La Mer. Salut Printemps.
Marche Écossaise. Invocation. Jeux
Manuel Rosenthal, cond; Paris Op O; RTF Chorus
PRAGA 350072 (79:05)
Having passed the magic 50 year mark a couple of years ago, these recordings are now, apparently, fair game for anyone who chooses to reissue them and, in fact, Praga isn’t the only label on which they now appear—Adès has reissued them on a double CD set with the
for Orchestra and the
Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune
also appears on a label named Élin in a collection called “Modern Classics.” Probably best known for his flashy arrangements of Offenbach’s music, which resulted in the
ballet score, Manuel Rosenthal was also a busy composer and conductor and even headed the Seattle Symphony Orchestra from 1948 to 1951 until it was discovered that he was passing off his mistress as his wife (he was still married). I assume that the decision to reissue these recordings, which originally appeared on an LP around 1959 or 1960, was based on Rosenthal’s reputation because here in 2013, they are uncompetitive—in fact, the
and Nocturnes would have been uncompetitive with the best
recordings (say, Ansermet, Cantelli, Inghelbrecht, Karajan, Leinsdorf, Mitropoulos, Monteux, Toscanini) back in 1960. What Praga has done here is to take the contents of a single Adès CD that appeared sometime in the 1980s (with French-only annotations) and add
to it. They’ve also juggled the sequence a bit. I am untroubled by the bright sonority of the orchestra and the way Rosenthal moves things along, but he has received little help from the technical staff—much of the detail we are accustomed to hearing, which, in effect, ties
together, simply isn’t there much of the time. He omits the third movement’s fanfares. He doesn’t linger over the Nocturnes, either and many French conductors do prefer to dispatch them at similar speeds. What yields a nice, lively “Fêtes” deprives “Nuages” of its atmosphere and “Sirènes” of its seductiveness.
is just fine but it’s far from the only good one out there. For me, the reason (excuse?) for retaining this CD is the presence of three charming early works, the snappy
and the even earlier
for women’s chorus and
sung by the men. Here, Rosenthal’s performances would be worthy of any competition.