This 35 disc set is jam packed with thrilling, beautiful - and superbly recorded - music.
Tchaikovsky's "Big Three" are very well represented here. Dutoit's lushly lyrical and dramatic "Swan Lake", Bonynge's affectionate and inspired "Sleeping Beauty" (listen out for grumpy Carabosse's distant thunder rumbling in the Act II Symphonic Entr'acte!) and a version of "The Nutcracker" - Bychkov and the Berlin Philharmonic, which is brilliant, full of character and sparkle.
Glorious music brilliantly played and vividly recorded, this recording of suites from three of Jean-Philippe Rameau's operas by Roy Goodman and the European Union Baroque Orchestra is as fine a disc of French Baroque orchestral music as has ever been issued. The wit and élan that Goodman and his Orchestra bring to Rameau is infectious. The listener finds himself smiling at Pigmalion's Les différence caractéres de la danse and laughing at Platée's Air pour des fous gais et de fous trietes.
This program brings together première recordings of Francis Poulenc’s own piano versions of his ‘ballet of atmosphere’ Les Biches and ‘choreographic concerto’ Aubade, as well as the first digital recording of the suite from Les Animaux modèles, inspired by the fables of La Fontaine and compiled by Grant Johannesen with the composer’s agreement. ‘Piano scores’ are an essential part of rehearsing and choreographing any ballet, but the piano was also indispensable to Poulenc’s compositional process. He owed his love of classical dance to years of working closely with Dyaghilev, and his music brims with subtlety, humour, genuine emotion, piquant harmonies and rhythmic lightness.
Tchaikovsky - almost alone - saw the possibilities of specially-composed music for the classical ballet, which was hugely popular in nineteenth-century Russia. His secret was to work closely with his choreographer and link music and dance routines at the outset: this proved vital to the stage action and the final success of the whole production. Swan Lake was the first, and Nutcracker the last of Tchaikovsky’s three ballet scores. Following the success of Sleeping Beauty came the request for another ballet, which eventually formed a double-bill with his opera Yolanta. Tchaikovsky agreed, unusually, that some of the Nutcracker music could be played at an orchestral concert before the ballet opened in St Petersburg. At the concert, an enthusiastic audience encored almost every number.
Most French operas from the middle of the 19-th century included ballets, as a lightweight intermezzo amidst the highly dramatic action of the opera. Jules Massenet was especially successful in the genre, and his ballet suites from his operas have surpassed the operas themselves in popularity. This CD contains the delightful and colourful suites from Le Cid,Thais and Cendrillon, evoking the atmosphere of the respective stories and fairytales of the operas.
Tchaikovsky's three classic ballets combine his remarkable gift for melody with sparkling orchestration and a real sense of theatrical magic. Herbert von Karajan and the Wiener Philharmoniker provide performances of "utmost polish and sophistication" in a recording that "can be recommended without reservations". - Gramophone