> Constant Lambert - The Last Recordings [JW]: Classical CD Reviews- July2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Constant Lambert. The Last Recordings
Emile WALDTEUFEL (1837-1915)

Estudiantina Op 191
Pomone Op 155
Les Patineurs Op 183
Sur la plage Op 234
Franz von SUPPÉ (1819-1895)

Pique Dame
Morning, Noon and Night in Vienna
William WALTON (1902-1983)

Emmanuel CHABRIER (1841-1894)

Ballabile orch Lambert
Philharmonia Orchestra
Constant Lambert
Recorded 1950
SOMM CD 023 [72’15]


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As Constant Lambert lay dying, Alan Sanders’ notes relate, a friend found him conducting in time to a test pressing of one of Waldteufel’s waltz recordings contained on this splendid Somm disc. The previous year, having resigned from Sadler’s Wells, he had re-recorded The Rio Grande (with Kyla Greenbaum) and the suite from Horoscope. He already had a distinguished series of recordings behind him and these last 1950 recordings are a sprightly pendant to a discography cut short by his untimely death. The recordings also show that he was one of those rare conductors whose expertise embraced the lighter repertoire as adeptly as he did, say, Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony, a recording that still seems to me a signal achievement.

He had at his disposal for his final sessions the Philharmonia Orchestra in delectable form. Clarinets are well to the fore of the balance in Waldteufel’s Estudiantina waltz as are some sultry sounding strings, a powerfully astringent first trumpet and some solidly stentorian trombones. By contrast Pomone has a luxuriance and largesse – there is a lilt and a delightful sway to the music making only enhanced by the spick and span orchestral playing. Les Patineurs, probably the best known of the Waldteufel waltzes is affecting, spruce, thrives on rhythmic acuity and graded dynamics (no laziness on Lambert’s part when it comes to matters of sectional discipline) and real depth of tone from the bases. In Sur la Plage Lambert encourages some affecting playing from the first violins on the first page but is infectiously alive to the more rumbustious aspects of the piece. His Suppé is just as laudable. I liked the weight he gives the stern lower strings in Pique Dame. And he generates real heat here as well – vivacious, sonorous, rhythmically alive – and also humorously inflected. The cello principal is suitably grave in his solo in Morning, Noon and Night in Vienna, well contrasted with the formality of the succeeding orchestral tutti. Listen to the violins here – razor sharp articulation and real swagger.

Lambert revisited Walton’s Façade for the last time in these 1950 sessions and he brings everything one could reasonably expect to the suite. Mordant, witty, sharp-edged Lambert is brilliantly successful at bringing out the vivid, shuddering naughtiness, say, of the Valse or the sultry atmosphere of Noche espagnole or the blues trombone in Old Sir Faulk. Finally there is Lambert’s own orchestration of Chabrier’s charming little Ballabile. After which, of course, there was silence. Lambert died in his mid forties but this splendid disc preserves much of his vitality and vigour in congenial and delightful repertoire.

Jonathan Woolf

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