Classics for Pleasure are back in business, and have
a new numbering scheme as well as a complete overhaul of marketing identity
resulting in extremely smart looking releases. Not only are they releasing
previous CFP titles, although these account for most of them, they are
also issuing recordings from the EMI stable; the current issue is one
Lanchbery’s interpretations of the Tchaikovsky’s ballets
have been in and out of the catalogue fairly frequently over the years.
The most recent presence was in the form of excerpts on Eminence. They
have usually had to compete with some very high class versions. The
company has been quite smart with the current release however, having
the great idea of releasing all three ballets in a normal double case
(6 CDs) and charging only about £20.00 for the whole lot.
This is equivalent to less than the cost of one ballet
at full price, also cheaper than the much inferior performances and
recordings on Naxos. Given that we have full price digital readings
from one of the country’s top orchestras, conducted by a person well
steeped in ballet performances, I can’t see how CFP can fail. The only
competing issues of all three ballets are by Previn/LSO (no longer available)
and Bonynge/National Philharmonic (available but more expensive).
The Nutcracker occupies the first two
discs, held in a slimline double case occupying the position normally
holding the first disc in a double. The ballet is complete, and in the
Divertissement in Act 1, Scene 2, there is an additional dance orchestrated
by Lanchbery. This comes as a bit of a surprise to a listener who knows
the ballet very well. It was originally a piano piece, and it fits into
the score quite well.
The performances of this and indeed the other two ballets
are excellent. I was surprised to find that most of the set pieces were
done with such vividness and élan. I was expecting to have to
listen to rather slow, drawn out, items because of the influence of
pacing for the ballet dancers. Apart from one or two pieces, there is
life and enjoyment in these recordings, which I am sure that most listeners
will warm to. Disc 1 band 6 (The Grandfather’s Dance) is an example
of what I was expecting throughout, but let me assure you that this
track is the exception rather than the rule.
The Sleeping Beauty occupies discs 3
and 4, and is complete apart from the entr’acte between the scenes of
Act 1, and Nos. 27 and 29 in Act 3 (Pas Berrichon and Sarabande). These
three items have been omitted to allow the ballet to be fitted onto
two discs, so the sleeve says, and in fact with playing times of 75.51
and 73.11 I can understand the comment. However, when we have discs
1 and 2 with playing times of 44.02 and 43.33, it would be perfectly
possible to include the missing items. However we would have had to
have disc changes and would also prevent CFP from issuing each ballet
separately as a double possible for the future. Discs 5 and 6 – another
slimline double - hold the complete Swan Lake with Nos.
10, part vi of No. 13 and No.14 from Act II omitted (see comments above).
Good notes and a synopsis of each ballet are included,
making an excellent inexpensive Christmas present for a lucky person.