambreling
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Baden-Baden Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1908; Russia 
Date of Recording: 02/08/2007 
Venue:  Konzerthaus Freiburg 
Length: 4 Minutes 19 Secs. 
Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche, Op. 28 by Richard Strauss
Conductor:  Sylvain Cambreling
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Baden-Baden Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1894-1895; Germany 
Venue:  Festspielhaus Baden-Baden 
Length: 14 Minutes 9 Secs. 
La valse by Maurice Ravel
Conductor:  Sylvain Cambreling
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1920; France 
Date of Recording: 05/25/2007 
Venue:  Konzerthaus Freiburg 
Length: 13 Minutes 31 Secs. 

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