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CD Review

Ballet Music ReDiscoveries

ReDiscovery 102
Georges Sebastian (Coppélia)
* RIAS Symphony Orchestra/Anatole Fistoulari
Paris Conservatoire Orchestra/Anatole Fistoulari
ReDiscovery RD102 74:02

This CD-R, lovingly remastered by David Gideon, preserves the contents of Remington (Delibes) and RCA (everything else) LPs from the late 1950s. The Delibes LP was later issued by Everest, and the RCA was reissued in the last decade as an LP by the audiophile Classic Records label – at not quite the correct pitch! (That problem has been corrected here.)

Sebastian conducts the music from Coppélia; the orchestra is the RIAS Symphony Orchestra. (This is the orchestra associated with the American sector of Berlin after the war.) The Budapest-born Sebastian – he Gallicized his name – was an old hand in the theater. He was the conductor for some of Maria Callas's appearances in Paris. Predictably, he is particularly persuasive in the Hungarian csárdás which ends the suite, but he conducts a classy and very dancer-friendly reading throughout. His suite is an unusual one, beginning with the "Thème slave varié," which is how most conductors bring the suite to a close.

Fistoulari made a number of excellent ballet recordings through the 1950s and 60s for Decca/London; these deserve to be reissued. His suite from Sylvia contains the most popular items. Like Sebastian, he conducts with plenty of character, but without grandstanding. The music's theatrical origins are never forgotten. In both suites, the orchestra – small, but about the right size for a pit – plays with lean clarity, and the recording is pretty good by Remington's standards, with nice stereo separation.

Fistoulari's RCA LP with the Paris Conservatoire Orchestra was called "Ballet Music from the Opera." It was a short LP (about 33 minutes) but the short sides helped to make it an audiophile's delight even in its original incarnation. Here, Fistoulari drives a little harder than in the Sylvia excerpts, and the results are exciting. The Parisians make a more brilliant impression than the objective Berliners do on the first half of the CD-R. The "Triumphal March" from Aïda never sounds quite right to me without a chorus, though.

ReDiscovery's CD-Rs come with the most minimal of "booklet" notes – actually, there is no booklet at all, just a title card – but much care has been taken with the source material, and this is a first-class reissue in every way. This will remind you that there once was a time when not all orchestras sounded alike. This disc will set you back just $15, and that includes shipping. It, and other ReDiscovery titles, may be ordered from www.rediscovery.us.

Copyright © 2005, Raymond Tuttle

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