Delibes, Orchestra Of The Concerts De Paris, Walter Goehr – Ballet Music

Sleeve Notes:

If ever you are haunted by an attractive, piquant tune which you cannot place—probably nineteenth-century French, too light-fingered for Gounod, not individual enough for Bizet or Massenet, yet far more so than Saint-Sans—you may be fairly certain that its composer is Léon Delibes. Indeed, hearing an unfamiliar score by him is like reading Hamlet it seems to be full of quotations.

Although one of the most skilful of stage musicians, he is often underrated. In the first edition of Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians, he is not mentioned at all; his grand opera Lakiné is hardly ever given outside France, while even Sylvia and Coppélia had to wait for Diaghilev to make ballet respectable before they could attract any critical attention. But at least one great contemporary was ready to give Delibes his due —and more. Tchaikovsky described his own Swan Lake as “poor stuff compared with Sylvia“. He even rated the Frenchman above Brahms and Wagner. An exaggeration, of course, but understandable as the regard of one master-craftsman of the ballet to another.

A pupil of Adolphe Adam, Delibes began his career as a writer of operettas for Les Bouffes Parisiennes. His appointment in 1863 to the music staff of the Paris Opera led to a commission to com-pose the ballet La Source in collaboration with the Polish composer Minkus. His music compared so favourably with the hack-work of his colleague that he was invited immediately afterwards to write a divertissement to be inserted into Adam’s Le Corsair. He followed this up with a full-length comic ballet Coppélia, first produced in 1870; and finally came the climax of Delibes’ ballet career, Sylvia (1876), after which the composer turned his attention, less successfully, to grand opera.

COPPÉLIA—Prelude et Mazurka – Volts Lents -Theme slave varie – Czardas – Scene (“Nocturne”) – Musique des automates – Valse de to poupee – Valse des heures. Coppélia is founded on an idea suggested by E.T.A. Hoffmann’s sinister little tale Der Sandman,’ (which also forms the basis of Act I of Offenbach’s opera). It concerns an old man, Dr. Coppélius, who makes clockwork dolls. He lives in a village on the Hun-garian-Polish border—a fact of no particular significance except that it enables Delibes to introduce a Mazurka (No. 1 b), a Czardas (No. 4) and five variations on a song by the Polish composer Moniuszko (No. 3). Coppélius , it seems, has a daughter, Olympia, who is to be seen every day at his window reading a book. Swanilda, one of the village girls, tries to attract her attention in a graceful waltz (No. 2). Catching sight of Frantz, her betrothed, she hides, and is horrified to see him also making in-effectual advances to the girl. At nightfall (No. 5) Swanilda and her friends contrive to enter Coppélius . workshop, and discover the truth: Olympia is a doll. In their delight they set the various puppets working (No. 6). Coppélius arrives suddenly and chases the girls away; all except Swanilda, who takes refuge be-hind the curtain where Olympia is hidden. Mean-while, Frantz has climbed up a ladder and entered through the window. Coppélius catches him, makes as if to thrash him, then, with a sudden change of manner, appears to forgive the young man and offers him a drink. But the drink is drugged; Frantz falls asleep and then Coppélius’ design is made clear—he wants to transfer Frantz’s soul to the inanimate Olympia. What he does not realize is that the figure on the chair which he has wheeled from behind the curtain is no longer Olympia but Swanilda, who now makes a show of coming jerkily to life (No. 7). Coppélius’ joy soon changes when she begins to wreak havoc in the workshop. Frantz wakes up, and the two make their escape. Next day, during a ceremony in the village square, Coppélius demands justice; the burgomaster throws him a purse full of silver and that is the end of the matter. During the festivities which follow and which include the Dance of the Hours (No. 8), Frantz and Swanilda are married.

SYLVIA—Prelude et Les Chasseresses – intermezzo et Valse lente (L’Escarpolette) – Divertissement: Pizzicato – Marche et Cortege de Bacchus. Apart from a static first act, Coppélia has one of the most attractive plots in all ballet. The same can-not be said of Sylvia, a far more conventional Arcadian tale of nymphs, shepherds, gods and goddesses; hence no doubt its failure to remain in the general repertoire, although it is the most original and indeed symphonic of Delibes’ ballet score.

Amyntas, a shepherd, is in love with Sylvia, one of the huntress-nymphs of Artemis. Looking for her one day in the forest, he comes upon the troop of huntresses and takes refuge behind a statue of Eros. The nymphs dance in honour of the chase (No. lb), and there is a delicate solo for Sylvia herself (No. 2). Amyntas is discovered and forced to reveal his love, for which he blames Eros. Sylvia, appalled, draws her bow at the god’s statue, but Amyntas interposes him-self and is killed. Sylvia leaves indifferently, but not before the god has aimed an arrow at her heart. Soon she returns in a very different mood to pluck the arrow from her lover’s breast. She is seen by Orion, the villainous hunter, who carries her off to his cave. He orders a feast in her honour, at which, fortunately, he and his attendants drink too much to do her any harm. to the final act Amyntas, whom Eros has re-stored to life, is sitting disconsolately on the sea shore during a Bacchic festival (No. 4), when he sees a ship approaching. A veiled figure steps down from the prow and performs a dance to the accompaniment of Pizzicato strings (No. 3). It is, of course, Sylvia. Orion arrives soon after in pursuit of the nymph; but disaster is averted by the appearance of Artemis her-self, who shoots Orion and, reluctantly (for she is supposedly the Goddess of Chastity) gives her blessing to the two lovers.

LA SOURCE—Pas des Voiles – Andante – Variation – Danse Circassienne. Like Saint-Sans’ Yellow Princess and Bizet’s Pearl Fishers and Djamileh, La Source reflects the Oriental vogue which was one of the features of the Second Empire. The first act, to music by Minkus, describes how Djemil, a young hunter, prevents a wicked gypsy from poisoning a spring, then falls in love with a veiled woman, Nouredda, who is on her way to the palace of her betrothed, Khan of Ghendigil. She orders her attendants to bind him : but he is later re-leased by Naila, the fairy of the spring. At this point Delibes takes over, with striking effect. The scene is the palace gardens. Distant fanfares announce the arrival of Nouredda; and the Khan commands his dancers to perform in her honour. Here follows the four-movement divertimento given on the record. Although this score marks Delibes’ &but as a ballet composer, his touch is remarkably sure. Not even Borodin could have written a more seductively exotic Veil Dance; nor could Bizet have pointed the scoring of the Andante with greater piquancy. It remains to be said that Djemil eventually found his way to Nouredda’s proud heart with the help of the fairy Nails who. somewhat unfairly, is condemned to die to the tinkling banalities of Minkus.

Julian Budder

Delibes, Orchestra Of The Concerts De Paris, Walter Goehr – Ballet Music

Label: Concert Hall CM 2151

1964 1960s Covers

Eugene Ormandy, The Philadelphia Orchestra, Frédéric Chopin – Les Sylphides Ballet and Strauss Family Polkas and Marches

Sleeve Notes:

Michael Fokine’s Les Sylphides, a ” romantic reverie ” in one scene, is deservedly the most celebrated example of a ballet blanc without story or plot in which the abstract, expressive qualities of classical dancing are used to evoke a subtle but irresistible mood. Before arriving at the ballet in its present form, however, Fokine had experimented with an earlier version. This was made up of five unrelated episodes, each with a different setting and two of which told a definite story.

This version of the ballet, called Chopiniana, was first produced at a charity performance at the Maryinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg, on March 8th, 1908. The thought of creating a Chopin ballet had come to the choreographer in a music shop while turning over the pages of Glazunov’s Chopiniana, a suite composed of orchestrations of four Chopin piano pieces—a polonaise, nocturne, mazurka and tarantella. Fokine added to these a waltz—the Op. 64, No. 2 in C sharp minor—which Glazunov also orchestrated at his request.

