Search - Camille Saint-Saens, Gabriel Pierne, Charles Gounod :: A Portrait of France

A Portrait of France
Camille Saint-Saens, Gabriel Pierne, Charles Gounod
A Portrait of France
Genres: World Music, Jazz, Special Interest, Classical
  •  Track Listings (9) - Disc #1


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CD Reviews

A Fine French Program In Audiophile Sound
Jeffrey Lipscomb | Sacramento, CA United States | 05/15/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Most Chesky CDs have excellent sound quality, and this one is no exception. Recorded in 1960, it features conductor Rene Leibowitz (1913-1975) in a diverse program of French works. The contents: Saint-Saens's "Danse Macabre," Pierne's "March of the Little Soldiers," Gounod's "Funeral March of a Marionette" (perhaps best-known as the theme music to "Alfred Hitchcock Presents"), En Bateau from Debussy's "Petite Suite," some ballet music from Gounod's "Faust," Debussy's "Afternoon of a Faun," the overture to Offenbach's "Orpheus in the Underworld," and Ravel's "La Valse" & "Bolero."

These are all performed with a pseudonymous French orchestra that has distinctive old-fashioned timbres (possibly the Lamoureux), except for Debussy's Faun, which was recorded with the London Festival Orchestra (probably the Royal Philharmonic disguised for contractual reasons). The latter is the only disappointment here (an uneventful reading).

Leibowitz, a student of Schoenberg, had a wide repertoire: he seemed equally at home in modern music and French bon-bons. The special highlights here: 1) this Danse Macabre is, to my ears, one of the three great stereo accounts, along with those of Paray (Mercury) and Silvestri (Disky), 2) Leibowitz was widely recognized as one of the great Offenbach conductors, and there's certainly proof positive here, 3) this Bolero is one of the great stereo accounts - Rosenthal (Ades) and Silvestri (Disky) are two others. Leibowitz logs in at 16 minutes, and the freedom he gives his ensemble's soloists and the general pacing are quite similar to Ravel's own recorded account.

This great-sounding disc is recommended to both newcomers and seasoned collectors alike."