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Jacques OFFENBACH (1819-1880) arr. Maurice ROSENTHAL (1904–2003)
Gaïté Parisienne (1938) [38:48]
Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)

Faust (ballet music) (1938) [15:52]
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868) arr. Ottorino RESPIGHI (1879–1936)

Rossiniana (ballet music) (1925) [25:52]
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden/Georg Solti
Suisse Romande Orchestra/Ernest Ansermet (Rossini/Respighi)
rec. Kingsway Hall, London, May, 1960 (Offenbach; Gounod); Victoria Hall, Geneva, February 1967 (Rossini/Respighi). ADD.
DECCA ELOQUENCE 476 2724 [77:44]

Some of these recordings have previously been issued on CD in the UK. This was on a Double Decca entitled ‘A Ballet Gala’. As far as I am aware though, this is the first issue of the Ansermet Rossiniana. This very aptly fills out another successful Eloquence disc taking ballet as its theme. It make for a very satisfying listening experience. Solti’s performances were always good given his well known ability to make an orchestra sparkle, and that’s exactly what the Covent Garden Orchestra does here. This must be one of the best performances of these two items in the catalogue. Solti has the orchestra playing on the edge of their seats.

Gaïté Parisienne was in large part composed by Offenbach, but ably arranged by the conductor Maurice Rosenthal. It comprises orchestrations of a variety of short pieces taken from the Offenbach operettas and makes up a 40 minute ballet set in a fashionable Parisian café. The central character is a rich but naïve Peruvian - originally danced by Massine. Coming into the café with money to burn, he, like many others, is bewitched by a lovely female glove-seller. She is spoken for by an Austrian Baron who is happy to flirt with her. Another beauty, (La Lionne) enters with her escort the Duke. As can be expected with this mix, jealousy breaks out and every one is compromised except the old Peruvian, who is left, at the end of the ballet, sitting in the café, alone, a comic, yet pathetic figure.

The ballet music from Faust has a different provenance. Whereas Gaïté Parisienne was created from opera extracts for the ballet theatre and concert hall, the Faust ballet music derives from an interlude within the opera, Faust. Most operas performed in Paris during the 1800s were not allowed to be mounted, unless they contained substantial passages of ballet music. Many of Verdi’s Italian operas fell foul of this rule, and those performed in France had to have ballets incorporated to indulge the taste of French audiences. It is a good job that Beethoven’s Fidelio was completed long before this strange requirement came into force.

The Faust ballet has no connection with the plot of the opera. It served concert duty for many years and is probably better known in this form than in the opera. Solti, with his long experience in the opera house, performs this just as well as the Offenbach. Purchasers will be well pleased with both Solti-conducted items.

As if this was not enough, the disc has been further filled out with another ballet/concert work: the Rossini-Respighi Rossiniana here conducted by Ernest Ansermet. I am not sure whether this item has been issued in the UK before – it may have been, but only for a short period of time. It is very nice to welcome it back into general availability, as Ansermet, Geneva Hall and the Suisse Romande is a powerful combination in this repertoire. With Ansermet, one often feels that the performance is "just right", and so it is here.

Throughout, Decca’s recording quality is beyond criticism: clear, wide-ranging and very musical. I recommend this disc very highly. I have enjoyed it very much. In addition it allows a work, long unavailable, back into the catalogue. Well done Australian Eloquence!

John Phillips

see also review by Steve Vasta



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