The great pas de deux
Riccardo DRIGO
Le Corsaire - Pas de deux (1887) [6:39]
Ludwig MINKUS (1826-1917)
Don Quixote - Act 3 Pas de deux (1869) [7:03]
La Bayadère - Pas de deux (1877) [8:18]
Don Quixote - Act 1 Pas de deux (1869) [3:05]
Adolphe ADAM (1803-1856)
Giselle - Peasants’ pas de deux and Giselle and Albrecht’s pas de deux (1841) [15:21]
Ferdinand HÉROLD (1791-1833)
La fille mal gardée - “Fanny Elssler” pas de deux (1828) [11:34]
André MESSAGER (1853-1929)
The two pigeons - Dance of the two pigeons(1886)[3:43]
Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Les Sylphides - Pas de deux (1909) [4:33]
Holger PAULLI (1810-1891)
The kermesse in Bruges - Pas de deux (1851) [7:23]
Eduard HELSTED (1816-1900) and Holger PAULLI (1810-1891)
Flower festival at Genzano - extracts (1858) [9:01]
Pyotr Il'yich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Swan Lake - “White swan” pas de deux and “Black swan” pas de deux (1876) [19:01]
Sleeping Beauty - Act 2 pas d’action and Act 3 pas de deux (1890) [19:05]
The Nutcracker - Pas de deux (1892) [8:29
Onegin (ballet, arr. Stolze) - Pas de deux (1965) [8:29]
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Romeo and Juliet - Act 1 balcony scene (1938) [8:34]
Cinderella - Pas de deux (1945) [4:46]
Johann STRAUSS II (1825-1899)
Graduation ball (ballet, arr. Dorati) - Romantic pas de deux (1940) [3:41]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
The lady and the fool (ballet, arr. Mackerras) - Pas de deux (1954) [4:50]
London Festival Ballet Orchestra/Terence Kern (Le Corsaire and Giselle)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Robert Irving (Don Quixote Act 3)
Sydney Symphony Orchestra/John Lanchbery (La Bayadère and Onegin)
Elizabethan Trust Melbourne Orchestra/John Lanchbery (Don Quixote Act 1)
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Barry Wordsworth (La fille mal gardée )
Bournemouth Symphoiny Orchestra/John Lanchbery (The two pigeons)
Philharmonia Orchestra/Robert Irving (Les Sylphides)
Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra/Ole Schmidt (The kermesse in Bruges and Flower festival at Genzano)
Philharmonia Orchestra/John Lanchbery (Swan Lake)
London Symphony Orchestra/André Previn (Sleeping Beauty,The Nutcracker, Romeo and Juliet and Cinderella)
Philharmonia Orchestra/Sir Charles Mackerras (Graduation ball)
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Charles Mackerras (The lady and the fool)
rec. details not given
EMI CLASSICS 6486352 [77:21 + 78:14]
“The pas de deux is an essential element of classical ballet: the moment when the principal couple’s relationship finds expression in an extended dance. This collection explores the rich diversity of pas de deux: in the great central works such as Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet or Giselle; in showpieces such as Le Corsaire, La Bayadère or Les Sylphides; in hidden treasures by relatively little-known composers, or in sparkling adaptations of Johann Strauss and Verdi.” [Brief note on the reverse of the CD.] 

Well, that just about sums up this generously filled double disc set, choc-full, as you’d expect, with glorious melodies ranging from the swooningly romantic to the irresistibly foot-tapping.
As we see more and more ballet DVDs coming onto the market, dance aficionados will often prefer, quite understandably, to watch their favourite performances as well as listening to the scores. But compilations like this one are still undeniably useful, whether as offering pleasant and undemanding music for the house, the car or the beach, or for listeners who enjoy the tunes without necessarily having an appreciation of ballet technique itself.
The performances are of a uniformly very high standard and, thanks to some judicious digital re-mastering, show few, if any, signs of their age. The musicians of the London Festival Ballet Orchestra were well versed in this repertoire and, under Terence Kern’s highly idiomatic direction, turn in hugely enjoyable accounts of Le Corsaire and Giselle. But while none of the other featured orchestras were specialist ballet ensembles, all are equally up to the mark. It naturally helps that several of the conductors - Irving, Lanchbery and Wordsworth - were figures closely associated with the world of ballet. Having been rather dismissive of the Elizabethan Trust Melbourne Orchestra in other releases in this EMI ballet mini-series, I am pleased to note that their (brief) contribution here is one that avoids any crude coarsening of Minkus’s colourful score.
In spite of the post-war revival of interest in the ballets of the great 19th century Danish ballet master August Bournonville and in Ludwig Minkus, Ballet Composer of the St Petersburg Imperial Theatres from 1871 until 1886, and his circle, the works on the first disc may well be unfamiliar to many listeners. On the other hand, Tchaikovsky’s ubiquitous scores, probably the sum total of ballet music known to the man in the street, are the major feature of the second CD. André Previn’s 1970 recordings are preferred for Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker but his Swan Lake, which featured, if I recall aright, no less than Ida Haendel as the solo violinist, has been displaced by the Philharmonia Orchestra’s version directed by John Lanchbery (who also conducts Kurt-Heinz Stolze’s confection Onegin - a ballet). Previn returns, however, with distinctive accounts of two Prokofiev masterpieces that may encourage anyone who loves his Romeo and Juliet to go on to explore the attractive score to Cinderella.
With two atmospheric and idiomatic performances from the late Sir Charles Mackerras rounding off the disc with aplomb, this set offers more than 2½ hours of music that passes by in, you’d swear, less than half the time and provides a great deal of pleasure.
One brief word of caution, however ... If you’ve been collecting the other releases in this continuing EMI ballet series, you’ll already know that there is considerable duplication between discs. Do, therefore, check the contents with appropriate care before you buy.
Rob Maynard  

This set offers more than 2½ hours of music that passes by in less than half the time and provides a great deal of pleasure.