Anatole Fistoulari conducts French Music of POULENC, DEBUSSY, and FAURE – Fabienne Jacquinot, piano/ London Sym. Orch./ Royal Philharmonic Orch. (Aubade, Fantasie)/ Anatole Fistoulari – Opus Kura

by | Dec 24, 2011 | Classical Reissue Reviews

Anatole Fistoulari conducts French Music = POULENC: Les Biches; Aubade; DEBUSSY: Fantasie for Piano and Orchestra; FAURE: Berceuse from “Dolly Suite” – Fabienne Jacquinot, piano/ London Sym. Orch./ Royal Philharmonic Orch. (Aubade, Fantasie)/ Anatole Fistoulari – Opus Kura OPK 7060, 64:32 [Distr. by Albany] ****:
Anatole Fistoulari (1907-1995) hardly receives the kinds of attention his extraordinary talent warrants, given his early studies with his father Gregor, a pupil of Rimsky-Korsakov and Anton Rubinstein. From 1933-1937 Fistoulari led Leonid Massine’s Ballet Russe orchestra and developed his huge balletic repertory for which he remained noted. In 1943 Fistoulari became chief conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Opus Kura here resurrects lively performances originally cut for the MGM and Westminster labels and featuring gifted French pianist Fabienne Jacquinot (b. 1927) for Poulenc’s Aubade and the Debussy Fantasie.
The program begins with Poulenc’s 1924 Les Biches (3, 5 November 1953), an inscription providing a rival to Decca’s LP led by Roger Desormiere. Both conductors omit choral aspects of the score: Fistoulari performs none of them, while Desormiere kept one, the Chanson dansee. Vivacity and witty verve mark the five movements by Fistoulari as appropriate to the choreographed “wantonness” intimated at a garden party. The wind and brass sections of the orchestra have their virtuosic work tailored for them, and Fistoulari’s tempos remain brisk.
The 1929 Aubade (rec. 1954) in eight short sections is subtitled “Choreographic Concerto for Piano and 18 Instruments.” Poulenc takes his musical cue from Stravinsky, and the writing includes driven, lean lines, spare, and colored by lyrical impulses mixed with percussive dialogues with the tympani. As always, Poulenc exerts a gentle, boulevardier style rife with facile melodies and animated sequences of jazzy or acrobatic runs in the manner of Saint-Saens.  The sonic mix between Jacquinot and the orchestra proves excellently clear and balanced,  especially for the period. Poulenc considered Aubade his favorite piece, and he recorded it twice, in 1930 and 1961.
The Debussy Fantasie (1890) testifies to the composer’s concertante style in the Romantic vein; although he himself disowned the piece, and it became available only after his death. Pianists as diverse as Gieseking, Ciccolini, Erdmann, Francois, and Roge have championed the work. Debussy claimed before his untimely death to be working on a “real” concerto, one that “would utilize the keyboard in an entirely new way.” Pity. What we do have, however, remains a lushly provocative score, colored by the harp’s lovely interweaving with the winds and strings, and the piano’s often brilliant filigree that culminates in the third movement’s variations, with which Debussy felt dissatisfied.  Jacquinot adds the perfect blend of creamy, delicate sound and digital clarity, so the sound bears a direct aural relation to works like D’Indy’s Symphony on a French Mountain Air. The slow movement conveys a magical intimacy, quite enchanting. The smooth transition to the Allegro molto keep us in transparent thrall, the melodies gently exotic in the manner of Borodin. The traceries fashioned by Jacquinot’s keyboard resemble a zither or dulcimer’s sonority, and we could be reminded of the poet’s Mount Abora.
Fistoulari closes with pure charm: the first movement Berceuse of Gabriel Faure’s Dolly Suite (rec. 1954) as orchestrated by Henri Rabaud. The music, composed in 1895 for the daughter of Debussy’s friend and later wife, Emma Bardac, perpetuates the notion of childhood innocence, untainted joy. This disc plays and replays infectiously, a recording of special merit.
—Gary Lemco
 
 

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