Delibes Coppelia and Sylvia
Not having previously heard any Mercury CDs, I found that even the enthusiastic comments of fellow-reviewers had left me unprepared for the quality of sound heard in this reissue. It really is astonishing that, in a recording almost 35 years old, brass and percussion can burst forth with such vividness, or that instrumental detail can be so clear and faithful as they are here in Sylvia (Coppelia is not quite of the same standard). When one reflects that 35 years before the date of these recordings we would have been back in the acoustic era, it is quite unbelievable that a recording of such an age can sound so freshly minted.
Nor, of course, do the attractions by any means stop at the quality of recorded sound. These always were highly regarded performances of two of the most attractively tuneful ballets ever composed. Coppelia may be that bit better known, that bit more consistently inventive and tuneful than its successor, but both repay hearing in full. Moreover, both conductors here had a great deal of experience in, and feeling for, the ballet style and this is immediately evident in their handling of the scores. Both extract playing that is for the most part gracious and brilliant in turn, if just occasionally lacking the final degree of finesse. The alto saxophone solo in the Act 3 barcarolle of Sylvia, for example, is unimpressively characterized. On the other hand, in such passages as Fistoulari's vigorous ''Les Chasseresses'' or Dorati's ''Musique des Automates'' one can scarcely fail to be won over.
It is only fair to warn anyone who fancies this particular coupling and who does not consider completeness essential that lengthy excerpts from the two ballets, excellently played by the Paris Opera Orchestra under Jean-Baptiste Mari, are available on a bargain EMI Rouge-et-Noir two-disc set ((CD) CZS7 67208-2). It is fair also to mention that this recording of Sylvia is itself not absolutely complete, since it lacks the ''Pas des esclaves'' and ''Variation-Valse'' from the Act 3 ''Divertissement''. On its own terms though, the reissue represents a most compelling offering.'