Constant Lambert conducts
ballet music Peter Il’yich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840–1893)
The Sleeping Princess, op.66 (1889) [26:48] Giacomo MEYERBEER (1791–1864)
Les Patineurs (selections from the opera Le Prophete (1849)
and L'Etoile du nord (1854) arranged and orchestrated
by Constant Lambert) (1937) [8:09] William BOYCE (1710–1779)
The Prospect before us (arranged by Constant Lambert)
(1940) [23:35] Gioachino ROSSINI (1792–1868)
William Tell Ballet Music (1829) [12:42]
Wells Orchestra/Constant Lambert
rec. 11 February 1939, Kingsway Hall, London (The Sleeping
Princess), 8 May 1939, Kingsway Hall, London (Les Patineurs
and William Tell), 1 August 1940, EMI Abbey Road Studios,
London (The Prospect Before Us) ADD
re–issues of HMV C3081–3 (6 sides) (The Sleeping Princess),
HMV C3105 (2 sides) (Les Patineurs), HMV C3181–3 (6 sides)
(The Prospect Before Us) and HMV B8900–1 (4 sides) (William
Tell) SOMM SOMMCD080 [70:50]
from their issue Constant Lambert – the Last Recordings (SOMMCD
023) here is a collection of ballet music used by the Sadler’s
Wells company and played by the company’s own Orchestra – what
a treat it is to hear this band and what a splendid band
it obviously was! – conducted by the great Constant Lambert.
was always close to Lambert’s heart and here’s a sparkling
account of Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Princess (de Valois
favoured Diaghilev’s re-titling of The Sleeping Beauty).
Sadler’s Wells was the first non–Russian company to give
the complete ballet and it was performed at a Royal Gala
on 2 February 1939, this recording being made a few days
later and it’s a sizzling and scintillating performance.
The orchestra is on top form, and sound to be having a really
good time – just listen to the swagger of the final section
of the six fairies (no.4) and the suavity of the famous Valse.
Every minute is relished.
The four excerpts
from Les Patineurs are delightful, quirky (which must
be part of Lambert’s input into the work) and entertaining
miniatures, which make me want to hear the whole work. It’s
unpretentious and charming, with very colourful orchestrations
from Lambert. It’s easy to see why the ballet was such a
success at its premiere in 1937.
The suite arranged
from William Boyce – Lambert was one of the first 20th century
musicians to grasp the importance of this composer and made
editions of the 8 Symphonies – has a good period feel, and
the performance sparkles despite it occasionally lacking
The opening and
closing sections of the ballet music from William Tell will
be well known because Benjamin Britten used them for the
opening movements of his suites Matinées and Soirées Musicales, but in very different orchestrations.
After that it’s typical ballet fare – sorry, but it is. Rather
uninteresting rambling round a couple of themes with some
dull orchestration. Perhaps it’s me; I simply don’t find
anything of quality in this piece.
is perfectly at ease, understanding that the music is used
for dance and there’s an unhurried quality about all the
performances – as if he really were, at the moment of recording,
watching the dancers and following their every move. It’s
a very enjoyable disk, with very good sound, the transfers
are excellent, and Stephen Lloyd’s notes are informative.
A very attractive issue of some attractive music played with
verve and style.
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