Constant Lambert Conducts = RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Overture to Ivan the Terrible; GRIEG: Homage March from Sigurd Jorsalfar; PURCELL: Comus Ballet Suite (arr. Lambert); ADAM: Excerpts from Giselle; CHABRIER: Danse slave from Le Roi Malgre Lui – Liverpool Philharmonic (Rimsky-Korsakov/Halle Orchestra (Grieg, Purcell)/Royal Opera House Orchestra (Adam)/ London Philharmonic Orchestra (Chabrier)/Constant Lambert
Historic-Recordings HR 00030, 56:30 [www.historic-recordings.co.uk] ****:
The impeccable work of Constant Lambert (1905-1951) continues to beguile, given his penchant for spirited ballet scores and the ability to pour new rhythmical energy into old bottles. No recording dates are provided in this latest offering from the British Historical-Recordings, but I venture they are all Columbia shellacs Lambert cut 1941-46, here transferred by Norman Field.
If the Rimsky-Korsakov remains rather a relatively predictable example in galloping and polyphonic orchestral color, the Homage March by Grieg has dazzling trumpet and string work, and certainly seems to have influenced Barbirolli’s fine reading with the Halle some 25 years later. Enjoying both pageantry and intimate chamber music dimensions, the Grieg conveys any number of plastic nuances and adjustments in rubato that could educate a generation of musicians. I have never been partial to Adam’s ballet Giselle; and despite Lambert’s deliciously light persuasive efforts, the score remains stiffly uninspired for me. The Purcell Suite, however, achieves both the medieval atmosphere of a Miltonic masque and the slightly askew irony of a modern piece.
The piece de resistance, however, comes last: an absolutely infectious realization of Chabrier’s Marche slave, breezy and aerial enough to outdo Thomas Beecham and establish Chabrier as the boulevardier par excellence even before Poulenc. Jaunty, irreverent, suavely wry and witty, the piece allows the LPO to strut its colors in hues that mock Massenet at his own exotic game.