LOPOLD STOKOWSKI TRANSCRIPTIONS
HONEGGER/IBERT: L'Aiglon(Lyric drama in five acts).
Decca has a new association with the Montreal Symphony; collectors treasure the many recordings made decades ago with Charles Dutoit on the podium. Many of these have recently been issued at super-budget price (REVIEW) Their initial release in the new series is intriguing indeed, the first complete recording of the virtually known operetta L'Aiglon which is based on Edmond Rostand's 1900 play, L'Aiglon ("The Eaglet)" (three years earlier Rostand had written Cyrano de Bergerac). Rostand's play was premiered in 1900 with Sarah Bernhardt in the title role; L'Alignon is about the life of Napoleon II, son of Emperor Napoleon I and his second wife, Empress Marie Louise.The operetta was a collaboration between Arthur Honegger, who wrote Acts II, III, and IV, and Jacques Ibert who composed Acts I and V and collaborated with Honregger on parts of Act III. The premiere was in 1937 by the Monte-Carlo Opera (they had commissioned the work), but since then it has been forgotten except for a single recording of highlights, long out-of-print. . The operetta had its North American premier in 2015, when this recording was made in the Canadian orchestra's new home, Maison symphonique de Montréal.
The operetta is about the search for identity of this fragile young man who has been "Germanized" by Austrian politics but remains loyal to France. There are five short acts: Spreading Wings, Beating Wings, Bruised Wings, Broken Wounds, and Folded Wings. It is quite beautiful, with rich Impressionistic textures, but it is easy to understand its neglect. Surely this performance by a French cast does all that can be done, and audio quality is state-of-the art. This is a handsome presentation with a 118-page booklet with program notes, track listings and the complete libretto. A worthy issue of an intriguing non-masterpiece!
About five years ago, Naxos issued a 5-disk set of Leopold Stokowski transcriptions with the Bournemouth Symphony directed by José Serebrier. The conductor had worked often with Stokowski and knew him well. Excellent performances, and very well recorded. Naxos is releasing these disks separately, and this latest offers several of the most famous: the Bach Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, Tchaikovsky's Solitude, and Mussorgsky's Night on Bare Mountain, and two exciting Wagner excerpts.If these interest you, get the 5-disk set, which will cost you less.
The superb period instrument group Accademia Bizantina and their conductor Ottavio Dantone have made many outstanding recordings of Baroque music. Now they are returning to Decca with this twin-disk set of four Haydn symphonies, made in Italy's Teatro Golden, Bagnacavallo in June last year. Engineering is outstanding, capturing the period instruments with resonance and warmth. CD notes point out that this is the first recording on period instruments of symphonies 79 and 81. Excellent quality here, and a reasonable price as well.
Prokofiev composed nine operas but only two are well-known, The Love for Three Oranges and War and Peace. The Story of a Real Man has a libretto by the composer and is based on the novel of the same name by Boris Polevoy; which was based on the story of pilot Alexey Maresyev. The Story of a Real Man is set during the Second World War.The plot: Alexei, a Soviet fighter pilot, is shot down in combat against the Germans and badly wounded. He is rescued and cared for by villagers from a collective farm before being transferred to a hospital, where both his legs are amputated. He is inspired by the thought of his girlfriend and the support of his fellow patients, one of whom tells him the story of a First World War ace who continued to fly after losing one of his legs. The opera ends with Alexei taking to the air again in his new plane.
This is the only recording of Prokofiev's opera apparently with some small cuts. It was made in 1961 shortly after the public premiere. Stereo sound is full, rich and well-balanced with remarkable presence. The CD booklet contains a synopsis of the story, complete track listings but, unfortunately, no photos. We are indebted to Melodiya for making this available. Prokofiev's score is quite exciting, a major work by an imoportant composer neglected until now. Highly ecommended!!Russian conductor Mark Ermler (1932 - 2002) had a wide-ranging career and was recognized as a master of Russian repertory. His performances of Boris Godunov, Prince Igor and Pique Dame are available, Prince Igor on DVD (REVIEW).
R.E.B. (April 2016)