The ballet opened with a stately Polonaise danced by the corps de ballet in rich Polish costumes. In the Nocturne, Chopin himself was depicted, seated at his piano in a ruined monastery and menaced by the ghosts of dead monks as he attempted to compose. The Mazurka showed a Polish wedding celebration, at the height of which a young girl left her elderly husband-to-be to run off with her lover. The Waltz was a classical pas de deux in which the costume worn by the danseuse (Anna Pavlova) was copied from that originally worn by Taglioni in the famous 19th-century Romantic ballet La Sylphide. This pas de deux of a sylph and a poet was to be the nucleus around which Les Sylphides as we know it was to grow. The ballet concluded with a Tarantella danced by a gay Neapolitan throng.

Dissatisfied with the ballet, Fokine produced a second version of Chopiniana, danced by students of the Imperial Ballet School at a pupils’ performance on April 6th of the same’ year. The C sharp minor Waltz was retained in Glazunov’s orchestration, but otherwise. a new suite of Chopin pieces was assembled by the choreographer and this time orchestrated by Maurice Keller. The setting was now a moonlit glade and all the danseuses wore white muslin ballet dresses á la Taglioni, the single male dancer the traditional romantic costume of white tights and silk blouse under a short black velvet tunic. When Fokine joined Diaghilev the following year to help form a company with which to acquaint Western Europe with the glory of Russia’s ballet achievement, Chopiniana was taken into the repertoire and renamed Les Sylphides, on the suggestion of Alexandre Benois, who designed a new decor for the production first given at the Theatre du Chatelet, Paris, on June 2nd, 1909. Since then Les Sylphides has been produced by practically every ballet company of note.

The Prelude in A major, Op. 28, No. 7, heard first as a short overture, establishes the rapt, dream-like atmosphere that is later sustained throughout even the most animated sections of the choreography. The Nocturne in A flat major, Op. 32, No. 2, danced by the full company, is followed by the Waltz in G flat major, Op. 70, No. I, a rhythmically intricate solo for a premiere danseuse. Then, to the Mazurka in D major, Op. 33, No. 2, the danseuse Rolle emerges from the shadows to cross and circle the stage in bounding grands jetes. To the Mazurka in C major, Op. 67, No. 3, the premier danseur performs an elegant variation In which the basic steps of the Polish mazurka can be clearly’ discerned. An exquisitely restrained solo for a premiere danseuse is danced to the same A major Prelude that has already served as overture. The Waltz in C sharp minor, Op. 64, No. 2, is the music for the pas de deux performed by the leading ballerina and male dancer; and finally the Grande Valse brilliante in E flat major, Op. 18, is danced by the entire company.

The difficulty of preserving the Intimate delicacy of Chopin’s music while at the same time making it theatrically effective has taxed the ingenuity of many arrangers since Les Sylphides was first given. Disliking Keller’s orchestration, Diaghilev commissioned a fresh version from four Russian composers—Stravinsky, Tcherepnin, Lladov and Glazunov. Other composers, who have orchestrated the music include Taneyev, Gretchaninov, Rieti, Gordon Jacob, Benjamin Britten and Ainslie Murray and Felix White. Gretchaninov’s version Is heard on this recording and the order in which the dances are played, which differs from that adopted in the ballet, is as follows: Prelude, Op. 28, No. 7; Nocturne, Op. 32, No. 2; Waltz, Op. 70, No. I; Prelude, Op. 28, No. 7; Mazurka, Op. 67, No. 3; Mazurka, Op. 33, No. 2; Waltz, Op. 64, No. 2; Grande Valse brillionte, Op. 18.

dance music for three-quarters of a century. Johann Strauss, Senior, the founder of the dynasty, was the first to be acclaimed ” Waltz King “. But the crown was soon wrested from him by his eldest son, Johann the Younger, who surpassed his father’s achievement in every field, except possibly as a conductor. But if the name of Strauss is synonymous with the Viennese waltz, it should not be forgotten that the family—including the other sons Josef and Eduard—wrote an even greater number, all told, of polkas, galops, marches and quadrilles to satisfy the insatiable popular demand of the day.

Father Strauss is represented on this record by the work by which he is nowadays best remembered, the Radetzky March—though his contemporaries would no doubt have plumped for his Lorelel-Rheinkldnge Waltz or Donaulieder. It was composed as a tribute to General Radetzky after his victories at the head of the Hapsburg armies over the Italian forces in 1848. Revolution was in the air in Vienna, Radetzky was the popular hero of the Republicans, and tempers ran high. Strauss, a loyal monarchist, had intended his new March merely as an expression of patriotic feeling, but it was invested by the Viennese with a political significance it was not meant to carry, and the resulting outcry did great harm to his reputation. However, the matter was soon forgotten and the March came to be regarded as Austria’s unofficial national anthem.

As with his waltzes, the marches and polkas of Johann II show a greater sophistication than those of his father. The glittering Oriental colouring of the Egyptian March recalls the turquerie of Mozart’s Entfuhrung. Dedicated to Archduke Friedrich of Baden, the March was first heard at one of the promenade concerts given by the Strauss Orchestra at the famous Baden-Baden Spa. The Annen Polka, with its wistful feminine charm, stands out as something of an exception among Johann’s hundreds of racy polkas. It can be taken as a portrait of his mother, Anna Strauss, after whom Strauss, Senior, also named a polka.

As their titles suggest, Thunder and Lightning and Explosions are two of the most exuberant of Strauss’s polkas, their unbuttoned boisterousness making a perfect contrast with the delicate plucked-string effects of the famous Pizzicato Polka, a joint composition of Johann and his brother Josef, who quite possibly contributed the Trio section. Tritsch-Trotsch, another popular favourite, amusingly depicts the tittle-tattle of scandal-mongers and gossips. The Overture to Waldmeister is all that is ever heard nowadays of Strauss’s penultimate operetta. The story, about a village whose inhabitants become mysteriously Inebriated, was blamed for the work’s failure, though Brahms admired it and left a token of his respect for the composer by adding a counter-melody for the first violins to the waltz theme at the point where It returns near the end played by the flutes.

David Hunt

Eugene Ormandy, The Philadelphia Orchestra, Frédéric Chopin – Les Sylphides Ballet and Strauss Family Polkas and Marches

Label: Philips GL 03547 L
Cover photograph: Carla Fracci, by Mike Davis

1956 1950s Covers

The Paris Conservatoire Orchestra – Chopin Les Sylphides

Sleeve Notes:

CHOPIN: LES SYLPHIDES In 1894 Glazunov published an orchestral suite entitled “Chopiniana,” consisting of orchestrations of four piano pieces by Chopin. At the start of the new century the choreographer Michael Fokine (1880-1942) decided to use this suite for a ballet.

He set to work and after an additional Valse had been selected and orchestrated by Glazunov the work was produced in St. Petersburg. Shortly afterwards “Chopiniana” was redesigned and danced to a new selection of music orchestrated by Maurice Keller: the only item retained from the previous production was the additional Chopin-Glazunov Valse. The Keller version was presented at St. Petersburg in April, 1908. A year later Diaghilev decided to include the work in the opening season of his “Ballets Russes” at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris, and it had its first performance on June 2, 1909. At the suggestion of Alexandre Benois the title “Chopiniana” was dropped and that of “Les Sylphides” substituted : for this same production, the score was reorchestrated by Stravinsky. In Les Sylphides, a number of danseuses dressed in white and one danseur, also in white apart from black shoes and jerkin, join in a series of dance numbers against a background of moonlit glade and ruined monastery. The work provides a perfect unity of music, movement, scenery and costume.

