Bizet: L'Arlésienne Suites - Yamada

Bizet: L'Arlésienne Suites - Yamada

PentaTone Classics  PTC 5186358

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral

Bizet: L'Arlésienne Suites 1 & 2
Gounod: Faust (ballet music)
Faure: Masques et Bergamesques, Op. 112

Orchestre de la Suisse Romande
Kazuki Yamada

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DSD recording

Recorded in February 2013 at the Victoria Hall, Geneva, Switzerland, DSD 64fs

Recording producer: Job Maarse (Polyhymnia International B.V)

Balance engineer: Erdo Groot (Polyhymnia International B.V)

Recording engineer: Roger de Schot (Polyhymnia International B.V)
Reviews (1)

Review by John Miller - January 14, 2014

Three warhorses here, some of the top favourites in orchestral music. As such, there is plentiful competition. Beecham and Karajan have had classic performances of all three pieces on record since around the '60s, and these are probably the most praised and collectable. For L'Arlésienne, more recent triumphs are those of Plasson with the Toulouse Capitole Orchestra in a finely-wrought version of all the incidental music, while Marc Minkowski with Les Musiciens du Louvre's period instruments presented a freshly-thought set of the Suites interpolated with some choral excerpts.

Bizet's two suites from the incidental music to Daudet's play, L'Arlésienne, Fauré's Masques and Bergamasques extracts the "antique" orchestral music from a one-act 'divertissement comique' and Gounod's Ballet Music from his opera Faust are all examples of theatre music in the concert hall, and together they make an entertaining programme, with a wide range of colour and style.

Kazuki Yamada is a very young Principal Guest conductor of the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande (OSR), and he has boldly taken up the challenge of presenting new interpretations of such wonderful and extremely familiar music. His approach to these French classics is generally light-footed, sometimes even laid-back, but always elegant and colourful. The OSR players respond to his enthusiasm with technical precision and appropriate phrasing. Strings have a beautiful rosin-on-bow sound, while the woodwind relish their solos. Yamada builds an fine internal balance, including the harp, which makes the most of the sparkling orchestration provided by the three composers. Such a balance is reflected also in the transparent detail of the PentaTone recording.

Yet, referring back to the rivals, Beecham and Karajan often provide greater depth and expression. This is most obvious in the two Bizet suites (from a "kitchen sink" play, where Yamada makes some surprising tempo changes. Listen to the smoothness of the opening march-like Prelude of the first Suite. Look at the score, and you will see that most notes have staccato marks. Both Beecham and Minkowski execute this with a strong and detached rhythm which gives the impression of a determined and swaggering Festival opening. A little later in the Prelude, there is a passage of swirling strings repeatedly caught up in crescendos. Yamada plays this just as written, but Beecham makes a slight acceleration towards the end of each crescendo, which adds a whole new forward drive. Beecham's skilful use of such instinctive expressive tricks adds satisfying character to every bar of his readings.

However, Yamada's lightness and elegance serves the gentler, more subtle atmosphere of Masques and Bergamasques superbly, and his energy and lilting rhythmicity produces a rousing and seductive Ballet Suite from Faust, which ends the album with a pyrotechnic display of dizzying strings, booming bass drum and clashing cymbals. Thrilling!

Given a near perfect recording of the OSR in the warm ambience of the Victoria Hall, Geneva, this is a wonderfully entertaining visit to the painted faces and tutus of late nineteenth century Paris, and well worth acquiring. Certainly it has to be the best-recorded of these three warhorses. But keep your CDs of Beecham's French music at hand for an even more vibrant experience.

Copyright © 2014 John Miller and


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Comments (1)

Comment by Len White - April 6, 2016 (1 of 1)

A thoroughly enjoyable recording 10/10 SQ in stereo with great dynamics, resolution, and imaging.