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Les Ballets Russes - Volume 9
Darius MILHAUD (1892-1974)
Le train bleu - ballet (1923) [35:57]
Domenico SCARLATTI (1685-1757) - Vincenzo TOMMASINI (1878-1950)
Les femmes de bonne humeur - suite (1917) [16:27]
Henri SAUGUET (1892-1974)
La chatte - ballet (1927) [31:23]
Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken Kaiserslauten/Robert Reimer
rec. November 2011 (Milhaud), January 2012 (Tommasini) and November 2012 (Sauguet)
HÄNSSLER CLASSIC CD 93.296 [74:01]

This extensive series has already visited the major Diaghilev and Ballets Russes commissions, or adaptations for their stage, and presented the most obvious examples - Le Sacre, Daphnis, Jeux, Prélude à l’après, Rossignol, Pulcinella and numerous others. As we reach volume 9 the music becomes somewhat less self-evident: Milhaud’s Le train bleu, Sauguet’s La chatte and, the most well-known of the trio, Tommasini’s delightful Good-humoured Ladies, based on Scarlatti keyboard sonatas.
Those anticipating Latin Americana or Jazz from Milhaud’s 1923 ballet score will be in for a disappointment. This is the composer in his most unashamedly relaxed mode. He completed the score of the Blue Train - the famous luxury train that ran from Paris to the Côte d’Azur - in just one month. At times Milhaud courts the world of operetta in his little sketch scenes. Much is playful and also wittily orchestrated, not least the thinning chamber sonorities he conjures up for the eighth scene. Dapper, sometimes cocksure - as suits the choreography - this is an unaffected, undemanding score. I’d have had little idea it was by Milhaud; only some of the trumpet and percussion writing in the second scene, the Entrée de Perlouse gives some clues.
Tommasini’s The Good Humoured Ladies adapts those Scarlatti keyboard sonatas with dexterity and charming, apposite qualities. Tommasini wasn’t ashamed to orchestrate with a degree of ebullience and also to imbue the music with warm string textures. His short ballet score only lasts sixteen minutes or so, but ends on a high with a vibrant Presto keyboard adaptation.
Henri Sauguet’s La chatte is a ballet score dating from 1927. In an overture and seven scenes it charts the somewhat fey fortunes of a young man, a young woman and a cat. Metamorphosis, Greek-style, is the name of the game and Love is the aim. The young Sauguet provides elegant, undemonstrative music, having the confidence lightly to texture and characterise some scenes. Again, it’s hardly earth-shaking stuff but is very competently written.
Conductor Robert Reimer directs well and there’s sufficient orchestral energy and colour on display to keep admirers of the composers happy.
Jonathan Woolf