Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Genres: World Music, Jazz, Pop, Classical
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Despite some jarring choices of orchestration and scanty TT,
Discophage | France | 11/30/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Re the notes (by Robert A. Simon, reproduced from the original, 1960 LP): "Morton Gould, who has seen, heard and studied Carmen for many a crowded year, holds that the orchestral score is a masterpiece in itself and that it may be enjoyed as a listening experience even by those who don't want their devotion to music disturbed by any notion that there might be a story involved. In this recording Mr. Gould presents excerpts from the Carmen score as a sequence of orchestral scenes, dances or, so to say, instrumental lyrics".
Yes, fine, in principle I agree, and anybody in love with Bizet's opera will probably, just like me, want to listen to the orchestral score as a sonic experience in itself, just like one listens to the overtures or symphonic suites `ala Stokowski" from Wagner's operas. BUT. I doubt that most listeners of this recording will approach it without prior knowledge of the complete opera. On the contrary, it is likely that it is their infatuation with Bizet's masterpiece that will prompt them to want to listen to the orchestral score "pure". And here lies what I feel is the slight problem with Morton Gould's arrangement. Back to the liner notes: Although "the Bizet orchestration has been retained as written (...), Bizet's orchestral writing has been supplemented with instrumentation (...) to project some of the melody allotted in the opera to the singers (...). The distribution of vocal lines to orchestral instruments, says Mr. Gould, has been predicated entirely on euphonious orchestral sound, and there has been no effort to indicate vocal timbre or to convert an instrument into an actor (...). The choice of any given instrument for any given music has no extra- or supra-musical implications (...). The sound was the determining element". And that precisely is the problem, because, even if Gould didn't try to equate the timbre of the chosen instrument with the timbre of the voice that it replaces, it is difficult for the listener NOT to, and blot out all that he knows about the opera when listening to Morton Gould's arrangement. For instance, the choice of (and I am playing by ear, so I may be wrong in my designation of some of the composer's choices) oboe for Carmen's voice in the Habanera (track 5) and cor anglais (I think) in Seguedilla (track 7) isn't so auspicious: they sound (to me) rather like the duck in "Peter and the Wolf" - and that's really an unfortunate association. I can better live with the choice of horn (or is it trombone?) and clarinet for the Don José-Micaela duet (6) - but only barely. Cornet (I think that's what it is) for Escamillo's Toreador song (track 10) and Carmen's tambourine song (track 11) work better, I find. And so does the horn for Don José's Flower song, the strings for Carmen's Card scene (track 15), cellos and violins for the little Carmen-Escamillo duet in Act IV (track 19), and even the trumpet for Micaela's mountain aria (track 16). The finale (tracks 19 and 20) has great dramatic impact.
Other than that, most numbers from the opera are represented and unfold in the order of the story, but I do regret the absence of the opening Soldiers' chorus "Sur la place chacun passe" and the Cigarette girls' fight before the Seguedilla ("Au secours messieurs les soldats!"). In fact, as a true lover of Carmen, I regret every orchestral bit that Gould has NOT included: the finale of Act II ("et cette chose enivrante : la liberté!" - and this dizzying thing: freedom), Don José-Escamillo's fight and Don José's threats to Carmen in Act III - all the more so as Gould's inclusions add up to a fairly scanty TT of 45:22.
Anyway, all these reservations notwithstanding, the true lover of Carmen will want to give this a try. The remastering of the original 1960 recording sounds great. And now back to the original and complete Carmen.