Bonynge: Tchaikovsky - Swan Lake (2 CD, APE)
Bonynge: Tchaikovsky - Swan Lake (2 CD, APE)

Composer: P’iotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky
Orchestra: National Philharmonic Orchestra
Conductor: Richard Bonynge
Audio CD
Number of Discs: 2
Format: APE (image+cue)
Label: Decca
Size: 720 MB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: yes

01. Introduction
02. No.1 Scene (Allegro Giusto)
03. No.2 Valse (Corps De Ballet)
04. No.3 Scene (Allegro Moderato)
05. No.4a Pas De Trois: Intrada (Allegro)
06. No.4b Pas De Trois: Andante Sostenuto
07. No.4c Pas De Trois: Allegro Semplice
08. No.4d Pas De Trois: Moderato
09. No.4e Pas De Trois: Allegro
10. No.4f Pas De Trois: Coda (Allegro Vivace)
11. No.5a Pas De Deux: Intrada – Valse
12. No.5b Pas De Deux: Andante
13. No.5c Pas De Deux: Valse
14. No.5d Pas De Deux: Coda (Allegro Molto Vivace)
15. No.6 Pas D’action (Andantino Quasi Moderato – Allegro)
16. No.7 Sujet
17. No.8 Danse Des Coupes (Tempo Di Polacca)
18. No.9 Finale (Andante)
19. No.10 Scene (Moderato)
20. No.11 Scene (Allegro Moderato)
21. No.12 Scene (Allegro)
22. No.13a Danse Des Cygnes: Valse
23. No.13b Danse Des Cygnes: Odette Solo
24. No.13c Danse Des Cygnes: Valse
25. No.13d Danse Des Petits Cygnes (Allegro Moderato)
26. No.13e Danse Des Cygnes: Pas D’action: Odette Et Le Prince
27. No.13f Danse Des Cygnes: Danse GÉNÉRale (Valse)
28. No.13g Danse Des Cygnes: Coda (Allegro Vivace)
29. No.14 Scene (Moderato)
30. No.15 Danse De FanÇAilles (Allegro Giusto)
31. No.16 Danses Du Corps De Ballet Et Des Nains (Moderato Assai)
32. No.17 Scene: EntrÉE Des InvitÉS (Fanfares) Et La Valse (Allegro)
33. No.18 Scene (Allegro)
34. No.19 Pas De Six: Intrada (Moderato Assai) – Variations I/V – Coda
35. No.20 Danse Hongroise
36. Danse Russe (Moderato)
37. No.21 Danse Espagnole (Allegro Non Troppo. Tempo Di Bolero)
38. No.22 Danse Napolitaine
39. No.23 Mazurka
40. No.24 Scene (Allegro – Valse – Allegro Vivo)
41. No.25 Entr’acte (Moderato)
42. No.26 Scene (Allegro Non Troppo)
43. No.27 Danses Des Petits Cygnes (Moderato)
44. No.28 Scene (Allegro Agitato)
45. No.29 Scene Finale (Andante)

Excellent performance and sound, but there is a cut.

I own three other Swan Lakes which are nicely played but perhaps lacked the very last ounce of balletic grace. I decided to make Bonynge’s my fourth, and I was not disappointed. If you are acquainted with his many bel canto opera recordings with his wife, with the same NPO, you’d already know that Bonynge really knows how to make the most out of the light, bouncy, skipping rhythms in a Donizetti comic opera or in Offenbach’s “Hoffmann”. He brings that same quality of rhythmic catchiness and lilt to Tchaikovsky’s score. This is one of the best Swan Lakes on disc, Bonynge’s chosen speeds make his version far more danceable than Dutoit’s — which is more akin to a Berliozian symphonic poem. The NPO playing is breathtaking at times, and the sheer ardour of the string playing achieves the same genuinely “Tchaikovskian” timbre as normally heard from the Berlin Philharmonic strings. btw, the National Dances are particularly thrilling.
A reservation would be that Bonynge’s performance is more akin to a series of expertly characterized dance-pieces, rather than being the cogent well-structured symphonic realizations offered by Dutoit and Previn. However, Bonynge’s is exactly the kind of accompaniment you would hear if you attended a performance of Swan Lake in the theatre. In this sense, it is the most realistic and “balletic” version on CD (other than Dorati’s). The other minor reservation would be the peculiar sound of the over-enthusiastic cymbal playing. It is very prominent, resonant, and with lots of overhang. Did they hire a disgruntled cymbal-virtuoso, or was that Bonynge’s infant child standing in?
NB: The danse des coupes in Swan Lake has been cunningly abridged to free up space for the accomodation of the unnumbered Russian dance in Act III. So while all the numbers are included in this Swan Lake, making it “officially” complete, score-wise it actually isn’t. Many casual listeners will not notice this, but if you are a ballet fan looking for a single complete recording of Swan Lake, Bonynge’s version is out of contention. Performance-wise, it is 5 stars, but I withhold one for that nasty cut. The piece affected is one of the most thrilling dances in this ballet. A great pity! I’d rather Decca do what EMI did: omit a lesser number from Previn’s “Swan Lake” in order to fit it onto 2 discs; instead of this cut-and-splice job.

1 Comment

  1. Thank you , a great recording as always with Decca . And Bonynge one of the best Opera and ballet music conductors .

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