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Intermezzo - Various Composers

Prelude to Carmen 2.11
: Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana 3.40
Intermezzo from I Pagliaci 2.49
Interlude from Notre Dame 4.24
Humperdinck: Dream Pantomime from Hansel & Gretel 5.58
Puccini: Intermezzo from Manon Lescaut 5.49
Johann Strauss.Jr: Intermezzo from Tausend und eine Nacht 7.48
Massenet: Meditation from Thais 4.39
Bizet: Entr'acte to Act 3 of Carmen 3.10
Faure: Sicilienne from Pelleas & Melisande 3.16
Stenhammar: Interlude from The Song 5.49
Sibelius: Intermezzo from Karelia Suite 3.46
Offenbach: Barcarolle from the Tales of Hoffman 3.19
Mascagni: Intermezzo from L'Amico Fritz 4.35
Verdi: Prelude to Act 1 of La Traviata 3.53
Verdi: Prelude to Act 3 of La Traviata 4.02
Ponchielli: Dance of the Hours from La Gioconda 7.53

Various artists.
Recording dates. N/A Naxos. 8.554703 [68.10]

This CD selection of 17 pieces by 14 composers compiled by Naxos under the title Intermezzo is clearly aimed at the browser or novice collector. The type of listener who will tune his radio to Classic FM but not to Radio 3. He / she (we must be careful in these PC days) will find a lot of the music familiar - some less so. This is not a medley of the 'best bits' - there are a handful of pieces that are not over familiar. Selection for issue clearly is controlled by availability for the company's own back catalogue.The Orchestras used are from the names familiar from the Naxos label - mainly Eastern European - and taken from a variety of previously issued recordings.

Our visualised buyer will be happy enough with the first two pieces, a vigorous Carmen Prelude and an inevitably lush Cavalleria Rusticana Intermezzo (used so often in films). The Leoncavallo Pagliacci extract (more lush strings), the Schmidt Notre Dame Interlude (with a bad edit at 20"in an over bright recording), and Humperdinck's Dream Pantomime from Hansel & Gretel with its chorale like references will probably be unfamiliar but approachable.

The Manon Lescaut extract (some lovely string playing) has enough of Puccini's fingerprints in it to catch the ear, while the Johann Strauss a Thousand and one Nights is another piece with lush strings but unlike any of his usual frothy waltzes. The Thais Meditation is a well-known winner, here beautifully played by the solo violin, and the second Carmen extract will be immediately recognised. Less familiar territory are the Fauré Sicilienne, a gentle piece with some attractive writing for the flute, and the Stenhammar extract which follows. This latter is an intense piece with fine brass playing and dark-hued strings.

Our buyer would know the Karelia Suite but an early horn fluff - which should have been corrected - and a steady rather than lively tempo which made a performance that did not come off. Offenbach's Barcarolle, ever popular, and L'Amico Fritz - both would appeal while the two Traviata extracts could hardly fail in such finely played performances. The final, admirable, Dance of the Hours (does anyone remember Allan Sherman? - [I do Harry! Ed.]) ended a curate's egg of a recording.

The standard of playing and recording is too variable to have an unreserved recommendation. Some of the recordings are excellent, others too bright and too 'digital' while the performances range from the excellent to the moderate.


Harry Downey


Harry Downey

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