On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring
Summer Night on the River
Hassan – Intermezzo & Serenade
Caprice and Elegy
Irmelin – Prelude
Carnival of the Animals
Eleanor Aller (cello) [Caprice and Elegy]
Victor Aller & Harry Sukman (pianos) [Carnival of the Animals]
The Concert Arts Orchestra
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: November 2009
CD No: PRISTINE CLASSICAL
Duration: 66 minutes
This handsomely refurbished release serves admirable testimony to the versatility of the conductor, violinist and arranger Felix Slatkin (1915-1963), a musician equally at home in the film-music world, or leading the celebrated Hollywood Quartet, or working with Frank Sinatra, or conducting the classics. (Further information is available on the link below.)
The Delius part of this issue brings a welcome balance between structure and fantasy; with no lack of ardour or colour, Slatkin and his excellent players succeed in taking us into Delius’s often-magical world but always with a wholeness that avoids charges of the composer rambling. Particularly fine is the Prelude to Irmelin, a magical and sensitive performance, and the First Cuckoo arrives with rapt introspection yet with an underlying gentle dance to welcome a new season. This Delius selection includes contributions from other members of the Hollywood Quartet; violinist Paul Shure brings lean intensity to his solos in Serenade from Hassan, and cellist Eleanor Aller (Felix Slatkin’s wife) lends haunting expression to Caprice and Elegy.
The remainder of the disc is another complete LP, a well-made coupling of Saint-Saëns and Ibert. The ever-fresh Carnival of the Animals enjoys scintillating virtuosity and twinkle-in-the-eye characterisation (I don’t think I have previously smiled so much at the slow-motion ‘Can-Can’ that signals the arrival of ‘Tortoises’) and each short section is deliciously brought to life; the most famous number, ‘The Swan’, once again enjoys a particularly eloquent cello solo from Eleanor Aller. Jacques Ibert’s Divertissement, full of witty badinage, pastiche and, in the first of the six movements, a brilliant parody of a not-very-good theatre band, is given a fizzing outing (on a par with time-honoured recordings by Jean Martinon and Louis Frémaux), by turns uproarious and seductive, and rather eerie in ‘Nocturne’.
Pristine Audio’s vivid and uncontaminated re-mastering has brought these splendid recordings a new lease of life. Hopefully more examples of the artistry of Felix Slatkin will follow.