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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Léo Delibes - Sylvia; Lakmé; Le roi s'amuse; Coppélia (Carl Davis)


Composer: Léo Delibes
  1. Sylvia, ballet suite: 1. Prelude & "Les Chasseresses"
  2. Sylvia, ballet suite: 2. Intermezzo & Valse lente
  3. Sylvia, ballet suite: 3. Pizzicati
  4. Sylvia, ballet suite: 4. Cortège de Bacchus
  5. Lakmé, opera: Act I. "The Flower Duet"
  6. Lakmé, opera: Act II. "Bell Song"
  7. Le roi s'amuse, 7 dances: 1. Gaillarde
  8. Le roi s'amuse, 7 dances: 2. Pavane. "Belle qui tiens ma vie"
  9. Le roi s'amuse, 7 dances: 5. Madrigal
  10. Le roi s'amuse, 7 dances: 6. Passepied
  11. Coppélia, ballet: Prélude & Mazurka
  12. Coppélia, ballet: Festival of the Clock & Dance of the Hours
  13. Coppélia, ballet: Notturno
  14. Coppélia, ballet: Music of the Dolls & Waltz
  15. Coppélia, ballet: Czardas

Christine Cairns, mezzo-soprano (5)
Lillian Watson, soprano (5, 6)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Carl Davis, conductor

Date: 1996
Label: Royal Philharmonic Masterworks



If this collection had been issued on LP in, say, 1975, it probably would have been titled Delibes’s Greatest Hits , for it contains the usual highlights from his ballets Coppélia and Sylvia and the two most famous numbers from the opera Lakmé . As a bonus, we get two-thirds of the music Delibes composed for a performance of Victor Hugo’s play Le Roi s’amuse , which also served as the source for Piave’s libretto for Verdi’s Rigoletto . There’s a blurb on the back of the jewel box that gushes, “Prepare yourself to experience music-making of the highest level, beautifully recorded with superb engineering and performed with a rarely heard abandon that will excite and thrill you over and over again. 20 bit digital recording, edited and mastered via 32 bit digital sound processing. Recorded in high definition and playable on all CD players.” Really asking for it, aren’t they? To my amazement, I am delighted by the performances, and the company wasn’t kidding about the sound, either. Carl Davis, a native of New York but a resident of London, seems to have a flair for dance music, for he paces the ballet pieces judiciously without ever sounding as if he is merely dispatching an assignment or trying to blow us away. I’d be interested in hearing what he would do with the rest of Coppélia and Sylvia , especially with such vivid sound and excellent playing. Lillian Watson and Christine Cairns offer a sweet, melting “Flower Duet” and Watson sails through the “Bell Song” with flying colors throwing in some extra vocal acrobatics along the way. There was room for all six pieces that make up Delibes’s incidental music for Le Roi s’amuse but Davis skips the “Scène du bouquet” and “Lesquercarde.” Written “in olden style,” the pieces are paced for dancing but he does rush the Gaillarde a bit. Beecham’s recording includes a brief finale that is a rehash of the Gaillarde. Davis’s conducting yields little to Beecham’s here, and throughout the CD, the orchestra is a vivid presence. I recommend the complete ballets and the opera but, if you’re willing to settle for the “hits,” I doubt that you can do any better.

-- James Miller, FANFARE

More reviews:


Léo Delibes (21 February 1836 – 16 January 1891) was a French composer of the Romantic era, who specialised in ballets, operas, and other works for the stage. His most notable works include ballets Coppélia (1870) and Sylvia (1876) as well as the operas Le roi l'a dit (1873) and Lakmé (1883). Delibes studied composition at the Paris Conservatoire as a student of Adolphe Adam. It has been suggested that Delibes also wrote the ballet music for Gounod's Faust which had been inserted ten years after the original performance of the opera.


Carl Davis (born October 28, 1936 in New York City) is an American-born conductor and composer who has made his home in the United Kingdom since 1961. He has written music for more than 100 television programmes, but is best known for creating music to accompany silent films. He also collaborated with Paul McCartney in the creation of the Liverpool Oratorio.


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