Offenbach: Gaite Parisienne (CD review)

Also, Waldteufel: Waltzes. Manuel Rosenthal; Willi Boskovsky; Monte Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra. EMI 7243 5 85066 2.

It might be the best seven or eight bucks you spent in a long time. This budget issue from EMI has the distinction of being not only authoritative but spectacularly well recorded. What more could you want for your hard-earned dollar?

In 1938 Manuel Rosenthal pieced together a little ballet from some of the most familiar bits of Jacques Offenbach’s operas La Vie pariesienne, La belle Helene, Orpheus in the Underworld, The Tales of Hoffmann, and others. Rosenthal died in 2003, just short of his 100th birthday, but in his lifetime he managed to record his Gaite Parisienne at least three times, the last one for Naxos when he was in his nineties. Anyway, the recording we have here was one the conductor/arranger made with the Monte Carlo Philharmonic in 1976 when he was a mere stripling in his seventies.

When I first came to the recording on vinyl, I was happily living with my old Fiedler RCA Living Stereo LP from the mid Fifties (now remastered by both RCA and JVC). Frankly, it took me a while to warm up to Rosenthal’s version, but because it sounded so good I gave it repeated listens and it grew on me. Unlike Fiedler, who takes the piece very briskly as a concert work and turns it into a joyously infectious occasion, Rosenthal plays his ballet as a ballet, as a work for dancers actually to negotiate. As such, it does not have the characteristic bounce and sheer adrenaline rush of Fiedler’s more lively account. But Rosenthal’s taking his time does produce some beautiful detail and refinement that is hard to resist, and by the time he comes to the climactic “Can-Cans,” he’s moving along at a pretty good clip. What’s more, his recording is still demonstration worthy, with an amazing bass drum and some incredibly quick transients.

Equally as pleasant, the disc includes four of Emile Waldteufel’s most popular waltzes--Espana, Les Patineurs, Estudiantina, and Acclamations--with Willi Boskovsky conducting the same Monte Carlo Orchestra and also recorded in 1976. If there is any small hesitation about the absolute quality of the Offenbach, there is none whatsoever about the Waldteufel. These are some of the best recordings of the four waltzes ever committed to disc, and the sound appears even better spread out (for reasons unknown) than the Offenbach. If you already have a Gaite Parisienne, that’s OK. This one will make a nice complement to it; and what do you have to lose for the paltry price of experimenting?


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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa