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The World of Ballet
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Aida Dance of the Moorish Slaves and March [8:16]
Modest MUSSORGSKY (1839-1881)
Khovantschina Dance of the Persian Slaves [6:17]
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Samson et Dalila Bacchanale [6:45]
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Guillaume Tell Passo a sei – Soldiers’ Dance [11:34]
Johann STRAUSS II (1825-1899)
Graduation Ball (arr. Antal Dorati) [37:02]
Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826)
Invitation to the Dance Op 65 (orch. Berlioz) [9:13]
Léon MINKUS (1826-1917)
Don Quixote Pas de deux [8:05]
Alexandre Charles LECOCQ (1832-1918)
Mam’zelle Angot (arr. Gordon Jacob) [24:01]
Sir William WALTON (1902-1983)
Façade Suites [21:31]
Paris Conservatoire Orchestra; New Symphony Orchestra; Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
Anatole Fistoulari (conductor)
rec. London and Paris, 1953-58
DECCA ELOQUENCE 480 2391 [70:26 + 63:13]

Experience Classicsonline

Anatole Fistoulari (1907-1995) was busy in the recording studios mainly in the 1950s and 1960s, largely in ballet music. Presumably he was chosen for this due to his work before the war with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Notably he recorded Swan Lake three times. Most of the works on these discs are a mixture of ballets drawn from operas and arrangements for ballet of music not originally intended for that purpose. The earliest recordings are those of Graduation Ball and the music by Minkus and Weber, all of which date from 1953. The latest are the operatic items recorded in Paris in 1958. Obviously no one would expect the recording quality to be up to modern standards but unless this is your main interest I cannot imagine that the actual sound as re-mastered on these discs will deter anyone who is interested in this music and its performance.

It is a pity that the collection starts with the Aida extracts. The Grand March is a marvellous piece in context. On its own and without the essential vocal contributions it can seem somewhat colourless. Things improve greatly with the next three items, all operatic. Here there is real colour, rhythmic dash and atmosphere. The Guillaume Tell extract is especially effective with speeds that are sometimes slower than usual, to the music’s great advantage.

Graduation Ball and Mam’zelle Angot are ballets where existing music is arranged to fit the story and the choreographer’s intentions. The former uses mainly lesser-known music by Johann Strauss II along with a couple of familiar extracts including the Perpetuum Mobile. Ingenious as Dorati’s rescoring is, I found myself often wishing I was listening to the original versions. This kind of arrangement can work either when the original music is left largely untouched or when the arrangement is particularly colourful or attractive in itself. I am not convinced that either of these is the case here. For the most part Mam’zelle Angot is based on music from the operetta La Fille de Madame Angot which I must admit to never having heard. Although it does tend, at least in Gordon Jacob’s arrangement, to sound somewhat generic in the manner of French operetta of that period it is certainly agreeable. I have to admit nonetheless that I failed to remember much of it on a second hearing.

Façade is in every way of greater musical interest than these two ballets. It is the composer’s own arrangement of his very individual chamber masterpiece. Although these orchestrations are often heard in the form of two Suites they are played here in the order used in the ballet, which works very well for continuous listening. The composer recorded them on 78s which I played incessantly as a teenager, and it may be that my feeling that there is some lack of character in the playing here is simply due to over-familiarity with those versions rather than to any defects in conducting or playing.

Overall I enjoyed these discs but it would be hard to describe them as a compelling purchase unless you especially want sufficient of the collection as a whole. As usual Eloquence put other companies in the shade when it comes to presentation, with an excellent essay by Raymond Tuttle on the music and on these recordings.

John Sheppard







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