Bolero - Orchestral Fireworks

Characterful but refined performances of old favourites and lesser-known works, among them a very persuasive version of Klemperer’s ‘Merry Waltz’

Author: 
Ivan March

Bolero - Orchestral Fireworks

  • Colas Breugnon, Overture
  • Through the looking glass, Looking Glass Insects
  • (The) Tale of Tsar Saltan, Flight of the bumble-bee
  • (Les) Préludes
  • (21) Hungarian Dances, F (orch Brahms)
  • Hora Staccato
  • (16) Slavonic Dances, No. 2 in E minor
  • Praeludium
  • (La) Damnation de Faust, ~, Ballet des Sylphes
  • (Das) Ziel, Merry Waltz
  • Habanera
  • Boléro

Eiji Oue became the maestro of Minneapolis Orchestra in 1995, and they play impressively under their new conductor. One is reminded a little of Ozawa at Boston, for there is an element of refinement underlying the virtuosity. But Oue’s readings have plenty of character. Les preludes, for instance, with its dignified opening, is a particularly fine performance, understating the music’s vulgarity and making the most of its pastoralism, while the closing pages generate much adrenalin, and the final peroration is really compelling. The slightly bass-heavy recording adds to the weight of the piece. The Brahms and dances Dvorak dances bring an engaging Slavonic warmth and are most stylishly turned, while Chabrier’s Habanera is delicately seductive.
The Deems Taylor scherzo was unknown to me. Reminiscent of early Stravinsky (the Firebird in particular), it is vividly colourful in its own right. Hora Staccato and Rimsky’s ‘Bumblebee’ are both played with an infectiously light touch, the orchestral virtuosity not overstated, while it is good to welcome the charming Jarnefelt Praeludium, famous in the days of 78s – for it just fitted on a 12-inch side. But the surprise is the Klemperer waltz, turned into a real lollipop, and much more persuasive than the conductor/composer’s own version (HMV, 6/85R). Bolero is very well played (the opening woodwind solos are elegant), though it is also rather relaxed, until the tension suddenly increases with a burst of energy at the close. The recording is spacious and full, with a warm pleasing string quality, but the bass is at times a trifle over-resonant.'

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