LÉO DELIBES - Sylvia and Coppélia

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LÉO DELIBES - Sylvia (Suite) - Coppélia (Suite) - Martin West (Conductor) - San Francisco Ballet Orchestra - 030911112523 - Released: March 2012 - Reference Recordings RR125

It has literally been years, many years since I last listened to these ballet scores by Léo Delibes (1836-1891), and I had almost forgotten how jam-packed they are with engaging melodies, charming imagery and orchestral sparkle. The thrill of the hunt in Sylvia's Les Chasseresses, raised to an epic level by majestic horns. The exotic atmosphere of the Danse des Ethiopiens. And who could forget the impressive Marche et Cortège de Bacchus both festive and regal at once, rising to a feverish pitch. Glorious scoring for the brass section. The fitting use of a saxophone in the lilting Barcarole, and the charm of the ever-so-famous Pizzicato. And although Coppélia's setting and story line are much less dramatic than Sylvia's, it didn't stop Delibes from composing some of the most infectious moments in music. The Mazurka for example, just makes you want to get up and dance and actually attempt a pirouette at the end. The Valse Swanhilde easily rivals anything similar in Tchaikovsky's ballets. And the jubilant imagery of the Galop Final brings everything to a close in a splendid "coup de théâtre".

Now for this type of music to work removed from the stage, the level of playing and the quality of the recorded sound have to bring it to life. And that's exactly what we get here in this fabulous new recording captured at the George Lucas Skywalker Sound Studios by Reference Recordings, a label known for using cutting edge technology to obtain as close to natural a sound as possible. The orchestra's perfect balance of polish and punch is captured in a recording so tangible, that I'm surprised I didn't feel a strong gush of air everytime the cymbals crashed. The loudspeakers vanish and the perspective of the soundstage opens up. You can almost visualize the costumes and ballet slippers moving around the stage, and the smiles on the musicians faces as they get into the action. Plaudits to conductor Martin West for capturing the spirit of the music so well, and to the recording engineers Keith O. Johnson and Sean Royce Martin for nailing the sound of the orchestra so well. Also congrats to the people at Reference Recordings for including some background information in the notes on Victor and Marina Ledin, the producers behind this recording. When is the last time you ever had a chance to get acquainted with the too often neglected and ignored supporters and producers of classical music recordings? Probably as many years ago as when I last listened to these wonderful ballet scores.

Jean-Yves Duperron - March 2012