TCHAIKOVSKY: THE SLEEPING BEAUTY Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty, his second important ballet, was first performed on January 1/15, 1890, at the Maryinsky Theatre, with choreography by Marius Petipa. The story is based on the well-known tale of the Sleeping Beauty, as related in Charles Perrault’s Histoires ou Contes du Temps Passé. Modern revivals have differed in their treatment of the ballet as a whole; but it was originally presented in five scenes. The first (Prologue) represents the christening of the Princess Aurora; the festivities include dances by various fairies, of whom the most important is the Lilac Fairy—she is, as it were, the guardian angel of the story. The wicked fairy Carabosse, who has not been invited to the christening because everyone thought she was dead, suddenly interrupts the festivities and places a terrible curse on the Princess. In the second scene (Act 1), which takes place sixteen years later, the Princess is at her spinning-wheel; the spindle pricks her finger, and she falls into a deep sleep from which she cannot be awakened. The third scene (Act 2, Scene 1) is a hundred years later; Prince Charming is out hunting with his friends. The Lilac Fairy appears to him and shows him the Sleeping Beauty in a vision; she promises to guide him to her. The fourth scene (Act 2, Scene 2) shows the Princess’s awakening by the Prince, and in the fifth (Act 3) we see their wedding celebrations. The well-known Suite consists of music from various parts of the ballet, and is in five movements.

ROGER DESORMIERE Roger Desormiere is one of the most outstanding French conductors of our time. Born at Vichy in 1898, he studied music at the Paris Conservatoire, and in 1922 won the Prix Blumenthal for composition. Two years later he took part in the soirees held by Count Etienne de Beaumont in Paris and later directed the performances of the Swedish ballet. From 1925 to 1930 he was musical director of the Diaghilev ballet, and conducted performances of this company all over Europe. When the company broke up after the death of Diaghilev, Desormiere toured Europe as a guest conductor, appearing in Paris, London, Brussels, Munich,Budapest, Leningrad and Moscow. He has taken part in most of the I.S.C.M. annual festivals, and in 1949 was invited to the Edinburgh Festival with the Paris Radio Orchestra. In 1944 Desormiere was appointed director of the Paris Opera-Comique, where he conducted many important revivals. In 1946 he ceased to hold any official appointment, but continued to make guest appearances in the main musical centres of Europe.

The Paris Conservatoire Orchestra - Chopin Les Sylphides - beautiful album cover from 1958, one of hundreds of beautiful album covers at

Label: Ace Of Clubs ACL 8
Cover photo by Houston Rogers of Meriel Evans in ” Les Sylphides.”

1958 1950s Covers

Rimsky Korsakov, The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra – Scheherazade

Sleeve Notes

In the year spanning 1887 and 1888, Nicolai Andreyvitch Rimsky-Korsakov managed to produce three symphonic tributes to three separate lands — his own Russia, Spain, and the Land of Make-Believe. The Russian Easter Overture (Opus 36) and Capriccio Español (Opus 34 ) both offered glittering festival music.

But the elements of pageantry, excitement and sensuality found even more triumphant expression in Opus 35 —which is Scheherazade. Rimsky always regarded this work with special interest and affection, suspecting perhaps that here he had created his immortal monument.

The career of Rimsky-Korsakov got off to a singularly unpromising start.

In the Navy circles in which, as a midshipman, young Rimsky moved, he was conceded to be indifferent officer material but a first-rate musician.

Among musicians, he was rated a rather bad pianist.

On reaching his twenty-first birthday in 1865, Rimsky had yet to decide just where he belonged. He loved the sea; but the dull, vulgar, and inhuman life with the Tsar’s Imperial Navy depressed him. And although he possessed an unmistakeable musical gift, Rimsky’s disposition was better suited to being an aristocratic young dilettante than to study, practice, and serious composition.

Yet, from such lean beginnings finally emerged one of the most astonishing talents in music!

Of the group of rebellious Russian composers later to be immortalized as the Mighty Five, Rimsky is considered by many as the mightiest. Balakirev, Cui, Moussorgsky, and Borodin made up the rest of the coterie. These five young men were the musical manifestation of the drive toward nationalism which all Russia was feeling at the time. Together they waged war on traditional “conservatory” music, as symbolized to them by Rubinstein and Tchaikovsky. Each of the five had his special genius to contribute. But none of the group (and, indeed, very few composers before or since) addressed himself with such success to the imagination of his listeners, as did the composer of Scheherazade.

It is to the lasting credit of Mili Balakirev, leader of the young dissidents, that he saw beyond Rimsky’s ignorance of harmony, notation, and the use of the musical instruments themselves. With a teacher’s intuition, Balakirev guessed at Rimsky’s latent greatness and goaded his protege to abandon mere musical dabbling. Not only was such waste of talent an abomination, but the Mighty Five needed a major musical work with which to gain recognition and stature. Thus Rimsky-Korsakov’s First Symphony, performed in 1865, was also the group’s first public testament.

The audience applauded, then gasped, as the composer was brought out onto the stage wearing his Naval uniform! But by September of the same year, Rimsky’s sailing days had ended, and he settled down to work in St. Petersburg. As he learned, he composed. And as he composed, he learned. Two fresh works: Sadko (1867), a symphonic poem; and the opera, The Maid of Pskov (1868 ) further established his success.

Yet he was scarcely prepared, in 1871, for an incredible stroke of luck: his appointment to a professorship at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. Urged on by his friends (particularly by Balakirev who jumped at the chance to plant one of his rebels in the hostile Conservatory), Rimsky accepted the post. Had he known a little more about music at the time, he would have been appalled at the magnitude of his own inadequacy. When the realization did smite him, it was too late to back out.

By diligent application and brilliant bluffing, Rimsky managed to hide his ignorance from his students and, eventually; to keep one jump ahead of them. As the composer explains: “… having been undeservedly accepted at the Conservatory as a professor, I became one of its best and possibly its very best pupil!”

He was engrossed in some revisions of Borodin’s Prince Igor when he received the inspiration for an orchestral piece derived from and suggesting the exotic tales of the Arabian Nights. And, in the summer of 1888, the symphonic suite in four movements — entitled Scheherazade, was completed.

In all of music it is hard to single out another composition equalling Scheherazade’s power to liberate the imagination of the listener and send it flying by magic carpet to the strange and wonderful world which Rimsky-Korsakov conjured up—a land of Oriental splendor—of djinns and magical fantasies-of heavy-lidded princesses — glistening Nubians — cruel Caliphs — beautiful slave-girls dancing and stamping their little belled feet in the crowded bazaar.

Each listener, according to his special mood and fancy, may improvise symbols of his own — just as did the composer of the music and the choreographer of the famous ballet based upon it.

For Rimsky-Korsakov intended his tone poem to be evocative rather than narrative. The “kaleidoscope of fairy-tale images”— as he himself characterized it — shifts from one to another with no continuing plot.

The titles of the four movements: The Sea and Sinbad’s Ship; The Kalander Prince’s Tale; The Prince and the Princess; The Bagdad Festival and the Ship Dashing Upon the Rock Surmounted by the Bronze Statue of a Warrior — serve mainly as thematic cues. The combined effect of these four movements is a melodic reflection of some of the tales by which the Sultana Scheherazade —over a period of A Thousand and One Nights — charmed her surly husband, the Sultan Schahriar, out of the notion of executing her.

The first violins establish the theme of Scheherazade as narrator. This same theme, repeated and embellished, leads to other musical figures and to other images. Wood-winds, horns, harp, cymbal, and tambourine take their turns assembling the mosaic of sound and enchantment.

