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Philharmonic Concert Orchestra/Iain Sutherland
rec. 1988, Munich; 1992, Hanover. AAD
SOMM ARIADNE 5012 [78:25]

The title says it all. Well, not quite all. For a start this is not quite the usual “selection box”. As for the technical side, we are dealing with AAD originals and a listening stage that is well and truly filled to the ceiling with warm sound. Speaking of ‘filled’ this disc runs to a completely unparsimonious 79 minutes.

The Purcellian grandeur of Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s Prelude to the Te Deum is done in full flight with no concessions to HIP. It’s more Malcolm Sargent that Jean-Claude Malgloire. The Coleridge-Taylor movement is a delicate little stem. The title ‘Le Caprice de Nanette’ speaks volumes and one can hear Sibelius, Grieg and Coates in this. Prokofiev’s ‘The Young Juliet’ - a flickeringly winged piece - is an unhackneyed choice for which we can especially thank Sutherland. Remember those Decca collections hosted by Richard Baker or similar anthologies by Robin Ray or Brian Kay? For the next track we are in “These You Have Loved” territory. Mascagni’s sweetly honeyed Intermezzo would be in good company with Massenet’s Dernier Sommeil du Vierge, a Beecham speciality. The Puccini Intermezzo from Suor Angelica shares many of the same strengths as the Mascagni piece.

The Bizet Minuetto from L’Arlésienne is a delight and with alert sinews honed to a very sharp point; you know what I mean. There’s even a relishable bit part for the saxophone (1:03). The ‘Norwegian Rustic March’ by Grieg is lower key and undemanding and is the first of two Grieg pieces here. The second is ‘Wedding Day at Troldhaugen’ which is done with what I can only call a gentle strut. Charming. The first of two Delius miniatures is On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring. It is taken briskly. A shade too pressurised. ‘The Walk to the Paradise Garden’ from A Village Romeo and Juliet is the longest piece here at approaching ten minutes. By contrast with the other Delius poem, Sutherland paces this unerringly and extracts from it great beauty and languor. The Scherzo from Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is welcome in this company. It is not quite as much of a fairy flight as that version captained and awesomely driven with a sjambok by Nikolai Golovanov.

Bach’s ‘Sheep May Safely Graze’ is lambently done with Sutherland going carefully on the molasses. I find the de Falla ‘Ritual Fire Dance’ always a delight. It is so often celebrity arranged. I just wish the gorgeous ‘Bells of Dawn’ from the same ballet had been done. Stravinsky’s ‘Lullaby’ (The Firebird) warms the listening room. By the way, it’s good to see George Barbier’s illustration of “Tamara Karsavina in The Firebird” adorning the booklet cover.

I have always had my reservations about Copland’s Rodeo. Here the ‘Hoe-Down’ is lively, but for me the mood always creaks. Give me the completely convincing Outdoor Overture, Lincoln Portrait, The Tender Land and Appalachian Spring. The ‘Galop’ from Khachaturian’s Masquerade Suite is all flouncy fringes, swagger and over-the-top humour. The same composer’s ‘Sabre Dance’ is always a showstopper though I have heard it taken at a more headlong clip and with a greater surrender to abandon. By contrast the Debussy ‘En Bateau’ is shaped with unsullied contentment to the fore. The finale to this ‘gallimaufry’ is Tchaikovsky’s Scene from Swan Lake makes for a short and sweet … and grand …. conclusion to a CD that is a thing of many truly engaging ‘rags and tatters’.

You may well have a weakness for Sutherland if you have already heard his other diverting anthology sets: Film music, In London Town, Great Classics, Broadway and Hollywood, Sailing By and Blue Tango. This disc can keep comfortable company in this list and its virtues are enhanced by Robert Matthew-Walker’s well-reproduced booklet notes.

Rob Barnett

Contents List
Marc-Antoine CHARPENTIER: Te Deum - Prelude [1:30]
Samuel COLERIDGE-TAYLOR: Petite Suite de Concert: Le Caprice de Nanette [3:49]
Sergei PROKOFIEV: Romeo and Juliet: The Young Juliet [3:50]
Pietro MASCAGNI: Cavalleria Rusticana: Intermezzo [3:17]
Georges BIZET: L’Arlesienne: Minuetto [3:04]
Edvard GRIEG: Lyric Suite: Norwegian Rustic March [2:36]
Frederick DELIUS: On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring [6:39]
Felix MENDELSSOHN: A Midsummer Night’s Dream - Scherzo [5:12]
Johann Sebastian BACH: Sheep May Safely Graze [5:39]
Manuel de FALLA: El amor brujo: Ritual Fire Dance [3:52]
Igor STRAVINSKY: The Firebird - Lullaby [3:06]
Aaron COPLAND: Rodeo - Hoe-Down [3:21]
Giacomo PUCCINI: Suor Angelica: Intermezzo [4:16]
Edvard GRIEG: Lyric Pieces: Wedding Day at Troldhaugen [4:57]
Frederick DELIUS: A Village Romeo and Juliet - The Walk to the Paradise Garden [9:54]
Aram KHACHATURIAN: Masquerade Suite - Galop [2:50]
Claude DEBUSSY: Petite Suite - En Bateau [4:14]
Aram KHACHATURIAN: Gayane - Sabre Dance [2:42]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY: Swan Lake - Scene [2:34]

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