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REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers


Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Prelude and Fugue in F minor, BWV535 (arr. Lucien Cailliet) [7:43]
Cantata No.147; Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, BWV147 (arr. Cailliet) [3:23]
Partita No.3 for violin solo, Preludio, BWV1006 (arr. Cailliet) [4:00]
‘Little’ Fugue in G minor, BWV578 (arr. Cailliet) [3:30]
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695)
Dido and Aeneas - Suite (arr. Cailliet) [16:05]
Joaquin TURINA (1882-1949)
from Five Gypsy Dances: Sacro-Monte, Op.55 (1930) (arr. Cailliet) [1:26]
Modest MUSSORGSKY (1839-1881)
Pictures at an Exhibition (1874) (arr. Cailliet) [30:27]
Lucien CAILLIET (1891-1985)
Variations on the theme of ‘Pop! Goes the Weasel’ [4:58]
Philadelphia Orchestra/Eugene Ormandy
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra/Fritz Reiner (Bach: Fugue)
Philadelphia Orchestra/Leopold Stokowski (Turina)
Boston Pops Orchestra/Arthur Fiedler (Cailliet)
rec. 1936-47, Academy of Music, Philadelphia; except Syria Mosque, Pittsburgh (Bach: Fugue) and Symphony Hall, Boston (Cailliet)

The sub-heading ‘Transcriber, Arranger, Composer’ says much that’s necessary to make clear what’s in this 71-minute disc of recordings made between the years 1936 and 1947. Lucien Cailliet was born in Dijon in 1891 and was hired by Leopold Stokowski as a clarinettist in his Philadelphia Orchestra in 1919. Cailliet produced transcriptions for Stokowski for a number of years though he remained uncredited. The exact nature of the transcriptions seems somewhat opaque at this distance in time though it’s clear that Stokowski’s instrumentation preferences were followed by Cailliet. It wasn’t until Ormandy replaced Stokowski in Philadelphia that the Frenchman received label credit though as Mark Obert-Thorn notes the Turina piece included here did actually credit the transcription to Cailliet - though it was never issued on 78.

The four Bach pieces are ripe examples of the transcriber’s art. The Prelude and Fugue in F minor was Ormandy’s first Philadelphia recording and some memorable organ sonorities elevate this two-sided nearly eight-minute performance yet further. The powerful engulfing tidal string wave is contrasted with Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, though it ends in a brassy blaze of glory. The Preludio receives a busy-bee arrangement with winds this time to the fore as well as a fine use of the succulent famed string section of the orchestra. For the last Bach piece we move to Pittsburgh where Fritz Reiner directs the ‘Little’ Fugue in G minor, BWV578 with a resplendent all-in finale.

Cailliet turned to a suite from Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas vesting the overture with a few brief proto-modernist harmonies but unleashing a powerfully muscular slow movement – the Prelude for the Witches. The emotional weight of the suite naturally comes with Dido’s Lament, where Cailliet takes a very different approach from his erstwhile boss Stokowski who also arranged it for his own use and to rather different effect. Once again the suite is back in Ormandy’s hands, though the Turina is in Stoky’s hands - and very brash and vibrant the piece is, too.

Ormandy and the Philadelphians dispatch Cailliet’s arrangement of Pictures at an Exhibition with predictable virtuosity and tonal sheen. The Frenchman includes, as Ravel did not, the long Promenade after Goldenberg and Schmuyle and throughout there are delightful instrumental touches. It’s a transcription that is, in fact, rather more string-based than Ravel’s own though that’s not to imply a lack of deftness. An arrangement of this kind was necessary given the exclusive rights given to Koussevitzky of the Ravel version. To end there’s a witty performance of the Frenchman’s variations on ‘Pop! Goes the Weasel’ where Arthur Fiedler directs the Boston Pops: a lot of Pop in that track, one way and another.

The excellent transfers respect the originals and restore some engaging 78rpm sides to the catalogue. Essential? Certainly not but exciting and enjoyable – certainly.

Jonathan Woolf



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