Here is magnificent proof of Rimsky-Korsakov’s pain-fully acquired virtuosity. Every symphonic ornament is exhibited in this satisfying work, as though the composer had challenged not only himself but the orchestras and. conductors who would perform it. A concert showpiece from the day of its debut, Scheherazade makes exacting demands, ranging from pianissimo solos to its fortissimo climax and exploiting all of the colorations and shadings of musical sound.

No amount of repetition can diminish the vitality of such a composition. It brings something new and wonderful to all who hear it for the first — or for the hundredth — time.

WILLIAM STEINBERG is justly celebrated as one of the foremost conductors of our time. Coming to the United States in 1938 with a European reputation of the highest order, he has since distinguished himself with equal success and acclaim on this continent. His memorable appearances with most of the nation’s major symphony orchestras are climaxed now in his permanent conductorship of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, with which he displays the full scope and sensitivity of his magnificent talent. Among their recordings are these works:
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 6 (“Pastoral”) P-8159
SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 2 Symphony No. 8 (“Unfinished”) P-8162
STRAUSS: Till Eulenspiegel Death and Transfiguration P-8291
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 5 Symphony No. 8 P-8292
RACHMANINOFF: Symphony No. 2 P-8293
TCHAIKOVSKY: Serenade in C Major PROKOFIEV: Classical Symphony P-8290
TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 5 in E Minor P-8325

Rimsky Korsakov, The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra - Scheherazade

Label: Capitol P8305

1955 1950s Covers

Radio Symphonie Orchester Berlin – Le Nozze Di Figaro

Sleeve Notes:

Mozart’s opera “The Marriage of Figaro” provided its composer with one of the greatest triumphs of his short lifetime; this event took place about six months after the world premiere in Vienna on the 1st May 1786, when the opera was performed for the first time in Prague.

“The enthusiasm (of the Prague audience) was on a scale hitherto unparalleled,” wrote a contemporary. “It was impossible to hear too much of it.” In consequence Mozart received a commission to write another opera for Prague. “Don Giovanni” is therefore a result of the success of “Figaro”, which, like its later sisterwork, had its origin in a literary work which was very skilfully adapted to form its libretto. “Figaro” is based on the comedy, full of social criticism, “Le mariage de Figaro ou la folle journee” by Beaumarchais, which had appeared in Paris two years earlier. In Vienna this satire on the age was banned, but Mozart’s librettist Lorenzo da Ponte was clever enough to overcome the difficulty by means of diplomacy and his acting ability.

In da Ponte’s version the barbs of the “storm-bird of the revolution”, as Beaumarchais’ “mad day” had been called, were clipped a little so as to appear harmless. The libretto nevertheless follows the play in its tensions between members of different classes of society. This is the second of three loosely linked comedies. In the first of them, “The Barber of Seville”, which has remained alive on the musical stage through Rossini’s masterly setting, Count Almaviva, with the assistance of the sly Figaro, abducts the beautiful Rosina from her guardian’s house. The “mad day”, as the first part of the original double title indicates, concerns the marriage of Figaro, who has been promo, ed to become the Count’s personal servant, to the Countess’s maid Susanna, who has to foil the Count’s designs on her. In this apparently superficial comedy of intrigue expressed in music there is embedded a fundamental conflict between social superiors and inferiors. While Figaro, as the Barber of Seville, was a colleague, a fellow-schemer with the Count, now that he is a personal servant he challenges his master, who has become a rival favoured by birth and position, to “dance to his tune”.

Lorenzo da Ponte described his libretto for Mozart as “un quasi nuovo genere di spettacolo”, a virtually new kind of stage work; he called this comic opera a “commedia per musica”. Indeed Mozart’s opera buffa goes far beyond the bounds of Neapolitan operatic farce such as Rossini was to create three decades later in its purest form. Comedy and tragedy, the marionette-like mechanics of the buffa tradition and genuine, deep human emotions, heightened by music, have never been more fully integrated in the sphere of comic opera than in “The Marriage of Figaro”, this early yet perfect comedy of character in music.

Radio Symphonie Orchester Berlin - Le Nozze Di Figaro - The Marriage of Figaro

Label: Deutsche Grammophon 136 272 SLPEM

1962 1960s Covers

Lou Whiteson Orchestra – Great Ballet Music

Sleeve Notes:

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840- 1893) Incredible though it may now seem, both “Swan Lake” and ‘The Nutcracker” ballets were failures when first presented.

The former, the composer’s first essay into the ballet world, was partly a matter of financial necessity and partly a desire to experiment in a new medium. Its initial failure in 1877 was it is said, due to the music being too impressive for audiences brought up to believe that in ballet the music should he of secondary importance. A later production at the Maryinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg two years after Tchaikovsky’s death was a huge success. and the ballet has since been performed the world over in its various forms. although it was not till the Royal Ballet performance in 1934 that the full-length version was staged outside Russia. Based on “The Nutcracker & The Mouse King”. Alexander Dumas’ version of an E. T. A. Hoffman story. the Nutcracker (or “Casse Noisette”) also survived an initial flop to become one of the most popular items in the repertoire and its music some of the best-loved of all time. Here we have five of the Danses Caracteristiques, including the Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy, the first piece ever written to feature the celesta, then a new invention by Auguste Music!.

Leo Delibes (1836- 1891) Although “Iii Source” is generally credited to Delibes, a large part of the music was actually written by Ludwig Minkus (1827 1896). As a ballet it has been overshadowed by Delibes’ later “Coppelia” and “Sylvia”. but the music (particularly the charming little waltz. known under the ballet’s alternative title of Naila) remains familiar, and the Dance Circassienne in particular is a welcome and lively addition to these ballet scenes.

Georges Bizet (1838- 1875) The second suite of Bizet’s incidental music to Alphonse Daudet’s play “L’Arlesienne” was compiled after his death and re-scored for larger orchestra by Ernest Guiraud. who included the Minutetto from Bizet’s earlier “Fair Maid Of Perth”. The Farandal is basically a peasant dance based on a Provencal melody Dance des Chivaus-Frus, but set to the counterpoint melody of the Marcho dei Rei it becomes an exciting and superb orchestral show piece.
Arthur Jackson

Lou Whiteson Orchestra - Great Ballet Music

Label: Chevron CHVL 116

1979 1970s Covers

Johann Strauss – Die Fledermaus

Sleeve Notes:

It was in 1863 that the history of the most perfect of operettas might perhaps be said to have begun. That year the Concordia, a journalists’ club in Vienna, had invited both Johann Strauss and the great Jacques Offenbach to contribute a new waltz to be played at their carnival ball.

Both obliged, Offenbach with Abendblatter (Evening Papers), Strauss with Morgenblatter (Morning Papers). The later edition was generally considered to be the better offering, perhaps because Offenbach was already a musical celebrity, although it is the Strauss waltz that is now remembered. After this friendly rivalry the two composers, who had never met, happened to find themselves sitting together in a restaurant. In the middle of a polite conversation, Offenbach said, probably with all sincerity ; “You ought to write operettas, you have the stuff in you”. He could hardly have looked forward to a time when Strauss’ operettas would prove even more popular than his own.

The logic of his statement had no effect until after a visit to Paris in 1867, when Strauss, after much pressure from his wife and friends, at last wrote Die Lustiger Welber von Wien. Unfortunately Strauss could not obtain the services of the leading lady he thought necessary to the production and the project was dropped. The world now waited until 1871 when Indigo und die vierzig Riluber was produced at the Theater an der Wien. It has a weak libretto, an Offenbach inspired score with only one Strauss waltz, but nevertheless attracted considerable attention. Der Karneval in Rom followed in 1873 and got contemporary approval, later to be forgotten.

