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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

 

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Christoph Willibald GLUCK (1714-1787)
Don Juan, ou le Festin de Pierre, pantomime ballet (1761) [45.39]
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Ariodante HWV 33 (1735): Overture [5.28]; Sinfonia pastorale; Ballo [12.05]
Il Pastor Fido HWV 8 (1712, rev. 1734): March; Air pour les chasseurs I, II [5.58]
Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields/Neville Marriner
Simon Preston and Colin Tilney, harpsichord continuo
rec. Decca Studio No. 3, West Hampstead, London, UK, May 1967 (Gluck), 1971 (Handel) ADD. Notes in English.
DECCA ELOQUENCE 476 2440 [69.17]

 

The scenario of the Don Juan ballet by Gluck is roughly the same story as Mozart’s Don Giovanni with Donna Elvira and Donna Anna conflated into a single character. The choreographer Angiolini produced a “ballet d’action” where music, drama, choreography and staging were fused into a serious dramatic form; the result was huge success at its premiere in Vienna in 1761. Spain was an Austrian “province” and there was much artistic as well as political communication. Besides Gluck, Johann Christoff Mann wrote Spanish dances into his works at the time.

This music has been one of my favorite classical pieces from when I first got to know it fifty years ago on the mono Westminster recording with Rudolf Moralt. Naturally I bought this Neville Marriner recording at once when it came out on LP and am delighted to see it available on CD. Nothing else by Gluck has been able to interest me so much.

Stage action featured demons carrying real torches flying through the air and real fireworks on stage! At the end of the third act, the banquet scene, the statue of the Commandant departs. In the fourth act the Don appears in the cemetery to “dine” with the Commandant. Struggling in the statue’s stony grip, the Don refuses to repent and flying demons catch him up and jump with him into the fiery pit. At the time Beethoven wrote Creatures of Prometheus, this Gluck work must have been the greatest ballet ever written.

The ballet score is divided into 31 numbers. No. 29 is an exact repeat of No. 26, and is omitted in this recording; but you can’t program your player to play No. 26 again in the correct sequence because No. 26 is not put in a separate track of its own. The numbers are arranged into four acts, the last of which is very short consisting only of Don Juan’s “devil” music. This music was so popular in its time that it was frankly copied into Boccherini’s Symphony in d, Op 12, No. 4, “La Casa del Diavolo” and works by other composers as well. My generation of listeners remember it used in the soundtracks of many old “B” movies and radio programs as background music for the villains’ silently and stealthily creeping up on the unsuspecting heroes.

The Handel pieces are here as fillers, very welcome ones indeed. The Ariodante excerpts feature vigorous dance rhythms, with wind instruments joining the strings. Handel also used some of this music in his Trio Sonatas. The Pastor Fido excerpt features brilliant hunting horn calls. As usual with these Eloquence releases the sound is exceptionally clear, rich, and wide range. There is no clue that this recording is forty years old!

Paul Shoemaker

see also Review by Göran Forsling

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