Music for the Bournonville Ballets
Two hundred years after his birth the choreographer August Bournonville ranks very firmly above the composers of his ballet scores. Mostly, of course, those composers lack other claims to fame, though symphonists Gade and Hartmann collaborated on A Folk Tale, which has been recorded previously by CPO and is likewise among the ballets included here. CPO has also recorded the ultimate Bournonville classic, La sylphide, though without the original Act 2 Pas de deux, which is included here as an appendix.
Beyond that we have previously had various recordings of the Pas de deux from Flower Festival at Genzano, as well as of Lumbye’s ‘Indian War Dance’ from Far from Denmark and the final galops he contributed to Napoli and The King’s Volunteers on Amager. Here we still get no more of Flower Festival in Genzano than that celebrated Pas de deux; but it’s good to be able to hear all three of the Lumbye pieces in the context of the complete ballet scores. Napoli, set variously in Naples and in Capri’s Blue Grotto, proves an appropriately sunny and especially attractive score, containing lively Italian dances and quoting to good effect not only the classic Neapolitan song ‘Te voglio bene assaje’ but also Don Basilio’s Slander aria from The Barber of Seville.
There are further full-length offerings (a CD each) of Le conservatoire and The Kermesse in Bruges. To these are added the one-act La ventana and various shorter items. The music is all exceedingly pretty but its merits are scarcely to be appreciated to the full separated from Bournonville’s choreography. Everything is beautifully played by a first-class orchestra under an experienced conductor, and all is superbly recorded.
EMI’s devotion in compiling a 80th birthday tribute to Sir Charles Mackerras is evidenced not only in the choice of previously issued material but also by the unearthing of a punchy El Salón México that remained unreleased only because its intended coupling (Quiet City) was never approved. Never for Mackerras, of course, was the repertoire the blindingly obvious. For him it was Delibes’s La source rather than Coppélia or Sylvia, while the 1946 overture Der Schuss von der Kanzel by Swiss composer Paul Burkhard represents a real rarity. Mackerras knew what was good, and these performances demonstrate the care he devoted to it all and the first-rate response he extracted from leading orchestras when only in his twenties and early thirties.
He has made more recent and more polished recordings of Pineapple Poll but the original June 1951 recording conveys a special frisson in letting us in, so to speak, on the birth of what has since become a classic. Elsewhere, this hugely enjoyable collection offers a cross-section of the remarkably varied repertoire the young Mackerras recorded for EMI – often taking over sessions from ailing conductors or fulfilling EMI’s contractual obligations to London orchestras. The care paid to all other aspects of production is exemplified by Michael Kennedy’s excellent note, the reproductions of original LP sleeves, photographs from Mackerras’s own collection, and the fact that both CDs last precisely 80 minutes – a charming point entirely worthy of a musician himself committed to just such inspired touches.