Adolphe ADAM (1803-1856)
Giselle – ballet (1841), edited Henri Büsser [49:05]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Nutcracker – suite Op.71a (1892) [21:10]
Orchestre du Théâtre National de l’Opéra Paris/Richard Blareau (Adam); Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/George Weldon (Tchaikovsky)
rec. 1953, Paris (Giselle) and 1960, London (Nutcracker)
GUILD GHCD2413 [70:24]

Two fine ballet performances are restored in this disc. The less-well remembered is probably the mono 1953 Giselle, directed by Richard Blareau, who employs the Henri Büsser edition in a near-50 minute traversal. Blareau (1910-79) was born in Lille and studied as a violinist, later gravitating to work in a cinema orchestra, of which he became conductor in 1937. He continued theatre conducting during the Occupation but after the War his star rose and he was appointed chief conductor of the Paris Opéra and was also a strong presence in Monte Carlo and Nice. He also performed lighter music, and Jazz. One of his conducting pupils is Georges Prêtre.

Blareau didn’t make a great number of LP recordings but this one is one of his more extensive. Unfortunately, whilst it’s important to provide the date of the recording (1 June 1953) Guild is addicted to omitting release information. For the record, then, this Giselle disc is a Decca release, LXT2844. Blareau proves a highly able and indeed adroit ballet conductor. If, in certain respects, he cedes something in terms of sensitive phrasing to Robert Irving in his almost contemporaneous recording for HMV, it should be noted that Irving was performing Gordon Jacob’s arrangement which is much more compact. In any case Blareau doesn’t disappoint and the big acoustic and bluntly attractive Decca sound brings plenty of mono detailing with it. The Paris horns blare widely and excitingly in La Chasse, and the Marche des vignerons is genuinely exciting. The harp can be heard good spatial definition in the Apparition de Myrtha whilst the solo strings are quite biting in the French style of the time. Blareau phrased the Spectre scene in Act II particularly well. In all, then, this is a fine restoration and leads me to hope that radio broadcasts exist of Blareau. His is not a big name but he had an active concert career and more should be heard of him.

George Weldon had a much more generously attended recording life, though even he isn’t represented as widely as his talent deserved. I still admire his 1946 recording of Elgar’s Sea Pictures with Gladys Ripley more than any other. He recorded a well-regarded set of the Sleeping Beauty – available on a Classics for Pleasure CD – the suite from Swan Lake. This Nutcracker suite, from a 1960 HMV LP, amplifies his virtues as a conscientious and able ballet conductor. He conducts Beecham’s Royal Philharmonic, still on top form the year before Beecham’s death. One would certainly appreciate Weldon’s balletic flair from this fine sounding, rhythmically supple 1960 stereo suite.

It would be easy to overlook this release; everyday-ish repertoire from older maestros now largely forgotten. However for those who value both men’s work, this disc, neatly annotated, and transferred, fills an obvious need and restores long-absent discs.

Jonathan Woolf

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