Naxos are issuing so
many different ballet scores at present,
that I am surprised that they do not
have a Ballet Series.
The current issue is
an almost unknown score, which was very
popular in its day. Franz Schmidt, playing
the cello in the Vienna Court Opera
Orchestra was very scathing about ballet
composers in general, and Josef Bayer
in particular. He said of Bayer: "I
liken him, in order not to insult this
rank, to an Austrian regimental music
sergeant only in so far as he possessed
the arrogance and coarseness of one
in richest measure. His ability as a
conductor and musician however, would
not have satisfied the needs of the
post of regimental music sergeant by
a long way. He was beneath all criticism
and was further devalued by the pitifulness
and vulgarity of his compositions."
of one another are often suspect as
personal animosities come into the equation.
In actual life, Bayer was a very popular
figure in Viennese musical life. He
was the musical head of ballet in Vienna
for over thirty years. During that time,
he composed some twenty one act ballets,
many other shorter pieces, numerous
divertissements, operettas and light
music for various venues. With such
a range of works, one might assume that
the jam is spread fairly thinly, and
so it is, if these two ballets are anything
to go by.
Naxos has recorded
here the complete Fairy Doll, and a
good portion of Sun and Earth. For the
orchestra they have chosen the Slovak
Radio Symphony Orchestra, and have engaged
the worthy Andrew Mogrelia, to head
up the proceedings. He has given us
other ballet recordings - some very
good and others not so good. This is
one of his better offerings and he secures
lively accurate playing from his orchestra
in a highly believable acoustic in one
of Naxos’s good non hi-fi recordings.
The digital sound is first rate and
the orchestra is set in a concert hall
setting, which I find very pleasant
to listen to.
Are there any negative
points? Yes, emphatically so. I find
Schmidt’s assessment of the composer
highly accurate, and most of the ballet
is very pleasant but highly forgettable
and thank god it is only a fiver. This
is, as has been said before, one of
the benefits of Naxos’s pricing policy.
By charging a ridiculously low price
for their discs, the music lover can
pick and choose from a huge range of
repertoire with minimal financial exposure.
I would have been quite
miffed if this disc was full priced,
because, if this were the case, it would
not have got a recommendation at all.
As it is, this low priced disc offers
the music lover the opportunity to hear
something he or she would not otherwise
get the opportunity to hear. Let us
make no mistake, both ballets are tuneful
in so far as they go, are expertly crafted
and played far more than adequately
by orchestra and conductor.
The disc comes with
very good notes and advertise another
of Naxos’s offerings – Naxos Radio.
This offers forty channels of Classical
Music, Jazz, Folk/World Music and Nostalgia
in near CD quality over the Internet.
It is accessible anywhere (that is through
a suitably equipped computer), anytime.
Perhaps in a few years
time, reviews such as this will become
redundant, as you will be able to listen
to and download those discs you like
for a nominal sum, and make up your
own minds as to whether you would enjoy
them or not. I can recommend this disc
to anyone who likes tuneful light music
in a well recorded acoustic.