HÉROLD-LANCHBERY:  La Fille Mal Gardée – Orch. of the Royal Opera House / John Lanchbery – HDTT

HÉROLD-LANCHBERY:  La Fille Mal Gardée – Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden / John Lanchbery – HDTT [various formats including hi-res PCM & DSD from www.highdeftapetransfers.com] [Reviewed from DSD64 files] TT: 50:41*****

A well-loved classic reappears in a first-class transfer.

La fille mal gardée (“The badly supervised girl”) began life in Paris mere moments before the start of the French Revolution, though not under that title. That was assumed in 1791 when the ballet came to London and the original music whose parts survive seems to have been loathed by the theatre orchestra.  Hérold’s music didn’t make an appearance until 1828 when the ballet became part of the repertoire of the Paris Opera.  Frederick Ashton revived the ballet for a new production in 1960 and engaged John Lanchbery to make an arrangement of Hérold’s music.

Thus was born something of a hit, with revival after revival, and with this Decca disc of excerpts never out of the catalogue in one form or another since its release in 1962.

Set down on 27 February 1962 in Kingsway Hall, London, produced by Ray Minshull with Arthur Lilley as recording engineer,  the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden under the arranger, John Lanchbery, produce 50 minutes of pure joy.  The playing fizzes away like a treasured bottle of Dom Perignon, sparkling, amusing and witty in content and in execution.   The same forces went back to Kingsway Hall in 1983 and set down the whole work – that’s a lovely set, beautifully played and yet slightly missing that feeling of discovering the music afresh, something the original selection has in spades.

Unsurprisingly, the sound quality remains hugely impressive.  This has been audiophile nirvana for a long time, the original LP on SXL 2313 being much sought-after.  Special limited edition re-releases and re-cuts on LP,  by Decca themselves or on 4 LPs playing at 45rpm by Speakers Corner, and a First Impression XRCD have all been welcomed with much enthusiasm, and a forthcoming SACD is promised by Analogue Productions.  This release from HDTT derives from a 15ips commercial reel, transferred to DSD and very successfully indeed, with impressive sounds to be heard especially in Cocks and HensThe Clog Dance and The Storm.  As I’ve mentioned before, HDTT’s DSD64 files exude an analogue feel which is hard to resist.

Highly recommended!

—Peter Joelson

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