Delibes: Ballet Suites - Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Neeme Järvi
Chandos CHSA 5257
Classical - Orchestral
Delibes: Suite from 'Sylvia, ou La Nymphe de Diane' (1876), Suite from 'La Source, ou Naïla' (1866), Suite from 'Cappélia, ou La Fille aux yeux d'émail' (1870)
Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Neeme Järvi (conductor)
Born into a musical family, Delibes enrolled at the Paris Conservatoire aged twelve, studying under several professors including Adolphe Adam. He spent the 1850s and early 1860s composing light operettas and working as a church organist, before achieving public recognition for his music for the ballet La Source in 1866. His later ballets Coppélia and Sylvia were key works in the development of modern ballet, giving the music much greater importance than was previously the case. Typical of the period, the plots for these ballets are obscure, convoluted, and complex, but it’s certainly Delibes’s talent for lyrical melody and musical expression of a mood or feeling that elevates all three of these scores above their contemporaries – indeed Coppélia went on to become the most frequently performed ballet at the Paris Opéra. Delibes was at the forefront of creating orchestral suites from his ballet music (much to the envy of Tchaikovsky, among others), and thus were indeed envisaged to be performed without staging or dancers. On this album Neeme Järvi adds several additional movements to expand upon the suites which appeared in Delibes’s lifetime.
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Producer: Brian Pidgeon
Engineer: Ralph Couzens
Engineer assistants: Alex James & Jonathan Cooper
Review by Graham Williams - October 23, 2020
This is a beautifully recorded and generously filled SACD of captivating music that, even in this difficult time of the Covid Pandemic and lock-downs, will be sure to lift anyone’s spirits.
The veteran Neeme Järvi is no stranger to conducting music written for the ballet as his extensive discography confirms. In addition to his Tchaikovsky trilogy (‘Swan Lake’ Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake - Järvi , ‘The Sleeping Beauty’ Tchaikovsky: The Sleeping Beauty - Järvi and the ‘Nutcracker’ Tchaikovsky: Complete Ballets - Järvi) , he has explored lesser known ballets by composers that include Shostakovich, Khachaturian, Stravinsky, Massenet, Richard Strauss and many more.
In this new release Järvi returns to France and this time the music of Leo Delibes (1836-1891), a composer often called the father of modern ballet, with suites from two of his most famous works for the genre – ‘Coppélia’ and ‘Sylvia’ – and a suite from an earlier and rather lesser known one – ‘La Source’. Both ‘Coppélia’ and ‘Sylvia’ when played complete each last around 100 minutes – too long for a single disc and rather short measure for two discs without fill-ups. So, while completists might want more, the suites, compiled by Neeme Järvi and recorded here, that arguably contain the most memorable music from these three ballets are an admirable solution, providing for the listener almost 83 minutes of unalloyed pleasure on a single SACD.
The conductor’s suite from ‘Sylvia’ that opens the selection uses music from Acts I and III of the ballet and follows the numbers in the score with one exception; the ‘Marche et Cortège de Bacchus’ is moved from the start of the Act to the end in order to bring the suite to a rousing and satisfying conclusion. The selection from ‘La Source’, that follows, uses music solely from the work’s second act and includes the beguiling ‘Valse de Naïla’ originally written as an addition to Adolphe Adam's ballet ‘Le Corsaire’ and subsequently used in a revival of the Delibes/Minkus ballet ‘La source, ou Naila’of 1866. The disc concludes with a substantial half hour selection extracted from all three acts of ‘Coppélia’
Neeme Jarvi’s has sometimes been criticised for adopting tempi that drives the music he is conducting too hard, but these performances find him in an attractively avuncular frame of mind. His pacing of these pieces is lively, but never rushed, and is delivered with a light and affectionate touch fully attuned to the exuberance and sophisticated elegance of these scores. The Royal Scottish National Orchestra respond with splendidly alert and deliciously pointed playing throughout. Fine performances from individual members of the orchestra abound, notably the lyrical warmth of the leader Sharon Roffman’s violin solo in ‘Sylvia’ (tr. 5) and the sensitive clarinet of Josef Pacewicz in the Thème slave varié from ‘Coppélia’(tr. 24), while Katherine Bryan’s entrancing flute playing is a constant delight.
The recordings in typically exemplary sound quality, were made in the Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow (4th and 5th November 2019) by the familiar Chandos team of Ralph Couzens (Sound engineer) and Brian Pidgeon (Recording producer). From the photographs of the recording sessions reproduced in the liner notes it is clear that the warm relationship between the RSNO and their former Principal Conductor is still strong and is certainly confirmed by the quality of the music making on this disc.
If this programme appeals (and why wouldn’t it?) do not hesitate.
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