The real truth of Offenbach’s prophecy came to light with Die Fledermaus, which was produced at the Theater an der Wien on April 5, 1874. With the exception of Der ligeuner-baron (1885) this was the best libretto that Strauss was ever to get in a long history of operetta writing, and he rose to the occasion with some of his most sparkling music. The original plot was born in a German comedy, Das Gefangnis, which was first turned into a Parisian vaudeville called Le Reveillon by Meilhac and Halevy and finally into Die Fledermaus by Richard Genee (also a composer of some standing) and Karl Haffner.

The Viennese cast included the celebrated Marie Geistinger as Rosalinde and it seems incredible that anything so vivaciously alive as Die Fledermaus could possibly fall flat. But perhaps the time was hardly propitious. 1873 had seen a great financial slump in Vienna, a depression that spread all over Europe, and there was much poverty and ill-feeling about. The champagne frivolities of Die Fledermaus were perhaps ill-timed. It managed 16 performances and then expired.

Put on in Paris, a city nurtured on the frivolities of Offenbach, it was an immediate success ; and even wilder acclaim followed in Berlin in June, 1874. The Viennese supporters, duly chastened, slipped Die Fledermaus back into the Theater an der Wien in September, and the public at last took this home product to its heart. It was a great success for Marie Geistinger, star of La belle Hélene and a director of the Viennese theatre; and a chapter of immortality for Strauss. The old hack, Karl Haffner, the bright young man, Richard Genee, and the waltz-king, between them, had triumphed.

The overture to Die Fledermaus is a sparkling potpourri made up of some of the operetta’s best tunes, an exhilarating portent of the rich entertainment to come. The curtain rises on the drawing-room of the house where the rich Gabriel von Eisenstein lives with his beautiful young wife Rosalinde. The first voice we hear is that of one Alfred, a professional singer and teacher, serenading the fair Rosalinde from outside the window, “Taubchen, das entflattert ist”, recalling their past amours. His efforts fall on unheeding ears, as the only person in the room is Adele the maid who is pre-occupied by a letter from her sister which suggests that she borrows some of her mistress’s clothes and comes to the grand ball to be held by Prince Orlofsky that evening. The singing at last intruding on her thoughts, she opens the window to shoo him away, Rosalinde entering just in time to remind Alfred that she is now a married woman – but she leaves a future meeting an open prospect, however. Adele now concocts a story of a sick aunt and asks for the evening off. The plans are only slightly complicated by the fact that Eisenstein is to go to prison for eight days, that very evening, a five-day sentence having been increased by the blunderings of his incompetent lawyer, Dr. Blind. This involves some heated discussion between Blind, Rosalinde and Eisenstein “Nein, mit solchen Advokaten”. However, his friend, Dr. Falke, appears and suggests secretly to Eisenstein that he should at least enjoy himself at the ball that evening under the name of Marquis Renard ; Dr. Falke has a spiteful little plan in mind. They imagine the gay time they are going to have – “Ein Souper uns heute winkt”. Rosalinde sees a chance also to have a gay time with her old flame Alfred but now has to pretend great sorrow at her husband’s imprisonment; Adele is covering up her own little plans with sorrow for her fictitious aunt; and Eisenstein thinks of the good time he will have. Each bemoans their fate while anticipating the evening in the famous “So muss allein ich bleiben” with its accelerating refrain “o je, o je, wie ruhrt mich dies”.

As Eisenstein and Adele depart, Alfred is quickly upon the scene. He dons the husband’s dressing-gown and fez and they merrily drink together for old time’s sake – “Glucklich ist, wer vergisst”. The prison governor arrives and discovers this situation ; so they have to pretend that Alfred really is Rosalinde’s husband —” Mein Herr, was dachten Sie von mir “. The governor advocates the joys of a cell, ” Mein schemes, grosses Voglehaus “, and the unfortunate man is taken off to prison.

The second act, in the ballroom, finds Prince Orlofsky extremely bored by it all. Falke enters and promises him some entertainment. In return for a prank Eisenstein once played on him, leaving him after a fancy-dress ball dressed as a bat in a drunken sleep by the road, to wander home in much ridicule in broad daylight – ever after to be known as Dr. Bat – he has contrived the Bat’s revenge. He has sent a note to Rosalinde suggesting she comes to the ball in disguise to see what her husband is up to. Orlofsky enters the spirit of the thing and declares he likes to see people enjoying themselves – “Ich lade gem mir Gaste ein” – “chacun a son gout”. Eisenstein, introduced as the French Marquis, is shattered to bump into his wife’s maid Adele, dressed in his wife’s clothes. Adele is equally surprised to find him there, imagining him in prison, but remains composed calling herself Fraulein Olga. She pretends to be indignant at being taken for a lady’s maid – ” Min Herr Marquis”. The next arrival is the prison governor, who should not be there either, disguised as the Chevalier Chagrin. He takes Adele for a grand lady and makes passes. Rosalinde enters, disguised by a mask as a mysterious Hungarian countess. Eisenstein, ever the one for a conquest, thinks that here is an easy one. Rosalinde decides to play him along, secretly most annoyed at his deception “Wie er gieret, kokettieret”. Eisenstein takes out his chiming-watch, always a fascinating weapon in affairs of this sort, and Rosalinde decides she must get hold of it for evidence. She swoons and asks Eisenstein to check her pulse, which he does rather un-successfully – and she manages to take the watch from him. Adele now challenges Rosalinde to take off her mask, Orlofsky enjoying the joke supports Rosalinde, and Rosalinde declares her true Hungarian birth in ” Klange der Heimat “. Eisen-stein, poor fish, tells once more the story of the bat episode, boasting that he has been too clever for Falke to get revenge. “We’ll see,” says Falke. They all sit down to dinner and Orlofsky praises the wine – “Im Feuerstrom der Reben” and Falke exhorts that they all be one big, happy family – “Briiderlein und Schwesterlein . . . Dui-du!”. All anxiously watch the clock as it strikes six – remembering their various appointments.

In the prison, the third act finds Alfred singing in his cell attended by a very intoxicated warder. Frank, the prison governor, now staggers in and is revived by a cup of coffee. No sooner is he asleep than Adele and her friend arrive looking for the Chevalier Chagrin to confess that Adele is only an un-sophisticated lady’s maid “Speil ‘ich die Unschild vom Lande”. Next the phony Marquis comes, Eisenstein arriving to give himself up. Adele and her friend are hidden away. Frank explains he is the prison governor, but when Eisenstein tells who he is, says he can’t be as he arrested him last night. Dr. Blind arrives, and while Frank goes for the prisoner Eisenstein takes Blind’s coat, wig and spectacles and disguises himself as the lawyer, pushing Blind out of the way. Enter Alfred in Eisenstein’s dressing-gown. At this moment Rosalinde comes in, heavily veiled. The deceptions and Falke’s joke are all revealed after much confusion and heart-searching, with Eisenstein eventually coming off worse. “O Fledermaus”, they all beg, say it was all a joke. In the end, as no one was without some disgrace, they decide that the champagne was to blame, ” Champagner hat’s verschuldet “, and under its lingering influence all differences are settled and Eisenstein and his Rosalinde reunited.


Johann Strauss - Die Fledermaus - World Record Club

Label: World Record Club T 187

1963 1960s Covers

Leonard Bernstein, New York Philharmonic – Dvořák/Smetana – The Moldau And Other Favorites

Sleeve Notes:

Notes by HERBERT KUPFERBERG Editor for the Arts of the New York Herald Tribune

Few rivers have been celebrated in music as memorably as the Moldau. The Mississippi was glorified in a famous song from the Broadway musical “Show Boat”, the Seine in a French popular song of a few years back, the Danube in Strauss’ best-known Viennese waltz, the Volga in a dirge-like Russian work chant. The Moldau alone has had a famous tone poem written about it.

