I feared the worst
from the from the pairing of this conductor
with this repertoire. After all "gaiety"
Parisian or otherwise, didn't seem to
figure in the highly-strung Solti's
In fact, for better
and for worse, this lively rendering
of the Offenbach ballet is typical
of the conductor in 1960. The opening
flourishes presage a bracing, theatrical
performance. The tuttis are crisp
and brilliant with boldly drawn dramatic
contrasts that occasionally verge on
the portentous (e.g. tr. 13). The rhythms
are generally buoyant and dancing; note
the light-hearted, infectious zest of
the off-beat accents in the Peruvian
Dance. However when Solti unleashes
the brass there is a certain heaviness
for all the splendor of the resulting
sonorities. The conductor picks up the
pace within many of the individual numbers,
sometimes an effective tactic - as with
the airborne Viennese feel of the contrasting
waltzes in track 14 - but it quickly
wears out its welcome through overuse.
As always with this conductor taut intensity
is preferable to his attempts at forced
"relaxation": the opening of the grand
waltz (track 14) feels becalmed, the
Barcarolle proper a bit sluggish.
The warm, full-throated horns, dusky
cellos, and, especially, delicate, insinuating
woodwinds (particularly feline at the
start of the Polka) of the Covent
Garden orchestra afford much enjoyment.
It's all recorded with impressive depth
The rest of the program
scores unequivocally higher marks. In
the Faust ballet music,
the waltzes are nicely sinuous, while
an infusion of brilliance elsewhere
serves to refresh the score's fading
charms. The playing, once again polished
and responsive: the opening brass’s
call to order is properly brazen, the
massed strings voice their broad melodies
resonantly, and the woodwinds' rhythmic
address is remarkably acute. I still
favor Rozhdestvensky's little-known,
zippy account of this music - briefly
available Stateside on a Westminster
Gold LP - but Solti's is definitely
one of the better high-profile accounts.
sounds like it could be a ballet
in the manner of La boutique fantasque,
also assembled from Rossini piano pieces
by Ottorino Respighi, but it was written
for the concert hall. It's the sort
of appealing, colorful music in which
Ansermet and his not-quite-top-of-the-line
Suisse Romande Orchestra excelled. Their
performance here is nuanced and vibrant.
Sour wind tuning is a distraction at
2.21 of the Lamento, but the
closing Tarantella has lots of
bright energy. The sound here, of more
recent vintage than in the Solti items,
comes up vividly, though oddly it's
drier and more restricted in range.
Each number in Gaîté
Parisienne gets a separate track.
On the other hand, the entire Faust
sequence makes do with just one!
Rossiniana, sensibly, gets one
track per movement.