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French Spectacular
Paul DUKAS (1865-1935)

L’apprenti sorcier (1897) [11’30].
Georges BIZET (1838-1875)

Carmen (1875): Suite No. 1 - Les Toréadors [2’07]; Prélude [1’19]; Aragonaise [2’21]; Intermezzo [2’55]; Suite No. 2 - Habanera [2’07]; Danse bohémienne [4’31]. L’Arlésienne (1872): Suite No. 1 - Prélude [7’33]; Adagietto [3’26]; Suite No. 2 - Intermezzo [4’57]; Menuet [4’27]; Farandole [3’28].
Jacques OFFENBACH (1819-1880)/Manuel ROSENTHAL (1904-2003)

Gaîté parisienne (1938) [17’25].
Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France/Yutaka Sado.
Rec. Salle Olivier Messiaen, Paris, 27-30 May 1997. DDD
WARNER ELATUS 2564 61357-2 [67’32]
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Very populist programming, definitely, on the part of Warner, with Yukata Sado and the Radio France Orchestra rising to the occasion splendidly. Perhaps this disc’s success is summarised by the opening and closing items - Dukas’ L’apprenti sorcier and Offenbach/Rosenthal’s Gaîté parisienne, pieces that sandwich works by Bizet.

L’apprenti sorcier has achieved notoriety through filmic association. As a counterbalance, I recommend Carolyn Abbate’s chapter on the work, ‘What the Sorcerer Said’, in her book Unsung Voices (‘Opera and Narrative in the Nineteenth Century’, Princeton University Press, 1991, Chapter 2, pp 30-59) in which the author posits that L’apprenti sorcier ‘rattles the cage constructed of assumptions about musical narration’ (p. 30). In the course of so doing, Abbate exemplifies a post-structuralist analyst’s reaction against the all-encompassing organicism of Schenker. In Sado’s hands, though, it is just good old fun, whatever one’s theoretic standpoint. The opening is nice and mysterious, the early dance fragment as cheeky as can be imagined. If the brass can tend towards the literal, the whole is graphic enough, even including a smattering of tenderness later on (around the 10’50 mark).

Gaîté parisienne opens in a riot of colour, The work is a ballet by Manuel Rosenthal fashioned from Offenbach melodies. Rosenthal was a pupil of Ravel’s and so orchestrational mastery is virtually a given. The ‘Vivo’ (track 14) is actually fairly comic-strip in nature, making a link in a sense to the Dukas. Sado gets eyebrow-raisingly suave playing from his forces in the Valse (track 17).

In between a main course of Bizet - excerpts from Carmen and L’Arlésienne Suites. The Spanish rhythms of Carmen are presented in almost sun-drenched colour. Everything trips along nicely in the ‘Danse bohémienne’. Sado finds a robust side to the Prélude to L’Arlésienne Suite No. 1, even almost tending towards the violent in the ‘Farandole’ In Suite No. 2.

The 1997 sound is more than adequate. If you’re looking for something of this ilk (nothing here to strain the intellect or the emotions), this will fit the bill nicely.

Colin Clarke

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