This program offers three lively, colorful, and captivating orchestral works by two United States composers, born almost a century apart. These pieces exhibit the fruitful exchange and flow of musical material between North and South America that has long played a role in popular music, apparent not only in commercial song and dance music using Latin American melodies and rhythms but also in early jazz and blues where tango rhythms are so often heard, as in W. C. Handy's St. Louis Blues. And both Gottschalk in the 1850s, close to the beginning of a creative American musical tradition, and Gould in the 1950s, when such a tradition had flowered considerably, show a combination of seriousness of approach with a popular touch.
This third volume of the complete orchestral works by the great French composer Maurice Ravel features his music for the ballet Daphnis et Chloé, his longest work, written for Sergei Diaghalev’s Ballets Russes. The company gave the first performance in 1912. Ravel depicted the characters in the story with great musical delicacy, and the Stuttgart Orchestra reflects this through the attention it gives to the score’s finest nuances. Ravel secures scintillating effects from the large percussion section that he uses, a clear nod to ancient music. The Valses nobles et sentimentales were composed at the same time as the ballet, which makes it an appropriate coupling. The version for piano, clearly linked to Franz Schubert’s similarly named waltzes, was published in 1911, with the orchestral version following one year later. Again the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra gives a thrilling, first class interpretation.
Don't be put off that this Nutcracker is played by the Utah Symphony. It is first class in every way in the glorious sound that Vanguard lavished on the orchestra.Maurice Abravanel was one of the most significant theater conducters of the 20th century. You can feel immediately that he grasps the balletic nature as well as the symphonic majesty of Tchaikovsky's score. The interpretation is brisk, light, nimble, well balanced and masterfully cohesive. Right from the beginning of the overture you will understand what I mean! The playing of the Utah Symphony is transparent, clean, and full of color. You can tell they enjoy playing it! I bought this recording years ago on Vanguard Everyman LPs. The CD transfer is excellent. Grab the it while you can still get it!
Never has a ballet recording been so phenomenal and at the same time doesn't quite meet my criteria for selecting the definitive ballet recording–that is, the quality of the recording itself aside, GENERALLY, the music also has to be performed by the orchestra that premiered it and that the orchestra has had a long tradition of playing it. Such is the case with Abravanel's 60s recording of Swan Lake.
- By Gary -