The Czechs call their great river the Vltava, but it is known in German as Moldau, and it is under this name that Bedřich Smetana’s tone poem has won world fame. Smetana, even more than Dvořák, was the Czech composer who best expressed his country’s nationalistic pride. According to one story, on a visit to Liszt in Weimar Smetana heard a Viennese composer named Herbeck remark that the Czechs were imitative rather than original, and he determined to prove him wrong. He did so by eventually producing two undoubted masterpieces, the opera The Bartered Bride and the symphonic cycle My Fatherland (Má Vlast), from which The Moldau is taken.

It took Smetana five years (1874-79) to complete Má Vlast, and his purpose was simple: he wished to exalt his country, then under Austrian rule. He dedicated his symphonic cycle to the city of Prague, and he selected as the subjects for its six tone poems the various historic and geographic sites which symbolized some aspect of his nation’s greatness. The second of these was the river Moldau, and Smetana himself has left us a graphic description of what he meant to depict in this tonal portrait:

Two springs pour forth in the shade of the Bohemian forest, the one warm and gushing, the other cold and tranquil. Their waves, joyfully flowing over their rocky beds, unite and sparkle in the morning sun. The forest brook, rushing on, becomes the River Moldau, which, with its waters speeding through Bohemia’s valleys, grows into a mighty stream. It flows through dense woods from which come the joyous sounds of the chase, and the notes of the hunter’s horn are heard ever nearer and nearer.
It flows through emerald meadows and lowlands, where a wedding feast is being celebrated with song and dancing. At night, in its shining waves, wood and water nymphs hold their revels, and in these waves are reflected many a fortress and castle—witnesses of bygone splendour of chivalry, and the vanished martial fame of days that are no more. At the Rapids of St. John the stream speeds on, winding its way through cataracts and hewing the path for its foaming water through the rocky chasm into the broad river bed, in which it flows on in majestic calm toward Prague, welcomed by the time-honoured Vysherad [the citadel], to disappear in the far distance from the poet’s gaze.

The music illustrates this programme with admirable clarity and beautiful colours. Flutes depict the first gushing spring, clarinets the second. The flowing Moldau theme first appears in the strings; it gives way temporarily to the romantic sounds of a hunt (horns and trumpets), and to the rhythms of a polka, indicating a rustic wedding on the shores. There are suggestions of moonlight on the waters (muted strings, embellished by woodwinds and harp), and then, after the Moldau theme is briefly restated, the river courses through the turbulent rapids. Finally, the Moldau theme takes command in its full majesty as the mountain stream becomes a mighty river flowing past the citadel Vysherad, reflecting in its waters the glories of a great people, and then receding into the distance, with two decisive chords signalling an end to the work.
The Moldau theme itself is a stroke of genius. Few melodies could suggest a river more vividly than this flowing, rolling music, whose very phrases lead into one another with a constant forward surge. It is music of majestic spirit, tinged ever so slightly with sadness (its first appearance is in a minor key), and somehow having the flavour of a folk song. Oddly enough, the Central European folk melody which served as Smetana’s inspiration for this work was later adapted as the Zionist hymn Hatikvah (The Hope) and eventually became the national anthem of Israel. Thus, The Moldau, in a way Smetana never dreamed of, became an expression of the unconquerableness of the human spirit.

Just as The Moldau is Smetana’s greatest symphonic work, so The Bartered Bride is his operatic masterpiece. Stage performances of this bubbling rustic comedy have increased in recent years, but audiences continue to know the work chiefly through the Overture and Three Dances which typify its gay’ and cheerful spirit. The Overture ranks with Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro Overture as a pure distillation of comedy into music. It is compounded principally of material from the Act II Finale of the opera, and is one of those pieces that make thematic analysis seem superfluous and pretentious. The Three Dances are a Polka, a Furiant, and the Dance of the Comedians. All stem from the colourful stage action, the Polka occurring at the climax of Act I, when a group of Bohemian villagers stage an impromptu dance, and the Furiant at the outset of Act II, following a joyous chorus in praise of beer – “a heavenly gift, which drowns all trouble.” The final dance takes place where a circus troupe arrives on the scene and performs a pantomime act.

Antonin Dvořák succeeded Smetana as Bohemia’s leading composer and won even wider acclaim abroad. His Slavonic Dances, which first made his name known in his own country and beyond, were written both in two-piano and orchestral versions.

The Carnival Overture, written in 1891, has remained one of his most popular compositions. It originally was part of a symphonic work which Dvořák took with him on his visit to the United States in 1892, and which he conducted at his debut concert in New York’s Carnegie Hall. This tripartite work was entitled Triple Overture: Nature, Life, Love.

Subsequently, the parts were separated, and the Life portion was published under the title Carnival. Never noted for its subtlety, Carnival’s spirited Slavonic measures provide a rousing picture of mirth and merriment. Dvořák once said that this work was meant to depict the feelings of “a lonely, contemplative wanderer reaching a city at twilight when a carnival is in full sway. On every side is heard the clangour of instruments mingled with shouts of joy and unrestrained hilarity of the people giving vent to their feelings in songs and dance tunes.” A quieter middle section, full of murmurings of winds and strings, suggests that, even during the revelry, there is a passing moment for pastoral romance. The Carnival Overture remains in our day, no less than in Dvořák’s, a brilliant and exciting orchestra showpiece.

Leonard Bernstein, New York Philharmonic - Dvořák/Smetana - The Moldau And Other Favorites

Label: CBS 72461

1966 1960s Covers

Bizet, Victoria de Los Angeles, Nicolaï Gedda, Janine Micheau, Ernest Blanc, Sir Thomas Beecham – Carmen Highlights

Sleeve Notes:

ACT I Band 1 – Prelude The orchestral prelude is built on three themes from the opera. First comes the march that in the last act accompanies the procession to the bullring. It is succeeded by the refrain from Escamillo’s couplets in Act II (Toreador, en garde) after which the march returns. Then there is a sudden change of pace and mood.

To the accompaniment of string tremolandi the lower instruments of the orchestra play a sombre theme with chromatic intervals, which represents the powerful, fateful fascination exercised by Carmen over men. Then the curtain rises to reveal a busy square in Seville, a tobacco factory on one side, a military guard-house on the other. In the commentary that follows, passages in square brackets [thus] summarise the action not covered by this record.

Band 2 – Avec la garde montante After a while, we hear in the distance the relief guard approaching. They enter, preceded by two buglers and two fifers; then come Lieutenant Zuniga and Corporal Jose, then a group of excited urchins who burlesque their movements and sing a chorus in shrill tones (Avec la garde montante, nous arrivons). [The officers confer and the sentries are relieved. Before the old guard has marched off with the urchins still in attendance, we hear the other Corporal, Morales, telling Jose of a pretty girl who has been enquiring for him. Jose guesses that it must be Micaela, the village sweetheart he had left behind at home.]

