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Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Slavonic Dancesa: Op. 46/B83 (1878) [35'32]; Op. 82/B147 No. 7 in C (1886) [3'05].
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
Le Cid (1885) – Ballet Musicb [17'44].
Giacomo MEYERBEER (1791-1864)/Constant LAMBERT (1905-51)

Les Patineursb (1937, arrs. from Le Prophète, 1849 and l'Etoile du Nord, 1854) [20'18].
aLondon Symphony Orchestra, bIsrael Philharmonic Orchestra/Jean Martinon.
Rec. aKingsway Hall, London, October 1959; bMann Auditorium, Tel Aviv, Israel. May 1958. ADD
DECCA ELOQUENCE 476 2742 [78'08]

 

A treat for Martinon fans, these recordings all display great élan. There is a difference in the performance standards of the LSO and the Israel Philharmonic, though. This should be taken into account when considering this disc for purchase.

The Dvořák is simply tremendous, radiating life from each and every semiquaver. The very opening is feisty, but a certain top-heaviness in the recording asserts itself. There is a certain lack of depth - reflected in the fact that the cellos can sound a little scratchy. Despite this the lightness of much of this music suits this approach. Importantly, the LSO displays huge affection for these famous pieces; try the contrasting sections of No. 2, the E minor. No. 3 (A flat) has a nice 'wafting in the breeze' feel to it, and the trumpets manage to avoid sounding 'hammy' - they often do here. Similarly Martinon avoids over-emphasis of the composer's marked accents - both hair-pinned and agogic - in the calm No. 4 (F major).. The sprightly No. 5 certainly hops along in its later stages! Similarly, the 'encore' from the Op. 72 set is remarkably on its toes.

A move to Tel Aviv for the remainder of the programme. The Massenet begins as up-front as they come - the recording seems closer - an explosion of energy entirely in keeping with the spirit of this marvellous music. Martinon ensures the second movement ('Andalouse') has a Spanish feel to it without degenerating into the sleazy. The light, sparkly woodwind of No. 4 ('Aubade') are a delight. They impress again in No. 6, 'Madrilène', with its lovely, crisp rhythms.

Along with Gaîeté parisienne and La Boutique fantasque (among others), Les Patineurs is a pot-pourri of music by Meyerbeer created by the indefatigable Constant Lambert. The recording again is grainy, but there is character by the bucket-load here; try the stompings of the 'Entrée' or the riotous Waltz of the 'Pas de trois'. The antics of the sixth movement, 'Duet', are counterbalanced by its darker middle section.

In short, masses of fun all round. If the Israel Philharmonic yields to the LSO in sheer international heft, it gives just as much of itself in spirit. A life-enhancing disc.

Colin Clarke

 



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