The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (284): Unravel

The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (284): Unravel


norman lebrecht

January 11, 2021

Suite as it comes.



  • Daphnis and Chloe especially when there’are chorus singers (I think of a marvelous record of Chung with Opera de Paris from the 90’s when he was musical director there) is a pure masperpiece of the french genius and it’s always a shame in concert to don’t hear the two parts at the same concert.

    • JussiB says:

      I also like to hear choral versions of the 1812 Overture, Pachelbel Canon and Adagio for Strings.

      • Thomas Dawkins says:

        I dislike the chorus in 1812 Overture for two reasons. One is that Tchaikovsky didn’t specify it, and the other is that the first choral recording I heard had the Don Cossack choir and they must have been recorded at a different time because they were horribly flat and it just ruined it. Barber’s own “Agnus Dei” arranged from the Adagio for Strings is sublimely beautiful, though.

      • Scott says:

        And, Finlandia.

      • William Safford says:

        I’m not clear if you’re making a joke or if you’re serious.

        The first time I truly enjoyed hearing the 1812 Overture as a member of the audience, was when it was performed with a chorus. (I’ve never had the opportunity to perform it that way.)

      • Anonymous Bosch says:

        You may want to start with the 1943 edition of “Phantom of the Opera” in which you can hear Nelson Eddy sing in “Le Prince masque du Caucasus”, which is actually Tchaikovsky’s 4th to which someone has set lyrics in Russian.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    Daphnis and Chloe is beautiful music, to be sure, but couldn’t a better performance than Rattle’s be found?
    He’s got no feeling for Ravel.

  • Edgar Self says:

    Barber first arranged his quartet’s Adagio for string ensemble, maybe with re-touches by Toscanini for his performances and recording. Toscanini played it as the only American work on a South American tour with the NBCSO. Barber later arranged it for voices as Agnus Dei”. “Adagio for Strings” has alwaysstruck me as being as close to Corelli as a modern composer could get, and I hoped Barber would write something else like it, but he never did as far as I know.

    Johann Pachelbel wrote his “Dreistimmiger Kanon mit Grundbass” and the accompanying Gigue for organ. I’ve never heard it that way. There was a 1940s BIEM 78-rpm rcording by Hermann Diener and his Berlin Collegium Musicum, pure and sweet, using just three violins and basso continuo with harpsichord. Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt played it, twice. with the Chicago Symphony strings on a program in the 1960s, starting over after the first ending. No voices. That, and Hermann Diener’s version, which may have been a first recording, was long before its great popularity.

    • David K. Nelson says:

      Arthur Fiedler recorded the Taco Bell Canon, pardon me, the Pachelbel Canon, but not with the Boston Pops, but the Fiedler Sinfonietta, on 78 rpm. Someone told me it was the first recording but you (Edgar) mention a German recording I was not aware of which may be prior to Fiedler. The first time I heard the recording (Jean-François Paillard’s) I thought it was magical. When I heard Paillard and his excellent chamber orchestra in concert it was played as an encore and the look of martyrdom on the faces of the musicians told me all I needed to know. It is a piece I have played at far too many weddings to enjoy any longer (including where I had to play the violin 3 part on viola because we were otherwise a string quartet).

      An outdoor wedding where yellow jackets were crawling on our faces and inner surface of my glasses lenses comes particularly to mind. I believe the bride’s mother was stung during the service. The high pitched shriek she let out could have shattered glass, a sound usually reserved for Jewish wedding services.

      If memory serves the first recording of the 1812 Overture with chorus was on RCA Victor with Igor Buketoff (an American-born musician, by the way, but with personal connections with Rachmaninoff) conducting; it also includes band, artillery and real Russian church bells. Heh – I remember that a lot of “stereo stores” sold a lot of stereos using that LP, even playing it for people who hated classical music. That was back when hearing the sound of gunfire from a shopping mall store didn’t automatically result in the police being called in.

      On the general topic of an unexpected chorus, most performances of the Daphnis et Chloé suites omit the chorus and I myself think I have heard them with chorus just once, in concert. I have no idea what most ballet companies do.

      Quiz time – name another very popular French piece which almost always omits the chorus?

      That’s right, the evergreen Méditation from Thaïs. The chorus was specified by Massenet both for operatic and concert performances; most performances and recordings however not only omit it but involve the changes to the violin part from the edition of Martin Marsick for violin and piano, which often involves little alterations to the orchestra part as well. I remember being surprised while doing reviewing listening to hear the chorus in the recording by Yan Pascal Tortellier on Chandos. I think it adds to the effect of the piece.

      And mopping up on the matter of adding voices where none was asked for, I have also always liked Leopold Stokowski’s early hi-fi recording of the Russian Easter Overture with basso Nicola Moscona. Of course I also happen to like Stokowski’s changes and distortions to the written tempos and dynamics as well. If you cannot abide the addition of the voice, then the dy-no-mite recording with the Chicago Symphony sure gets Stokowski’s points across with gusto.

      Lastly, not being addicted to the latest advances in recorded sound, I’ve always been perfectly satisfied with the Daphnis et Chloé by Charles Munch and the Boston Symphony.

      • William Safford says:

        “Quiz time – name another very popular French piece which almost always omits the chorus?”

        At first I thought you were going to mention Nocturnes. Then again, the third movement tends to be omitted if there’s no chorus.

