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Léon (Ludwig) MINKUS (1826-1917)
Don Quixote - Ballet in Three Acts - original version (1869)
Sofia National Opera Orchestra/Nayden Todorov
Recorded at the National Palace of Culture, Sofia, Bulgaria, 1-7 April, 2002. DDD
NAXOS 8.557065-66 [137:01]


Don Quixote, the most famous work from the great Spanish novelist Miguel Cervantes, has inspired several musical compositions. This Naxos double set contains the original three act ballet, Don Quixote, from the pen of composer Léon Minkus. This work has remained a perennial favourite of the ballet repertoire.

Austrian-born Minkus had a long and successful career spending many years in Russia during much of which he was engaged in writing ballets for the Imperial Russian Court. As chief ballet master of the Russian Imperial Ballet the great French choreographer Marius Petipa was instructed to produce a major new work for the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. Minkus collaborated with Petipa and the work was premièred in 1869. Minkus was commissioned in 1871 to write additional material with the intention of expand the ballet along more formal lines into five acts for a more lavish production in St. Petersburg.

Minkus, like all ballet composers of his day, didn’t write his ballet music for orchestral display. Ballets then were choreography-led for the purpose of showing-off the dancers, adhering to the strict instructions of time, tempo and the drama of the scenes. It was only with the appearance on the scene of composers such as Delibes and Tchaikovsky that the symphonic resources of the orchestra were directed into original music for the dance.

I know that the Sofia National Opera Orchestra has recorded this ballet at least once previously and their experience has served them well. Under the direction of Bulgarian conductor Nayden Todorov the orchestra respond with characterful application throughout, with warmth and a decent amount of drama. There was a sense however that conductor and orchestra were keeping some energy in reserve.

The recorded sound is more than acceptable and the concise but interesting annotation is adequate. A fairly enjoyable performance decently recorded. I’m sure that ballet lovers will want to own this recording.

Michael Cookson

This recording was more enthusiastically received by Patrick Gary


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