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Le Ballet Français
CD 1 [50:36]
Leo DELIBES (1836-1891)
Coppélia – Ballet Suite [23:26]
Frederic CHOPIN (1810-1849) orch. Roy Douglas (b.1907)
Les Sylphides – Ballet Suite [27:10]
Rundfunk-Sinfonie-Orchester Berlin/Heinz Fricke
rec. Christuskirche, Berlin, 1985
CD 2 [57:57]
Adolphe ADAM (1803-1856)
Giselle - excerpts [37:30]
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
Cendrillon – Ballet Suite [20:27]
Academy of St Martin in the Fields/Sir Neville Marriner
rec. St Jude’s, London, 1994
CD 3 [49:43]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
La Boîte à Joujoux [32:49]
Rundfunk-Sinfonie-Orchester Leipzig/Max Pommer
rec. Paul-Gerhard-Kirche, Lepizig, 1984
Leo DELIBES (1836-1891)
Sylvia – Ballet Suite [16:54]
Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra/Janos Sandor
rec. Hungaroton Studios, Budapest, 1987
[3 CDs: 158:00] 


Experience Classicsonline

This ballet hotch-potch is a pretty random concoction.  It contains recordings from four different orchestras, recorded at different times in four different locations under different conductors.  It’s a collection of seemingly unrelated French ballet music with very thin programme notes and varying quality performances.  It seems as though Capriccio have simply got their hands on the licence for a group of recordings and thrown them all together as a marketing plan.  Nothing wrong with that, and the result is OK, but it’s really nothing special. 

The playing is at its best in the first half of the set.  Coppélia is given a very distinguised treatment in lovely, close sound, though for some reason the selection omits the Mazurka, surely Delibes’ most famous piece of music.  I’ve always had a soft spot for Les Sylphides, the warm, romantic orchestration somehow seemes entirely suited for Chopin’s music.  It’s probably the most successful thing in the whole set, played with lush legato and revelling in the rich textures, the acoustic of the Christus-kirche no doubt playing its role.  Equally, the excerpts from Giselle are well played and lovingly shaped. 

The problems begin with Cendrillon, which just doesn’t seem to be that substantial musically.  Of course, it’s the compulsory ballet from a French opera, but it just doesn’t linger in the memory.  Debussy’s Toy Box, on the other hand, is a distinctively Debussian work with all of the shimmering textures and flickering uncertainties that he does so well.  However, its story is narrated, somewhat like Peter and the Wolf, and there are no texts or even a synopsis to help guide you through, so its subtleties were lost on me.  Sylvia is the biggest disappointment: here is a truly great ballet score, almost Wagnerian in its scope, but it is given a very underwhelming performance, vapid and without conviction. 

So Les Sylphides apart, this set is nothing special, but its price might just tempt you to explore.

Simon Thompson


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