  • Edgar Self says:

    More things I never knew before David Nelson told us: that the “Mditation” from “Thais” has a choral part. So does Busoni’s piano concerto, but that’s another story, and not a short piece, but “Funiculi, funicula” and a lawsuit are involved. Busoni also thought “Greensleaves” was of American Indian origin.

    I expected someone to mention Debussy’s “Nocturnes”by Desire Ingelbrecht. Charles Muench would do and be very welcome.

    The Arthur Fiedler Sinfonietta may well have been the first Pachelbel Canon, I think theywere recording in the late 1920s and recall a 10” 78 with Power Biggs of Mozart’s church sonatas for organ and strings.

    Didn’t Stokowski replace an out-of-favor trombone with Moscona’s bass voice in that “Russian Easter Overture”? The union wouldn’t let him today.

    Playing Jewish weddings in up-state New York, across the Hudson, is where Robert Ford’s excellent novel “The Student Conductor” begins before moving on to Karl-Heinz Ziegler’s genius conducting class in Stuttgart by way of Juilliard when the violinist can’t stand playing weddings any more. Sorry, no yellow jackets. Verb sap.

    • Greg Bottini says:

      Hi Edgar,
      Debussy’s widow has stated that in her husband’s opinion, the only two conductors who truly understood his music were Inghelbrecht and Toscanini (who advised Debussy on brass parts in the 3rd mvmt of “La Mer”; part of the correspondence between them on the subject is on display at the museum of La Scala).
      I believe I own all of Ingelbrecht’s recordings of Debussy ever reissued on CD, and he certainly deserves the encomium. His 1962 live “Pelleas” with Granchet, Jansen, and Roux is absolutely spellbinding, and is my favorite (along with HvK’s radically different view and Desormiere’s atmospheric and beautifully sung 78 RPM wartime recording).
      I also own nearly all of Toscanini’s CD reissues of Debussy (including 7 “La Mer”s with 4 different orchestras) and he is also one with the music.
      [To other readers: if you haven’t heard Ingelbrecht or Toscanini conduct Debussy, “you ain’t heard nothin’ yet”.]
      That “Russian Easter Overture” you mention with Moscona was, if my memory isn’t failing me, made with the San Francisco Opera Orchestra back in the late 40s / early 50s (I could look it up but – what the heck, and it’s been years since I’ve dug it out and listened to it). Stokowski didn’t replace the trombonist because he didn’t like him; he wanted Moscona all the way. And as long as Moscona was a union member, I don’t think Local 6 would care either way, trombone or tromba-voice!

  • Edgar Self says:

    Good information, Greg, on Ingelbreht, Toscanini, Debussy, Moscona, and Stokowski, much of it unexpected and new to me. Everything is just o interesting!

    Stokowski’s records of ” Afternoon of a Faun” with Philadelphia and LSO are miracles. You can feel the sultry heat rising from the earth just after the side-turn on the PO record with William Kinckaid’s flute (sp?). He was from Hawaii and learned breath-control swimming.

    Jensen sang Pelleas in the first recording with Roger Desormiere in 1940 in occupied Paris, and sang a smaller role for Ingelbrecht. Elisabeth Schwarzkopf is Karajan’s Melisande in the live La Scala version you mention. Then there are Maggie Teyte and Mary Garden. Maeterlinck wanted his mistress as Melisande in the premiere, but Debussy chose Mary Garden, whom he accompanied on piano in several early records.

    • Greg Bottini says:

      Hi Edgar,
      A correction: Jansen WAS Pelleas in the 1962 Ingelbrecht recording I mentioned. There are other live Ingelbrecht performances on record which employ different Pelleases.
      The HvK recording I was referring to was his commercial EMI with Von Stade, Stilwell, and van Dam. I have not heard the live La Scala, and will remedy that dire situation soon.
      William Kincaid’s 1940 “Faune” recording with Stoki and the PO is indeed miraculous. I have it on a very nice sounding Biddulph CD. I knew about WK’s Hawaiian origin and his swimming training – with an Olympic athlete, no less!
      Stoki’s 1972 stereo recording of “Faune” with the LSO is also superb, and very passionate, even though it is more languid (at 11:47, it’s almost a full minute longer than the 10:48 1940). SHAMEFULLY the gorgeous flutist in that performance is not named on the CD issue I possess, London Jubilee 417-779-2. It is billed as a live performance from June 14, 1972, but I remember reading somewhere that it is a pastiche of two or more live performances. (Do you happen to know who the LSO’s flutist is, Edgar?)
      Compare both to Toscanini’s 1951 NBC broadcast with flutist Arthur Lora at 8:54 or Inghelbrecht’s 1962 broadcast with the Orchestre National – again the flutist goes unnamed – at 9:36!
      The reissue of the 1941 Desormiere “Pelleas” that I have (EMI CHS 7-61038-2) also contains all 4 songs that Garden recorded with Debussy in 1904 under the auspices of – who else – Fred Gaisberg (they were Debussy’s only sound recordings; he also made a number of piano rolls) and a great selection of 14 songs sung by Teyte in 1936, with Cortot accompanying. Heavenly!

  • Edgar Self says:

    Greg –More good comments. I do not know the name of LSO’s solo flute in 1972. It may have been Gareth Davies. Decca issued an LP in 1972 called “The Art of the Flute”, but maddeningly I can’t find the name of the flutist, who is probably the one you want. Gareth Morris is another name that occurs, but I’m unsure of either. I’ll bet some UK contributors know.