“On With the Dance” = J. STRAUSS II: Artist’s Life Waltz, Op. 316; Wine, Women, and Song, Op. 333; CHOPIN (arr. Sargent): Les Sylphides; ROSSINI (arr. Respighi and Sargent): La Boutique Fantasque – Concert Suite; William Tell: Ballet Music: Passo a tre e Coro Tirolese; SCHUBERT: Rosamunde – Incidental Music: Ballet Music No. 2 in G Major – Royal Philharmonic Orch./ Royal Opera House Orch., Covent Garden/ Sir Malcolm Sargent – Guild GHCD 2421, 78:00 [Distr. by Albany] ****:
The Guild retrospective collection of the recorded legacy of Sir Malcolm Sargent (1895-1967) continues with music “in the lighter vein,” inscribed 1960-1962. Given the May 1961 recording of the Johann Strauss Artist’s Life with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – created and led by Sir Thomas Beecham – we might assume that Sargent simply extended – literally, utilizing all repeats – the “lollipops” tradition that Beecham had bequeathed us. The same care and musical acuity that Beecham had applied to scores that eschew “profundity,” and to which Toscanini, too, could devote himself with equal ardor, Sargent also applied himself assiduously. From the same 1961 session, we receive a pompous, even gaudy, reading of Wine, Women and Song that misses only the voice of Marcel Wittrisch to complete the sonic image of a grand epoch gone by.
Sargent’s own colorful orchestration of eight Chopin piano pieces – the familiar Les Sylphides – receives in this December 1962 reading an intensely crafted score, rife with triangle, harp, wind, and lush string effects to render Chopin’s Polish accents even more lush, as in the C Major Mazurka, Op. 67, No. 3. Of course, the unabashed sentimentalizing of the A Major Prelude, Op. 28, No. 7 – with added tympani and harp – does little to retain its dignity, but as a nostalgic refrain for Old World Charm, it succeeds admirably. The cello solo that begins the c-sharp minor Waltz well recalls the opening gambit for Rossini’s William Tell Overture. So the transition to music by Rossini (rec. October 1961 & December 1962) proceeds naturally enough, with a hefty reading of the Ballet Music from William Tell, featuring luminous playing from the Covent Garden Orchestra’s wind section. The smart, pert orchestration of Rossini’s piano pieces for Leonide Massine’s use for a toy-shop ballet in 1919 led Sargent – once more leading the RPO in October 1961 – to add his own palette, producing a lithe, energetic rendition to equal that of Robert Irving. The warmth of the Royal Philharmonic strings and the ripe hues of the winds render the entire nine-section suite eminently repeatable.
The earliest inscription, the G Major Ballet Music No. 2 for Schubert’s Rosamunde (rec. October 1960), calls upon Beecham’s RPO whilst that celebrated musician still loomed large, with the fine ensemble’s responding in quick, deft colors for Malcolm Sargent, as if to make Sir Thomas proud. Sound restoration by Peter Reynolds proves resonant, even startling. Now, if he and Guild take my recommendation, let’s have Sir Malcolm’s splendid stereo disc of the Holst St. Paul Suite.
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