Pyotr Il'yich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
The Sleeping Beauty, Op. 66 (highlights)
Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra/Andrew Mogrelia
rec. House of Arts Kosice, March-May 1991
NAXOS 8.572931 [76:59]
This highlights disc is taken from a complete recording of the ballet that was highly recommended by the Penguin Guide. Running for the best part of 80 minutes it represents very good value indeed but it does beg the question - why not just buy the complete 3 CD set and be done with it? The Naxos team obviously feels that there is a market for a truncated single CD release for people who don’t want to sit through two and a half hours of glorious music. On that basis, it should sell very well and good luck to them. Personally I will stick with the complete version. Mogrelia’s is certainly one of the best recordings currently available. The Sleeping Beauty is a fabulous score and it’s very difficult to decide which particular 80 minute selection actually constitutes the highlights. On the whole, Naxos has done a good job with their decision-making and at least the music is presented in the order in which it appears in the complete score. My only major criticism is the very short selection from Act 2 but if that’s a problem just buy the full version and enjoy it. The track-listing is shown below by way of guidance.
Mogrelia takes a very relaxed approach to the music. There’s nothing barnstorming here, just some fine musicianship. It’s almost as if the orchestra is accompanying a production of the ballet rather than playing it through as an orchestral work in its own right. Tempi are generally on the slow side but this is of no detriment to the music whatsoever - slow is different to lethargic and cautious. Mogrelia’s chosen tempi allow for some relaxed music-making in the best sense and everything is very fresh and nicely pointed. The Rose Adagio sounds especially glorious.
Was the high praise in the Penguin Guide warranted? On the whole the answer is yes. The orchestra plays with precision and clearly enjoys the music and the conductor’s vision of it. The recording is clear, warm and easy on the ear. All the solo work shines through and the stereo image is convincing. The sound quality is typical of what Naxos was achieving in Eastern Europe in the 1990s - super sound at a bargain price. I can certainly recommend the complete ballet on Naxos 8.550490-2. In terms of where it stands in the pecking order, Previn has the advantage of having the LSO at his disposal on EMI. The Slovak players are in top form but the LSO has the edge. My own top recommendation is still the BBC Symphony Orchestra set with Rozhdestvensky. The sound quality isn’t particularly flattering and there are a few slips here and there but this recording is full of gripping, edge-of-the-seat stuff that can’t be found elsewhere. So there we have it. Three fine recordings and the Naxos is up there with the best of them. If you buy it you won’t be disappointed.
Still one of the best recordings available.
see also review by John France
Marche - Entrée du Roi Florestan et sa cour [5:20]
Scène dansante - Entrée des fées bonnes [4:46]
Pas de six: Adagio [4:47]
Coulante, Fleur de Farine (Variation II) [0:33]
Fée aux Miettes (Variation III) [1:13]
Le Canari qui chante (Variation IV) [0:36]
Violente (Variation V) [1:02]
Fée des Lilas (Variation VI) [1:20]
Pas d'action: Rose Adagio [6:36]
The Vision: Entr'acte et Scène [3:02]
Entr'acte symphonique (Le Sommeil) et Scène [1:34]
The Wedding: Marche [3:30]
Polacca - Cortège des Contes de Fées [4:20]
Pas de quatre: Introduction [1:57]
La Fée - Argent (Variation II) [0:53]
La Fée - Diamant (Variation IV) [0:48]
Pas de quatre - Adagio [2:46]
Cendrillon et le Prince Fortuné (Variation I) [01:00]