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Constant Lambert - Rarities
Nicolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
The Maid of Pskov (Ivan the Terrible); overture (1877 rev 1882) [6:58] ¹
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
Sigurd Jorsalfar; Homage March Op.22 No.4 (1872 rev 1892) [9:08] ²
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695)
‘Comus Ballet’; miscellaneous orchestral pieces arr. Constant Lambert [18:03] ²
Adolphe ADAM (1803-1856)
Giselle (1841) arr. Constant Lambert [17:21] ³
Emmanuel CHABRIER (1841-1894)
Danse slave (Le Roi malgré Lui) (1887) [4:39] º
Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Constant Lambert ¹
Hallé Orchestra/Constant Lambert ²
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden/Constant Lambert ³
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Constant Lambert º
rec. 1939-46

This is a useful tranche of Constant Lambert’s wartime recordings; wartime, that is, with the exception of his arrangement of Giselle which was set down in 1946. There is an opportunity furthermore to hear Lambert with a variety of Britain’s orchestras; the Hallé, Opera House, Covent Garden, LPO and Liverpool.
At the time when he recorded Rimsky’s The Maid of Pskov overture, then commonly known as the Ivan the Terrible overture, as it was duly noted on the label, the Liverpool orchestra was the country’s best and much recording centred on the city. The card inlay isn’t sure that 1943 was the year of recording and hedges its bets with a question mark, but it’s correct; 29 October, to be exact, presided over by Walter Legge. Incidentally on the same day Lambert set down Tatiana’s Letter Scene from Eugene Onegin with Joan Hammond and Bizet’s Roma. There’s good frequency response here and a sure sense of the music’s suave legato. Lambert, invariably a studio animal, reveals his energising buoyancy throughout.
Next is Grieg’s Sigurd Jorsalfar; Homage March recorded in Manchester with the Hallé on 30 July 1941 - once again the documentation shouldn’t have been so nervous; the year is correct. Again, it’s a Legge production. There’s a nourishing, warm cello line, and a strong principal trumpet with a cornet-like tone. There weren’t that many recordings of this piece then in the catalogue though maybe Sevitzky’s Indianapolis recording had piqued Legge’s interest. Immediately after this, on the same day, Lambert set down his lovely performances of Delius’s La Calinda, and the Intermezzo and Serenade from Hassan, though these can be found elsewhere.
For Purcell we stay in Manchester but move forward a year - for once the inlay gets the years wrong. It’s 6 March 1942. The previous day Adrian Boult had recorded Butterworth’s A Shropshire Lad with the orchestra, and the day before that Leslie Heward, the regular conductor of the Hallé, had recorded arias with Isobel Baillie. One of the arias had been by Purcell. For his selection Lambert serves up Lambertised Purcellian fare to form ‘Comus’, a selection of character pieces redolent of Lambert’s stage work and his editorial and arranging prowess in older English music. Some of this music is very tender, other selections full of brio, especially the ‘old school’ approach to ‘The Brothers’. It’s analogous to Beecham’s re-workings of Handel.
There’s renewed evidence of his distinction as a ballet conductor in the Giselle confection which he again arranged. It forms a satisfying suite with a charming pas de deux; Zingra Bumbry earns a mention for the solo viola playing. Finally there’s a dashing close in the shape of Chabrier’s Danse slave (Le Roi malgré Lui) with the LPO in December 1939. This was prime Beecham territory and indeed it was his own orchestra. A few days earlier Beecham had recorded Chabrier’s España, so the orchestra was in the Chabrien mood by the time Lambert sailed throughDanse slave in vivacious style.
If you’re missing a piece or two from your Lambert collection, then you may find them in this worthily transferred selection.
Jonathan Woolf