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World Philharmonic Orchestra - Paris 2006
Maurice RAVEL
(1875-1937)

Bolero (1928) [15:28]
Georges BIZET (1838-1875)
Carmen Suite No.1 – excerpts (1875) [8:13]
Carmen Suite No.2 – excerpts (1875) [6:30]
Paul DUKAS (1865-1935)
L'Apprenti sorcier (1897) [10:40]
Hector BERLIOZ (1803-1869)
Marche au supplice from Symphonie fantastique Op.14 (1830) [4:58]
World Philharmonic Orchestra/Yutaka Sado.
rec. live, 20 June 2006, Cour d'Honneur du Palais des Invalides, Paris, France. DDD
NAÏVE V5067 [45:49]



Let's not waste time here. This disc is completely and utterly redundant. All of the works collected on this ungenerous CD are bettered elsewhere by just about everyone.
 
It is a shame, because aims of the World Philharmonic Orchestra are laudable. In the late 1980s, previous incarnations of this orchestra played under luminaries, the likes of Sinopoli, Maazel and Giulini (see review). Concerts were given “for peace and for children”, in partnership with UNESCO, UNICEF or the Red Cross. The orchestra itself is a virtual musical United Nations, bringing together front-desk players from orchestras in 80 countries.
 
After an apparent hiatus of nearly a decade, the WPO is back. In this incarnation, it sounds very ordinary indeed. Yutaka Sado, though by no means a terrible conductor, is not in the class of his august predecessors. Although he has been building a promising reputation as a conductor of French repertoire from his base in Lameroux, this disc does nothing to enhance that reputation.
 
There are two things wrong with the orchestra. The ensemble is unimpressive, with little cohesion and inept balancing of parts. This may perhaps be attributed to insufficient rehearsal, but really this repertoire is hardly obscure or difficult. The second problem is that the musicians are not of a consistently high caliber. They are drawn mostly from middle to bottom tier orchestras in Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Australasia. There are almost no middle to top tier orchestras represented. There is a single double-bass from the Czech Philharmonic, Jonathan Aasgaard from the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic leads the cellos, and a violinist from the Los Angeles Philharmonic turns up among the seconds. None of the London bands are represented, nor are any of the big five American orchestras, and there are no delegates from the important Western European bands either. The claim made in the liner-notes that the orchestra comprises “the greatest virtuosos our planet has to offer” is sheer nonsense. That said, most of the brass, winds and percussion play very well, but the rank and file strings vary from good to very bad, and the overall string tone is thin and scratchy. The flat-sounding live recording does not help, nor does the excess of audience noise.
 
Despite some decent woodwind playing and, in fairness, some attractive swooning from the strings, the Bolero that opens the programme is a dud. It does not build consistently, and there are too many ugly sounds along the way to make it recommendable. The Carmen Suites are dismembered – selections of selections from the opera, if you will. Much of the playing here sounds declamatory and insensitive. The opening prelude is not together, and is so oom-pah bass-heavy that it sounds like a joke. The Dukas tone poem is decent but unimpressive and if you have not taken the disc off by the time you get to the March to the Scaffold, you will hear trombones and timpani that sound terrible and out of tune and brass that stumble over themselves, even if Sado's tempo is just about right.
 
It appears from the orchestra's website that there was more to this concert programme than appears on this disc. Should we be annoyed that the disc's playing time is so short, or grateful that Naïve does not prolong our agony?
 
The liner-notes are so ridiculously rapt and laudatory that they are funny. An example: “It was in Paris that this concert took place. It was in Paris, one night in June, that the spell was cast. ... under the fiery baton of the Japanese conductor Yutaka Sado ... the World Philharmonic Orchestra made vibrant music. Splendid. Intense. United. And from the depths of its soul.”
 
Tim Perry
 



 

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