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Georges BIZET (1838-1875)
Carmen (highlights)Teresa Berganza; Plácido Domingo; Sherrill Milnes ; Ileana Cotrubas.The Ambrosian Singers and London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Claudio Abbado
Symphony No. 1 Orchestra National de France conducted by Jean Martinon L'Arlésienne Suites 1 and 2 London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Claudio Abbado
Agnus Dei José Carreras; Wiener Sängerknaben;Wiener Symphoniker conducted by Uwe Christian Harrer
Je crois entendre encore Plácido Domingo;Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Carlo Maria Giulini
"C'est toi"…"Au fond du temple saint" Gregory Cross and Gino Quilico; Orchestra Symphonique de Montréal conducted by Charles Dutoit.
DG PANORAMA 2CDs 469 121-2 [146:21]


This double album encompasses many of Bizet's most popular works. All these recordings are reissues dating back to the 1970s and early 1980s. Some are analogue to digital conversions not that this should cause any concern for the sound is universally very good.

Abbado's compulsive, well-driven Carmen dates from 1978. Domingo, although in fine ardent voice, somehow misses the expressive opportunities that Don José's plight provides and I felt that although Teresa Berganza has beautiful tone and clarity, and some sensuality, she is too careful, too studied; (a colleague described her, in this role, as an up-market Carmen). I missed the necessary fire the role demands. One critic commented that Ileana Cotrubas "is not always as sweet and steady as she can be". Maybe this new refurbishment has ironed out some quirks because I have little to complain about. Sherrill Milnes makes a fine virile matador.

Clearly there are many versions of Carmen; my preference is Beecham (with De los Angeles and Gedda) and Prêtre (Callas and Gedda again). The Maazel set on Erato is very good too, with Domingo joined by a smouldering Julia Migenes.

Martinon's reading of the delightful melodic (this work truly brims with good tunes) and sunny Symphony in C Major, is rather too hurried in the first movement; but overall it is warm and inviting enough. Again, however, I prefer other versions especially that of Beecham -- so lyrical, so full of panache.

Abbado scores highly with his readings of the two L'Arlésienne Suites. The rather rustic march of the first movement of Suite No. 1 has plenty of atmosphere and comic pomposity and the concluding Carillon is most beautifully phrased. Suite No. 2 has that sensual gypsy dance in its opening movement and the charming Menuet as well as the swaggering brilliance of its closing Farandole. Once more I cannot dismiss memories of the classic Beecham performance.

Rounding off the set there is an affecting performance of Bizet's Agnus Dei from Carreras (the opening of this piece sounds curiously like an extension of the L'Arlésienne music), and Domingo's equally impressive rendering of 'Je crois entendre encore' from Les Pêcheurs de perles. And from the same opera, CD2 ends with the well-known duet for tenor (Gregory Cross) and baritone (Gino Quilico) - "Au fond du temple saint"

Carmen: ; L'Arlésienne ;
Symphony Others

Ian Lace

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