OFFENBACH:  Bluebeard Ballet Suite.  Helen of Troy Ballet  Suite. MEYERBEER:  Les Patineurs Ballet Suite
Ballet Theatre Orch/Joseph Levine, cond.

EMI Classics 67100 (M) (ADD)  TT:  70:31 

(THIS CD HAS BEEN DISCONTINUED)

Another welcome release in EMI's commendable  Full Dimensional Sound recordings dating from just before the advent of stereo.  The Offenbach scores were recorded in  New York's Riverside Plaza Hotel in June 1954, the Meyerbeer in April/May 1956;  it's surprising that the latter wasn't recorded in stereo as it is just at that time that RCA began its historic series of Reiner/Chicago Symphony recordings.  However, the  mono sound is quite satisfactory, if cavernous,  big-scale and vibrant, in these superb remasterings.  

Bluebeard was premiered by Ballet Theatre October 27, 1941 in Mexico City; Helen of Troy had its premiere November 29, 1949 in Detroit.  Offenbach's Bluebeard is eons removed from Bartok's treatment of the same subject.  Antal Dorati, one of the most under-rated conductors of his era, adapted music of Jacques Offenbach for both Bluebeard and Helen.   Accompanying notes with this CD give a detailed account of the scenario  for both Offenbach ballets but, unfortunately, do not identify sources Dorati used. You will hear many familiar tunes in these frothy ballets; both  must have been visual as well as musical delights. Performances are sprightly, played with panache.  Meyerbeer's familiar  Les Patineurs is an appropriate filler.

Those interested in music of Offenbach  also may wish to investigate a recent reissue on Omega Classics called Offenbachiana originally released in 1967, with the Radio Lyrique Orchestra of the R.T.F. directed by Marcel Cariven featuring solo violinist André Aubigny (Omega OCD 1034).  This is an absolutely enchanting collection of music of this composer, delectably played and superbly recorded, with wide-range, natural analog stereo sound.  Total playing time is but 50:02,  however, this is a mid-priced CD,  well worth acquiring  for those who enjoy this repertory.

R.E.B. 

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