Rather like the Bruch Scottish Fantasy, the Lalo Symphonie Espagnole
is rather unfashionable repertoire these days. When did you last hear
these works in concert. It is not as if they often feature on record. Perhaps
part of their problem is that audiences have an inbuilt resistance to works
of concerto-dimensions (plus 30 minutes) which avoid the name 'concerto'.
So far as entertainment value is concerned the Lalo has all the dazzle, smoke,
fireworks and sultry Hispanics you could wish for and kilos of the atmosphere
that made Bizet's Carmen such an enduring success. The work is uneven
and amongst its five movements there are a few 'nodding' moments. Overall
though it is a most attractive and (for the listener) undemandingly pleasurable
work. Vadim Repin seems at peace with and positively to revel in this music
no doubt aided by using Sarasate's own 'Ruby' Stradivarius, (the instrument
on which Sarasate premiered the work). This work was a classic much beloved
of Heifetz but this recording is clearly superior to the venerable RCA/BMG
with a breezily ambient sound-canvas.
The other works are more popular (at least on CD - you don't hear many concert
performances of these things) and are done with similar Latino and Gypsy
temperament. Tzigane (bursting with oriental and Hungarian character)
while the most recent (written in 1931) on disc sounds positively reactionary
beside the varied and understated fantasy of the Chausson Poème
- a revolutionary work for its age! There are no similarly coupled recordings
and indeed comparatively few discs feature these works individually. Just
a pity that the company were not able to include some other Gallic rarities
(for violin and orchestra) in the shape of Schmitt's Habeyssée
and Lalo's Norwegian Rhapsody. Next time please?
PSS Did you know that when Tzigane was premiered it was in a version
where the soloist Jelly d'Aranyi was accompanied by a keyboard instrument
called a luthiel (now long gone or museum fodder somewhere). Anyone care
to record the piece in this form? It would presumably be a first.