Band 3 – Mais nous ne voyons pas la Carmencita! La voila! (Entrance of Carmen) .. . L’amour est un oiseau rebelle (Habanera) A crowd of young men have gathered in the square to see the girls from the cigarette factory come out for their morning break ; especially they are eager to see the most famous of them all, La Carmencita, the gypsy. At last the girls come out, parading about smoking their little cigars and flirting with the men. Only Jose is not interested : as a Basque he prefers the fair girls from his native province, and he sits down to make a little chain for his priming pin. Presently Carmen herself appears, a bouquet of Cassia flowers in her corsage and a flower in the corner of her mouth. The men press round her but her eye is upon the one man who is paying no attention to her – Don Jose. Carmen sings, directly `at’ him, the Habanera which Bizet modelled on a Spanish song by Sebastien Yradier. The refrain sums up Carmen’s philosophy – “The god of love is gypsy born and knows no law. If you don’t love me, though I love you, then take care 1”

Band 4 – Pres des remparts de Seville .. . Tais-toi! (Seguidilla and Duet) [Towards the end of the first act Carmen is hauled out of the cigarette factory by Don Jose and two troopers and brought to the military guardroom nearby to answer a charge of stabbing one of her workmates. Her attitude is defiant and on the order of Zuniga, the guard commander, her wrists have been bound while he goes off to write an order for her detention. Carmen then proceeds to exercise her wit and feminine appeal, of which he has already had a taste earlier in the day, upon Don Jose. Told to stop talking,] Carmen proceeds to sing of how she proposes to spend the evening at Lillas Pastia’s tavern on the outskirts of the town, and how she is looking for a new lover to amuse her over the week-end (Seguidilla). Her invitation is perfectly forthright : “who wishes to love me, 1 will love him ! . . . 1 have hardly time to wait for my new lover !” – but she goes on to make it quite clear that it is Jose she has in mind. [Against her fascination he is quite helpless : his resistance soon breaks down before her promises and he loosens her bonds and – as the act ends – allows her to escape.]

ACT II Band 5 – Les tringles des sistres tintaient (Gypsy Song) Two months elapse before the second act, which takes place in the courtyard of Lillas Pastia’s tavern. The scene opens with a gypsy song and dance. Carmen and two other gypsies, Frasquita and Mercedes, are sitting at a table with some officers, Zuniga among them, drinking and smoking. Carmen, watching two dancers, suddenly springs up and begins a vivid commentary, her two friends joining in the refrain (Gypsy Song). The music grows ever faster, ever wilder, reaching a climax of frenzy as all give themselves up to dancing.

SIDE TWO Band 1 – Votre toast (Toreador’s Song) [The proprietor is about to close for the night when a crowd outside is heard acclaiming the matador Escamillo, who enters with his admirers and is toasted by Zuniga.] He responds in the well known couplets, “Votre toast, je peux vous le rendre” (“I wish to return your toast, Senors, for soldiers and bullfighters have an understanding. Fighting is their game”) and goes on with a colourful description of the excitements of the bull-ring. The refrain, already heard in the Prelude to Act I, is marked to be sung avec fatuite, for Bizet is at pains to depict, at Escamillo’s very first entrance, the naïve conceit of this reigning popular idol.

Band 2 – La fleur que to m’avais jetee (Flower Song) [Carmen has remained behind in the tavern alone. She is expecting Jose, of whose release from prison she has heard, and when he arrives greets him rapturously. But almost at once the bugles sounding Retreat are heard and Jose’s anxiety to get back to barracks arouses her contempt. She laughs at his protestations of love.] Then, as this excerpt begins, the theme of Carmen’s fateful fascination is heard in the orchestra, and Jose takes from inside his tunic the faded flower she had so provocatively tossed at him on the occasion of their first meeting. He goes on to tell her what it meant to him in his imprisonment. Though it withered and dried up it always kept its perfume, and sometimes during the long nights brought back memories so painful that he took to cursing her, detesting her for her hold over him. But there always returned the one desire, the one hope, to see her again. “For you had only to appear, 0 my Carmen, to make me yours alone !”

ACT III Band 3 – Carreau! Pique! (Card Scene) [linable to resist Carmen’s fascination, Jose has deserted from his regiment and followed her with the smugglers into the mountains, where they have a cache for their contraband goods. It is evident that Carmen is already tiring of him and she suggests that he should leave them ; obviousiy he has no heart for a smuggler’s life. The thought of separation from her maddens Jose and Carmen divines that he is capable of murder. This she accepts philosophic-ally : “well, after all, Fate is our master,” she says. Meanwhile Mercedes and Frasquita have settled down to tell their fortunes with a pack of cards.] Carmen joins them and moves the cards to her side of the table and turns up first a diamond, then a spade – Death ! “It is useless,” she sings, “to shuffle the cards in the hope of avoiding unpleasant answers – the cards do not lie !” and again she turns up the cards of death. This sombre air in F minor is the supreme moment in Bizet’s portrayal of Carmen’s character, revealing the smouldering depths in her nature underlying her irresponsibility and lack of any moral sense.

Band 4 – C’est des contrabandlers le refuge ordinaire . . . Je dis que den ne neepouvante (Micaela’s Air) [Presently Micaela appears, guided to this remote place by a peasant from the valley.] When he has gone, we learn from her air, Je dis que rlen ne m’epouvante, that the intrepid girl has come to try to rescue Jose from the wiles of “that woman” who has turned him into a criminal. She prays to God for strength.

ACT IV Band 5 – Les void! [The curtain rises on Act IV to reveal the crowds streaming into the bullring, while the sellers of fruit and fans, wine, water and tobacco hawking their wares lend colour and animation to the scene.] Presently (as this excerpt begins) the march of the Prelude is heard, while the children cry out “Here they come !” (Les void !) The procession of the bull-fighters in their picturesque costumes passes by to the accompaniment of excited comments from the crowd ; first the Toreros with their lances, then authority represented by the Alguazil who is greeted with derision, then the Chulos (assistants to the Toreros) and the Bandilleros. Last come the Picadors followed – to the tune of the Toreador’s Song – by the matador Escamillo himself with Carmen, radiant in a sumptuous dress, leaning on his arm. [From here, after Escamillo’s entry into the ring, it is not far to the final climax of the tragedy, with Jose, who has been lurking in the crowd, confronting Carmen and in an uncontrollable fit of jealousy stabbing her to death.]

From a note by DYNELEY HUSSEY. Note © Dyneley Hussey, 1960

Bizet, Victoria de Los Angeles, Nicolaï Gedda, Janine Micheau, Ernest Blanc, Sir Thomas Beecham - Carmen Highlights

Label: His Master’s Voice ALP 2041

1960 1960s Covers

Lalo – Symphonie Espagnole

Sleeve Notes:

Lalo Symphonie espagnole, op.21 First movement: Allegro non troppo Second movement: Scherzando. Allegro molto Third movement: Intermezzo. Allegretto non troppo Fourth movement: Andante
SIDE TWO Lalo Symphonie espagnole, op.21 Fifth movement: Rondo. Allegro Paganini Introduction and Variations on “Nel cor piu non mi sento” Paganini Fantaisie on “Dal tuo stellato soglio”

The list of composers of other nationalities who have sought inspiration from Spain is indeed lengthy and includes such diverse musicians as Domenico Scarlatti, Boccherini, Glinka, Rimsky-Korsakov, Balakirev, Moszkowski, Liszt, Chopin, Lalo, Chabrier, Bizet, Debussy, Ravel, Elgar, Lord Berners and William Walton.

Scarlatti and Boccherini made their homes in Spain, the former spending nearly thirty years at the Spanish court and thoroughly imbibing the Spanish idiom. Some of Scarlatti’s essercizi (sonatas) might almost be Spanish dances, for the influence of the jota and other dance forms is there for all to hear. Some of his pieces, too, reflect the influence of the guitar. Boccherini admitted to some of his music being inspired by the playing of Padre Basilio, a noted guitarist of the time, and he even wrote three quintets for strings and guitar.

Of the non-Spanish composers mentioned above, Lalo, Chabrier, Debussy and Ravel assimilated the Spanish style most successfully, Chabrier visited Spain during the summer of 1882 and made for Andalusia post-haste where, notebook at the ready, he listened to all the Spanish music he could and jotted down as many melodies and rhythms as he could manage. On returning to France he incorporated some of these ideas in an orchestral work. The composition, which he called Espana, was first heard at a Lamoureux concert on 6th November, 1883, where it received a most enthusiastic reception from the audience. In the opinion of Manuel de Falla “no Spaniard has succeeded better than Chabrier in giving us, with such authenticity and genius, the version of a jota as it is ‘shouted’ by the peasants of Aragon in their nocturnal rounds.”

