RICCARDO CHAILLY / LA SCALA ORCHESTRA
NOVAK: In the Tatra Mountsins, Op. 26. (1902). Lady Godiva Overture,
Opo. 41 (1907). Eternal Longing, Op. 33 (1905).
RAVEL: Antar— Incidental music after works by Rimsky-Korakov
(1910). Schéhérazde (1903).
Riccardo Chailly has had a long association with Milan, particularly with La Scala where he was appointed Music Director in 2013 with a contract that will continue until 2022. He also recently was appointed Music Director of the Lucerne Festival, a prestigious post held for many years by Claudio Abado. Chailly has an exclusive recording contract with Decca, and this latest issue is a pleasant collection of Italian opera preludes and interludes. We have the expected Puccini, Verdi and Leoncavallo, along with a vigorous account of Rossini's relatively unknown overture to La pietra del paragone. Perhaps we really don't need another recording of Dance of the Hours, but this one is spirited to say the least. Excellent, wide-range audio is another plus, and this well-filled disk is mid-price.
Bohemian-born Víteslav Novak (1870 - 1949) was considered to be a leader in the development of Czech modern music. Novak studied with Dvorák and admired Richard Strauss; Novak's music reflects this. His symphonic works are lushly orchestrated, and on this fine Naxos release we have three of them. All are important in Czech musical history, but these are unmemorable no matter how well performed. The symphonic poem In the Tatras, written in 1902, is descriptive of the magnificent Tatra mountain range between the border of Czechoslovakia and Poland. It surely is a lovely work, but the storm sequence is prosaic, very unlike music Strauss wrote for An Alpine Symphony composed about a decade later. Eternal Longing was written a few years later, and again we have rich orchestration but little of lasting interest. The third work is the concert overture Lady Godiva composed in 1907 to precede a new Prague Municipal Theatre production of Jaroslav Vrchlickyu's play. It is a robust work perhaps a bit too lengthy (15:40). Shroud you be interested in this repertory, here it is at budget price in excellent, well-recorded performances with the remarkable JoAnn Falletta and her Buffalo Orchestra. For more of Novak's major symphonic works ( Toman and the Wood Nymph / De profundis) with Libor Pesek and the BBC Philharmonic, you'll find it on on Chandos (REVIEW)
Naxos continues their Ravel series with the Lyon Orchestra conducted by Leonard Slatkin with this intriguing, if disappointing, issue, the world premiere recording of Antar. This consists of incidental music for a play taken from Rimsky-Korsakov's Antar symphony and the opera Malada . Ravel was fascinated by Russian music and exotic stories. In 1909 composed his Shéhéraxade overture for an opera that never came to be. In 1903 we wrote the song cycle Shéhéraxade, which is included on this disk. Ravel used Rimsky-Korsakov's Symphony No. 2 "Antar" as incidental music for a 4-act play by Lebancese author Chekri Ganem about the ill-fated love between Antar and his cousin Abla. The play, which is told by a single narrator, premiered January 7, 1910 at the Theatre de Monte-Carlo, and fell into oblivion. Recently it was reconstructed with a new text by Amin Maalouf, and recently it was revived in France . The rewording was made during live performances in Lyon Auditorium June 11 - 14, 2014. The song cycle was recorded in the same venue September 2-3, 2014. There are 16 tracks for Antar, and complete texts and translations are included.
This is a fascinating addition to the Ravel discography, although it contains virtually no music written by him. And it is unfortunate that the Lyon Orchestra plays the rich score so timidly—all other recordings (particularly Morton Gould's Chicago Symphony version) are superior to what is heard here. The quavery-voiced Isabelle Druet's Shérézade is no challenge for the many
other versions. Audio is distant with little dynamic range. Unfortunate!
R.E.B. (May 2017)