> Saint-Saens, Ravel, Bizet, Dukas cfp [TB]: Classical Reviews- January 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
The Carnival of the Animals*
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)

Suite: Ma Mère l'Oye
Georges BIZET (1838-1875)

Jeux d'enfants

*Peter Katin, Philip Fowke (pianos)
Scottish National Orchestra/Sir Alexander Gibson
Paul DUKAS (1865-1935)

L'apprenti sorcier

Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)


Hallé Orchestra/James Loughran
Rec September 1973, September 1974, City Hall Glasgow (Saint-Saëns, Ravel Ma Mère l'Oye and Bizet): July 1978 Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester
CLASSICS FOR PLEASURE 7243 5 74947 [75.05] Superbudget

The popular Classics for Pleasure label is making a comeback, reissuing recordings from twenty to thirty years ago with remastered sound in CD format. This attractive compilation of popular classics from the Scottish National and Hallé orchestras has much to commend it, since the performances are fresh and direct, and the recorded sound has come up well in its reincarnation.

The unifying factor, of course, is the French theme, and the two Ravel items, while both less atmospheric than some more recent versions, still bring a colourful and distinguished orchestral sound to enchant the ear. It is good to have the alternative of the shorter Suite from Mother Goose rather than the full ballet score that has been more popular in recent recordings. The latter contains fine music that one would not with to be without, but it is the Suite which is most often heard in the concert hall, and which contains the best music from this source. Gibson's phrasing is occasionally a little prosaic, and the final scene in the magical Fairy Garden can sound more lustrous than this, but even so tempi are well chosen and the balances are pleasing. Likewise James Loughran's account of Boléro is good without being outstanding; more recent recordings can offer that little extra in terms of sophisticated sound.

The selection from Bizet's orchestrated piano music, Children's Games, is also pleasing, and the balance between movements confirms the sense of Sir Alexander Gibson's choice of tempi, but better still is Saint-Saëns's Carnival of the Animals, in which the pianists Philip Fowke and Peter Katin are a match for any opposition, there teamwork really compelling. Add a fresh and vital rendition of The Sorcerer's Apprentice under Loughran, and this bargain-priced issue has much to commend it.

Terry Barfoot

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