TCHAIKOVSKY: The Sleeping Beauty
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Antal Dorati, cond.
Philips Duo 446 166 (2 CDs) (B) TT: 78:21 & 77:30
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Antal Dorati's famous Mercury recordings of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker ballet (1962 stereo) and Swan Lake ballet (1954 mono) have been issued on CD (Mercury 432 750 and 462 950, respectively). The former is with the London Symphony, the latter with the Minneapolis Symphony. Dorati's complete Minneapolis Symphony recording of Sleeping Beauty doubtless will soon appear on silver disc, an event eagerly anticipated by followers of the Living Presence series. (NOTE: a private label has issued the Dorati/Minneapolis Sleeping Beauty - see REVIEW).
Dorati apparently was in the process of re-recording all three ballets with the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra. His superlative Nutcracker, recorded in 1975, has been issued in a Philips Duo album (442 562). Unfortunately Dorati never got around to recording Swan Lake in Amsterdam, but he did record Sleeping Beauty, recording one of the three acts a year beginning in 1979. The CD issue (Philips 420 792) took three full-priced CDs, with a total playing time of 2:45:38, a rather expensive investment for the collector, as the performance wouldn't quite fit onto two CDs and there was no filler. Philips now has issued this outstanding performance in their budget-priced Duo series, which includes a truncated version of Gerald Norris' fine notes from the original. That isn't all that is abbreviated. It would have been possible to get the entire performance onto two CDs if they had made a very awkward break between sides, so to avoid this they have eliminated the 5:15 Entr'acte from Act II. For most listeners this will be an appropriate trade for the convenience of having the rest on just 2 CDs, and at bargain price. Dorati's Sleeping Beauty is a brilliant, imaginative performance, with superb orchestral playing. Considering that the recording was made over a three-year period, miking and production are remarkably consistent, with a broad spaciousness and low- frequency impact not heard in many Concertgebouw recordings. Highly recommended, in spite of the omission of 5 minutes of the original issue.
R.E.B. (Oct. 2000)