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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]
Sadler’s 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]
Experience Classicsonline

Following on 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.
 
Russian music 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 in humour.
 
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.
 
Throughout, Lambert 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.
 
Bob Briggs
 


 


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