Sevitzky Conducts Indianapolis Symphony, Vol. 6 – Pristine Audio

by | Jan 23, 2023 | Classical CD Reviews, Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

Fabien Sevitzky Indianapolis Symphony Vol. 6 = Works by KREISLER; SGAMBATI; WEBER; J. STRAUSS II; DELIBES; KHACHATURIAN – Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra/ Fabien Sevitzky – Pristine Audio PASC 680 (71:43, complete listing below) [www.pristineclassical.com] ****:

Producer and restoration engineer Mark Obert-Thorn concludes his series devoted to conductor Fabian Sevitzky (1893-1967) with sessions of dance music made for RCA and Capitol Records, 1941-1953. As Obert-Thorn notes, none of the works has received “official” CD release, and the works by Kreisler, Weber, and Strauss never appeared on LP. 

Sevitzky begins with his own transcription of Fritz Kreisler’s 1905 Praeludium and Allegro (in the style of Pugnani) from 27 January 1942, an original piece that Kreisler had passed off as a “discovery” among his many (mischievously fraudulent) claims for Baroque “revivals.”  The Sevitzky treatment thoroughly resembles a Stokowski transcription of music by Bach, implementing the full diapason of instrumental colors to approximate what an organ sound would accomplish when adapted to an orchestral texture.  Giovanni Sgambati’s 1885 piano piece Vecchio Minuetto appears (9 February 1945) in an arrangement by Arcady Debensky (1890-1966). A stylized court dance, it rather plods along in conventional tropes (a la Lully) that feature the first flute. Dubensky also arranged the Waltz No. 5 by Carl Maria von Weber, from his “Favorite Waltzes” Suite, recorded 8 January 1941. Pizzicato and arco passages intertwine in a gently jaunty and staggered mix, eminently sentimental. From this same session Sevitzky gives us a relatively vivacious Voices of Spring Waltz by Strauss, enhanced by bright colors, including an audible triangle. As Obert-Thorn notes, Sevitzky’s uncle Serge Koussevitzky recorded the same waltz in 1928; and, in order to accommodate the music to the limits of the 78 rpm medium, Sevitzky cuts one repeat and accelerates the final page. 

The transfer of the two Delibes ballet scores (rec. 20 March 1946; released 1949) to the LP medium (on RCA LM 1032) involved the inaccurate attribution of the “Czardas” from Coppélia to the opening of the Sylvia suite, hereby corrected. The opening of the five-movement Coppélia suite from 1870, the so-called “Slave Variations,” demonstrates a good deal of versatility from the Indianapolis string section. The story, taken from E.T.A. Hoffmann, serves as a comical grotesquerie, since man forms a destructive infatuation with a mechanical doll. The Danse des automates et Valse captures the whimsical atmosphere of the obsession, and the Valse itself has a charming, naïve simplicity. The concluding “Czardas” has a hefty, Hungarian energy whose structure doubtless influenced Tchaikovsky’s notion of how such music should proceed. 

Delibes’ 1876 “Arcadian” ballet Sylvia, subtitled as a “nymph of Diana,” has the protagonist strike down a shepherd, Aminta, with an arrow. The four excerpts presented by Sevitzky resonate with a haughty, inflated grandeur that, frankly, rescued the banal plot from obscurity. The opening Prelude and the Huntresses enjoys a muscularity that Wagner would copy and exceed. The Intermezzo et Valse lente sounds like lukewarm Massenet. Pizzicati is effective, but the Strauss family does it better. The final scene involves a grand march in honor of Bacchus, happily taken at an exhilarated tempo to avoid its close proximity to Gounod in predictable colors. RCA withdrew these Delibes readings by Sevitzky, replacing them with the same coupling performed by Pierre Monteux and the Boston Symphony.  

Aram Khactaturian created his Masquerade ballet in 1942 after a play by Lermentov for performance in Moscow. The Nazi invasion curtailed the premiere performances, even destroying sets and personnel. Khachaturian excerpted five sections in 1944 for concert uses, led both by him in the Soviet Union and by Stokowski and Efrem Kurtz, in America. The Capitol recording by Sevitzky (22-23 January 1953) stands high amidst his often obscure discography, which Obert-Thorn has done much to rectify for collectors. The famous selections, the Waltz (for Nina) and Nocturne, enjoy a sinuous melodic line enhanced by fine ensemble playing in strings and woodwinds.  Crisp coloration in the Mazurka and final, antic Galop gives them a healthy, compelling life. The penultimate piece, the Noctrurne, emanates that exotic sensuality the composer’s Armenian background accesses at will

—Gary Lemco 

Fabien Sevitzky Indianapolis Symphony Vol. 6 =

KREISLER: Praeludium and Allegro;
SGAMBATI: Vecchio Minuetto;
WEBER: Waltz No. 5;
J. STRAUSS II: Voices of Spring Waltz, Op. 410;
DELIBES: Coppélia – Suite; Sylvia – Suite;
KHACHATURIAN: Masquerade – Suite

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Album Cover for Sevitzky Vol 6