Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake; The Nutcracker

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"According to legend, Anatole Fistoulari (1907-1995), conducted an orchestra for the first time at the age of seven. Having moved to France in his twenties, he escaped to England after the fall of France in 1939 and based the rest of his career in the UK as a ballet specialist who became something of a house conductor for Decca, especially in Russian repertoire: a safe pair of hands but also more than that as this beautifully pointed version of Swan Lake reveals.

Fistoulari returned to Swan Lake for Decca on two separate occasions,with the Concertgebouw in highlights (reissued on Eloquence 442 9032) and then in 1973 with the Netherlands Radio PO in Decca's 'Phase 4' phase. However, deriving from Kingsway Hall sessions in January 1952, the attractions of this first version are considerable, not least the violin solos by Alfredo Campoli who had been brought in at the insistence of the producer, John Culshaw, as a late replacement for the LSO's leader of the day, George Stratton. A version of the complete ballet is used, abridged by Riccardo Drigo for the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg. Condensed to under 90 minutes, this edition is more familiar than Tchaikovsky's original score to many ballet-goers even now.

Thus there is room on this 2-CD set for another reissue of a complete Decca LP, excerpts from The Nutcracker recorded with the Paris Conservatoire Orchestra in June 1951. Fistoulari included not only the familiar 'First' Suite but a Second Suite of his own confection, featuring more music from the First Act such as the 'Waltz of the Snowflakes' as well as the 'Spanish Dance' from the Second-Act divertissement and the sublime 'Final Waltz and Apotheosis'."