Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Peter Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1810-1874)
Swan Lake (1877), ballet with narration
Narr. Angela Rippon
Czecho-Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra/Ondrej Lenárd
Rec. Prague? and London, 2002
NAXOS 8.557174 [58.59]


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Tchaikovsky wrote this ballet in 1877 before Sleeping Beauty and Nutcracker and during the bright period of his life before the guilt associated with his latent homosexuality had manifested itself. Despite a disappointing first performance the score is now seen as one of Tchaikovsky's best. It is lively, never short of thematic material, and always uses all sections of an orchestra imaginatively.

A number of good recordings already exist and one is perhaps surprised that Naxos has joined their number at such a late stage. However, it is more with their interest to add to an established children's series that already offers Peter and the Wolf, Carnival of the Animals, Nutcracker and 1001 Nights (Rimsky-Korsakov), each narrated by a known name. Perhaps Hansel and Gretel will be next.

Of course this recording is not a complete reading of the score, but it does include the nicest highlights.

The tracking is related to the passages of narration rather than the music and for me it would have brought more flexibility of use by keying the musical numbers as well (making an acceptable 32 tracks in all). [This disc would have provided an ideal opportunity to utilise that Index sub-tracking system that has now faded from CD mastering.]

The recording is fresh-sounding in an airy acoustic the orchestra being on good form and responsive to Lenárd's enthusiastic reading of the score. Angela Rippon's concise narration is dynamically conveyed with interest as one might expect from this lover of ballet. (Presumably she wrote the notes as no credit is given in this respect.)

I am disappointed in the packaging of this CD. Despite an attractive picture that also provides a case background, the cover carries an English title and narrator's name yet gives Tchaikovsky's forenames in Russian with anglicised surname, which you may consider hardly helpful to children. Also, disappointingly the cover does not give the usual credit for orchestra and conductor who really contributed more to the realisation of this disc than a narrator. The inlay shows that the disc was recorded at a studio in London and only gives credit to British names. I cannot believe that Naxos have trundled the Czech orchestra to London for this recording yet no other information is provided.

Naxos has always had a very good name in CD production, but so have the Czech orchestras that have produced many of Naxos's recordings. So this fairly unknown conductor in the West could have been given more publicity: surely a photo of him in place of the two (same) photos of Angela Rippon could have been expected.

Raymond Walker

Gerard Hoffnung CDs

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