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CD: Crotchet
Download: Classicsonline

1001 Nights - Breezes from the Orient
CD 1
Ernest REYER (1823-1909)
Le Sélam - symphonie orientale for soloists, choir and orchestra (5 tableaux: I. Introduction - Le Goum - Sérénade et chœur de guerriers; II. Razzia, chœur de guerriers et de pasteurs - Pastorale; III. Conjuration des Djinns, chœur de sorcières; IV. Chant du soir; V. La Dhossa, marche de pèlerins, prière et chœur de derviches) [50:01]
Karol SZYMANOWSKI (1882-1937)
Songs of the Infatuated Muezzin, op. 42 for soprano and orchestra: (Allah ! - Murs chauds à la chaleur de midi - Heure paisible - Va, va pour toujours) [10:55]
Gertrud Ottenthal (soprano); Bruno Lazaretti (tenor); Wolfgang Glashof (baryton)
Chœur de la Cathédrale Sainte-Edwige de Berlin
Orchestre Symphonique de la Radio de Berlin/Maria Guida
CD 2
Peter CORNELIUS (1824-1874)
Le Barbier de Bagdad: Ouverture [9:08]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Les Ruines d'Athènes: Marche turque - Chœur des derviches [6:05]
Christoph Willibald GLUCK (1714-1787)
Les Pèlerins de la Mecque: Les hommes pieusement - Il fait entendre sa sonnette
Le cadi dupé: Will mein Weib zu Hause brummen [2:11]
Johann Adolf HASSE (1699-1783)
Solimano: Marche turque - "Viva il prode, viva il forte" [3:33]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
L'Enlèvement au Sérail, K. 384: Marche des janissaires - Chœur des janissaires "Singt dem großen Bassa Lieder" [1:40]
Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1827)
Oberon: Overture [9:22]
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Samson et Dalila: Danse Bacchanale [7:13]
Georges BIZET (1838-1875)
Les Pêcheurs de perles: Au fond du temple saint [4:52]
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Salomé, op. 54: Dance of the Seven Veils [10:19]
Bruno Lazzaretti (tenor); Roberto Servile (baryton)
Chœur de chambre RIAS
Orchestre Symphonique de la Radio de Berlin/Hanns-Martin Schneidt
CD 3
Nikolaï RIMSKI-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
Schéhérazade, op. 35, Symphonic Suite [43:26]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Schéhérazade - Trois poèmes pour mezzo et orchestre: (Asie - La Flûte enchantée - L’Indifferént) [16:20]
Gisella Pasino (mezzo)
Orchestre Symphonique de la Radio de Berlin/Hanns-Martin Schneidt
rec. Berlin, Philharmonie, 10, 15 June, 22 December 1989. DDD
PHOENIX EDITION 420 [3 CDs: 60:56 + 54:23 + 59:46]
Experience Classicsonline

The Orient, its seduction, mystery, danger and otherness held the cultural attention at various times over the last three hundred years. Its mesmeric fascination is reflected in a series of discs issued by Capriccio in the late 1980s. While Capriccio once seemed to have gone to the great temple in the sky Phoenix Edition have a tight grip on the Capriccio catalogue.

This three disc set reflects the Capriccio connection. Rarities rub shoulders with more famous oriental works. Alongside a cleanly recorded and respectable rather then fierily inspired Rimsky Sheherazade we hear a much better Ravel Sheherazade sung by the smoky-toned mezzo Gisella Pasino. It's a demanding cycle and Pasino keeps tight control on vibrato. All in all this is a very pleasing recording of the Ravel and one to which I shall return. Schneidt and his Berlin orchestra make a very convincing contribution.

The second disc is again in the hands of Schneidt but is more various in its coverage. The Cornelius Barber of Baghdad is rather Weber-like - laid out like the Euryanthe or Oberon overtures. The skirling janissaries of Beethoven’s music for The Ruins of Athens comes across clearly. Gluck's Pilgrims of Mecca is represented through two Osmin-like arias. The Hasse Turkish with chorus is rather token Turkish down to the percussion jingle. Gluck's Omar aria sounds rather like Mozart's writing in Magic Flute. Mozart's Die Entfuhrung is also represented. Weber's Oberon overture is nicely done in its build up of tension. Then step decades forward to the jerky energy of Saint-Saëns Danse Bacchanale complete with castanets. This is all vividly done. Then we hear Au Fond Du Temple Saint with Servile and Lazzaretti accorded a strong sound image. Strauss's swayingly seductive Dance of the Seven Veils brings us into the twentieth century with its wilder percussive sounds and more tangled tonal relationships.

The most interesting disc is the first which includes Reyer's Le Sélam. Reyer came to attention through his Wagnerian opera Sigurd. Le Sélam is a fascinating piece in French romantic nineteenth century mode rather like Lakmé and Samson. It's heard here in concert performance with the occasional cough. It’s something of an extravaganza in tableau form. More impressive still is the Szymanowski Songs of the Infatuated Muezzin. It’s atmospherically done by Ottenthal and the BRSO. Nothing here however is as distinctive as Adolphe Biarent's Contes de l'Orient or the various oriental fantasies by Tomasi, McPhee, Cowell or Hovhaness.

Its gravely regrettable that Phoenix seem to have ignored another rare work that formed part of the original Brises d'Orient series Ferdinand David's Le Désert. Then again it has just been issued by itself in a Capriccio digipack 5017. You might also be interested in a recently published analytical study of exotic music by Ralph P Locke ‘Musical Exoticism - Images and Reflections’, Cambridge UP, 2009).

Rob Barnett



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