Debussy visited Spain on one occasion only, when he attended a bullfight at San Sebastian, and it was the authentic cante jondo singers at the Paris Exposition of 1889-1890 who really drew his attention to Spanish music. His own works which are Spanish in style include the orchestral Iberia, La puerta del vino, Soiree dans Grenade, the second movement of the String Quartet, which bears the indication “Assez vif et bien rythme,” Mandoline, and Danse Profane. Debussy furnishes an impressionist’s view of Spain and a coloured postcard from Falla was sufficient inspiration for the piano prelude La puerta del vino, where the curving melody of the cante jonde is cleverly hinted at. Of the second movement of the String Quartet, Falla wrote that it “might pass for one of the finest Andalusian dances ever written.”

Ravel’s parents lived in Spain for a lengthy period and the composer himself was born within a short distance of the Spanish border in the Basque town of Ciboure. It therefore seemed natural that he should succumb to the lure of Spain. Spanish traits are displayed in the Rapsodie espagnole, though he does not employ actual folk tunes. Another work very Hispanic in colouring and feeling is Alborada del gracioso. Although his opera L’Heure espagnole is set in Spain and is one of his most brilliant efforts in a lighter vein, it does not evoke the Iberian peninsula to the same extent as the other works mentioned.

Edouard Lalo was a Frenchman of Spanish descent and his Spanish Symphony – really a violin concerto in five movements – was written for Pablo de Sarasate, the celebrated Spanish violin virtuoso. The work was given its first performance by Sarasate and the Colonne Orchestra of Paris at the Theatre Chatelet on 7th February, 1875.

The initial movement (Allegro non troppo) of the Symphonic espagnole opens with an introduction which utilises material from the first subject. The orchestra plays the theme fortissimo and it is developed to serve as an orchestral ritornello. The violin then enters and some development takes place. Passage work ensues, leading to a short tutti, and the second theme is announced by the soloist. There is little true development but the recapitulation is elaborated. A brief coda, based on the first theme, terminates the movement.

The second movement, sometimes omitted in concert performances, is a Scherzando (Allegro molto), beginning with a sprightly prelude played by the orchestra. The solo violin introduces a cantabile theme which is developed and one recognises figures from the opening in the accompaniment. The recapitulation is normal.

The third movement, an Intermezzo (Allegretto non troppo), is also sometimes omitted. It starts with an energetic theme on the strings which, after discussion, is interrupted by the soloist with a fresh theme. An animated episode develops from this, furnishing the soloist with opportunities for displaying his technique. The theme introduced by the violin after the orchestral prelude eventually returns.

The fourth movement, an Andante, opens with an orchestral prelude, after which the movement’s main theme, a cantilena, is heard from the violin and developed very simply. The second theme, also enunciated by the violin, is more ornamented. The first theme returns before a short coda ends the movement.

The Rondo-Finale (Allegro) opens with a spirited orchestral introduction, after which the soloist enters with the chief theme. The development of this theme and the presentation of one or two subsidiary themes provides the basis of the movement.

Niccolo Paganini can, with justification, be called the ‘Liszt of the violin’. Like Liszt, he embodied in his playing the summit of technical wizardry to which his contemporaries aspired, and his reputation is still surrounded by an aura of mystery and legend. Like Liszt, too, he was also a composer, though not to such a prolific extent. More particularly, besides leaving a sizeable body of original music, he used other men’s compositions as vehicles for variations, fantasias and so on, and both of the pieces on this record are of this type. (Posterity has returned the compliment to Paganini whose own ’24th Caprice’ has been the subject of variations by many subsequent composers, notably Brahms, Rachmaninov, Boris Blacher and Lutoslawski). It is an interesting thought that much music, long neglected or forgotten in its original form, still has a claim to posterity through the reworking of other composers. Such might be said of Paisiello’s La Molinara, a two-act opera dating from about 1788 and long since banished from the stage along with his 100 or so others. Paganini based his variations on the bass aria ‘Nel cor pib non mi sento’ (a theme also used by Beethoven for the same purpose). It appears that several versions of this piece exist, the one on this record being a transcription from memory by Carl Guhr, first published in 1831. (Guhr was acquainted with Paganini and it was the latter’s playing which inspired him to write his treatise on ‘The Art of Playing the Violin’.) There are seven variations, one in G minor and the rest in G major. Each has some special form of virtuosity – in the third there are double shakes in harmonics, and in the last widespread ascending and descending arpeggios. The theme and third variation are written on two staves, one for the bowed melody played with the right hand, and the other for pizzicato notes that are played with the left. There also exist three other manuscripts of the piece, one in Paganini’s hand and entitled ‘Caprice’. They differ in many respects from the Guhr transcription and show that Paganini did not always play the piece in the same way as Guhr transcribed it. A programme of 1837 indicates that the composer also played the work with orchestra.

Rossini’s Mose in Egitto (‘Moses in Egypt’) provided the basis for the Fantaisie which was originally scored for violin with orchestra. Berlioz commented on this work, declaring that Paganini used the bass drum to better effect than in Rossini’s original aria (the ‘Prayer’ sung by the bass). Whereas Rossini had placed a drum-stroke on the first beat of the bar, Paganini placed it on the syncopated beat. When one admirer, while complimenting Paganini on this piece, happened to point out that Rossini had at least furnished him with a beautiful theme, Paganini replied “That’s true, but he didn’t invent my bang on the big drum”.

It is most likely that the present arrangement with piano accompaniment, as well as an arrangement for string quartet, were provided by the original publisher Ricordi. The violin part is written entirely for the G string in ‘scordatura’ (that is, the string is retuned a third higher to B flat). The introductory Adagio in E flat minor is based on the ‘prayer’ aria. The theme is repeated three times, the second time an octave higher, and the third time with harmonics. There then follows a ‘tempo alla marcia’ in the major key, which is a paraphrase of the march and chorus from the opera. Three variations, the third in harmonics, and a short coda conclude the piece.
© Art &Sound Ltd, 1974

SALVATORE ACCARDO was born in Naples on 26th September, 1941, and began to study the violin at the age of six under Luigi d’Ambrosia, Professor at the Conservatoire S. Pietro a Majella di Napoli, and later with Yvonne Astruc at the Academia Chigiana in Siena. He began his brilliant career at the age of fourteen, winning the National Competition ‘Arts’ in Milan, and was elected by the Chigiana Academy to play a Wieniawski Concerto on Italian Television. Graduating from Naples Conservatoire in 1956 he was the only one to reach the finals in the Geneva International Competition, being honoured with a special award. The following year he shared the first prize at Geneva in the Paganini Inter-national Competition and in 1958 was adjudged the winner, being granted the privilege of playing on Paganini’s violin -the famous ‘Guarnieri del Gesu’, the first competitor ever to do so. In 1965 he also won the ‘Diapason’ Prize with this inscription: ‘To Salvatore Accardo, a violinist of high calibre, a very young artist with much to commend him, who has established himself amongst the largest concert organizations of the world’. He has given concerts for the most important societies in Italy and in the capital cities of Europe. He completed his sixth tour not only in the United States but also in South America, and throughout he received outstanding support from press and public alike. He made a tour of South Africa in October 1968 and undertook a series of concerts in Japan during the 1968/9 season. Mr. Accardo has played with many famous orchestras, including the Berlin Philharmonic, the Lamoureux, the Suisse Romande, the Vienna Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and in this country with the London Philharmonic.

Lalo – Symphonie Espagnole

Label: Saga 5398

1974 1970s Covers