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CD: MDT AmazonUK AmazonUS

Mikhail IPPOLITOV-IVANOV (1859-1935)
Caucasian Sketches, Op. 10 (1894) (In the mountain pass; In the village; In the mosque; Procession of the Sardar) [24:40]
Reinhold GLIÈRE (1875-1956)
The Red Poppy: ballet suite, Op. 70 (1926) (Chinese Dance; Dance of the Russian sailors; Heroic Coolie dance; Phoenix; Scene and dance; Valse) [29:36]
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Anatole Fistoulari
rec. Kingsway Hall, London, United Kingdom, September 1956 (The Red Poppy), March 1957 (Caucasian Sketches). ADD
DECCA ELOQUENCE 480 2428 [54:16]

Experience Classicsonline

Anatole Fistoulari (1907-1995) was not a name up in lights; not even during the early LP era. Raymond Tuttle’s very helpful commentary tells us that at the age of seven he conducted a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique in Kiev, the city of his birth. Six years later he directed Saint-Saëns’ Samson et Dalila in Bucharest. He toured Europe and the USA accompanying Chaliapin and conducting the pit orchestra for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. The Nazis precipitated his flight to England and there he married Mahler’s sole surviving daughter, Anna and was appointed principal conductor of the London Philharmonic. In 1948 he took British citizenship. You can read more of his biography in Chris Howell’s review of his Swan Lake excerpts on Eloquence with the Concertgebouw.

These two Glière and Ippolitov-Ivanov pieces were recorded by Decca engineers and issued by RCA in 1957 as part of a reciprocal working package. It seems that this is their first outing on Decca and their premiere on compact disc. Fistoulari proves a master of feisty colour which really underlines how apt his engagement with these scores was. In the Ippolitov-Ivanov the woodwind are rendered very naturally as are the tambourine and chittering strings. However there is no escaping the considerable age of these tapes even if Eloquence have done a fine job on their recovery. The Ippolitov-Ivanov rather moves between the worlds of cosmopolitan Tchaikovsky and nationalistic Borodin. The Procession of the Sardar - once a popular concert morcel - is the most nationalistic movement. As for the six movement Gliere suite this is drawn from a much longer ballet which has been recorded complete by Naxos and Anichanov. Suites from The Red Poppy have been recorded by Edward Downes (Chandos), Siegfried Landau (Turnabout LP TV34218S) and a host of others. The steely oompah and determined cheery urgency of The Chinese Dance reminded me of Khachaturian. The Coolie Dance is an unashamed piece of postcard stereotyping – Ketèlbey did it so why not Glière. The Dance of the Russian Sailors is more Tchaikovskian-passionate before it begins to reminisce around the carillon enchantment of The Nutcracker and reaches towards a melody that is very close to Pale Hands I Loved Beside the Shalimar. Phoenix sports a sweetly languorous Tchaikovskian violin solo. The Valse is broadly in the same sumptuous territory as Tchaikovsky and Waldteufel. The finale is at first rather conventional in the Scene but soon evolves into an arrogant and stiff-necked Dance with a wildly whirling pell-mell Hungarian vitality. The sound is rather harsh in the case of the Glière. By the way the tracklisting reverses the last two tracks – the Valse is in fact the penultimate feature.

Among his later recordings there is one I would especially like to hear – his Tchaikovsky 4 with the RPO on Decca Phase Four PFS4225. I wonder if it will ever surface.

This disc represents a 1950s keepsake of Fistoulari in his element.

Rob Barnett




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