DUKAS:  La PÈri.  Polyeucte Overture.  L'Apprenti sorcier.
Czech Philharmonic Orch/Antonio de Almeida, cond.


RAVEL:  Rapsodie espagnole.  LALO:  Cello Concerto in D Minor.  ENESCU: Two Romanian Rhapsodies
AndrÈ Navarra, cellist/Czech Philharmonic Orch/Constantin Silvestri, cond.

SUPRAPHON ARCHIV SU 3514 (B) (ADD)  TT:  64:36

Paul Dukas (1865-1935) was one of those composers overly critical of his own music, re-writing and revising extensively, often destroying works he felt weren't up to his self-imposed standard. Dukas' work was strongly influenced by his friend Claude Debussy. In contradiction, Dukas also had  particular admiration for Wagner and the influence of both can be heard in his music. The public's introduction to Dukas was in January 1892 when his overture to Pierre Corneille's tragedy Polyeuchte was played at one of the Lamoureux Concerts. It's  highly melodic, rich in ideas and although well orchestrated, overly long (15:38) for its content.  Dukas' best-known work is the scherzo for orchestra The Sorcerer's Apprentice composed in 1897 based on Goethe's ballad of the same name and premiered that year with the composer on the podium. Almost a century later it remains one of the most endearing orchestral works of its type, immediately appealing on its own—it really didn't need Mickey Mouse in Walt Disney's Fantasia although that exposure surely brought the music to the attention of millions who might otherwise not have heard it. La PÈri is a rather short ballet written for the celebrated dancer Truhan, who danced it at the Paris premiere in April 1912. The story is about a legend of a magic flower of immortality, and of Iskander who is searching for the flower. After taking it from the hands of the sleeping PÈri, he returns it to her and she changes into sunlight. The exotic, sensuous nineteen-minute ballet is preceded by a short fanfare for brass.

These stereo recordings were made in 1973 in the Dvorak Hall of the Rudolfinum in Prague, and represent the finest in Supraphon engineering of the time. There is a wonderful sense of space, with the distinctive sound of the CPO always evident. Antonio de Almeida, who studied conducting with Serge Koussevitzky and Georg Szell and once was principal conductor of the Houston Symphony, has a clear understanding of the magic world of Dukas. Some collectors may remember his LP recordings for RCA.  His recording of Canteloube's Songs of the Auvergne with Frederica von Stade on Sony is still in the catalog.  During the last decade he recorded Glazunov, Malipiero, Sauguet and Tournemire with the Moscow Symphony Orchestra for Marco Polo, usually met with less-than-enthusiastic reviews. In Supraphon's brief bio they don't mention that the conductor died in 1997.    .

Rumanian conductor Constantin Silvestre (1913-1969) was another respected conductor of the '60s although he outraged some critics in his recording of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4 with his unusual treatment of its first movement opening. His principal position was with the Bournemouth Symphony which he improved dramatically, and he guest conducted often with leading orchestras of the world. Many of his fine EMI recordings were available in a recently deleted EMI set (68220, 2 Cds) that featured Dvorak's Eighth and Tchaikovsky's Fifth symphonies along with other works of Rimsky-Korsakov, Ravel, Elgar, Glinka and Borodin. He made many other recordings long out of the catalog including the Liszt piano concertos (with Samson FranÁois) and violin concertos of Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky (with Christian Ferras). 

Supraphon's CD offers mono recordings from 1953 (Ravel/Lalo) and 1956 (Enescu). This Rapsodie espagnole is  superbly presented with a
"Feria" more langorous than when he recorded the same music in 1959 with the Vienna Philharmonic. AndrÈ Navarra is the up-front soloist in Lalo's ingratiating concerto, and the CD ends with Enescu's Romanian Rhapsodies. This performance of the  more-familiar First is unlike any other recording, a reading of Mengbergian intensity and whimsy with strong, pointed accents. Although mono, these recordings are well-balanced with an attractive hall perspective. 

Supraphon's Archiv series has many treasures, including Paul Kletzki's Czech Philharmonic Beethoven symphony cycle  These CDs surely are worth owning.  They really should be budget rther thn mid- price. The Dukas CD has a playing time of only 48:18; the Silvestri is more generous. 

R.E.B. (Jan. 2000)