HEROLD-LANCHBERY: La Fille Mal Gardée (excerpts from the ballet) – Orch. of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden/ John Lanchbery – Decca/Universal/Original Recordings Group ORG 109, 51:26 2 vinyl discs at 45 rpm *****:
Seeing this album come in, I immediately went to my London/Decca CD shelf since I thought I had a CD of it to A/B, but I was wrong. F.I.M. also released an xrcd24 remastering of the same original, but I didn’t have that either. Never mind, 45 rpm vinyl—especially from ORG—is the ultimate two-channel format on a good turntable system, and this release is no exception. (However, I did for the first time hear a few ticks and pops on the Side A.) My main technical shock was seeing that Side C contains over 17 minutes of music. That must be a new record for 45 rpm 12-inch vinyl—most are around 8 minutes! And the fidelity was just fine thruout, even close to the label. The Decca tree mic setup’s natural and in-depth capturing of the orchestra is fully preserved in these highest quality remasterings.
Not being a balletomane, I don’t think I’ve missed anything by not ever seeing La Fille Mal Gardée on stage. The characters are a rich female farmer, her daughter, a young farmer in love with the daughter, a vinyard owner and his simple son. Heard enough? The music, however, is quite a delight, and it turns out it’s not all by Hérold either, but a pastiche of various tunes cobbled together and arranged into this smooth suite by conductor Lanchbery. Besides the usual orchestra, the percussion section is expanded with a whip, two temple blocks, and a triangle. The “Flute Dance” is sweet, and the “Storm and Finale” make an interesting counterpart to Beethoven’s storm in his Sixth Symphony. If you like early 19th century ballet music and you have a good analog turntable system, jeté thyself in the direction of these vinyls.
This is a delightful holiday collection.