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Raymond Paige’s Classical Spice Shelf Georges BIZET (1838-1875)
Carmen: Aragonaise (1875) [2:24]; Carmen: Habanera (1875) [2:14] Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Hungarian Dances: No.7 in A Major [2:17] Grigoras DINICU (1889-1949)
Hora Staccato (1906) arr. Jascha Heifetz [2:07] Nikolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
Scheherazade - Symphonic Suite, Op. 35: The Prince and the Young Princess (1888) [4:22] Antonin DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Slavonic Dances, Op. 72: No. 2 in E Minor (1886) [5:28] Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Waltzes, Op. 64 (transcribed for Orchestra): No.1 in D-flat Major ("Minute Waltz") [2:07] Hector BERLIOZ (1803-1869)
The Damnation of Faust: Marche Hongroise ("Rakoczy March"), Op.24 (1845-46) [5:02] Nikolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV The Tale of the Tsar Saltan: Flight of the Bumble Bee (1900) [1:27] Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
The Age of Gold, ballet, Op. 22: Polka (1927-30) [2:39] Modest MUSSORGSKY (1839-1881)
The Fair at Sorochinsk: Gopak (1913) [1:42] Aram KHACHATURIAN (1903-1978)
Gayane: Sabre Dance (1942 rev. 1952 and 1957) [2:32] Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
The Maid With The Flaxen Hair [3:03] Jacques OFFENBACH (1819-1880)
La Vie Parisienne (1866): Medley arr. Antal Dorati [3:44]
The Stadium Symphony Orchestra of New York/Raymond Paige
rec. October 1958, Manhattan Center, NYC EVEREST SDBR 3027 [42:01]
For those intrigued by Raymond Paige and his numerous light-classical LPs this is a perfect opportunity to acquaint oneself with his Classical Spice Shelf, a potpourri or confection of sweetmeats served up by the Stadium Symphony Orchestra of New York, also known as moonlighting members of the New York Philharmonic. What manner of riches could be contained in the fourteen-track Everest LP, transferred to silver disc?
Paige was long associated with the symphony orchestra of Radio City Music Hall so tended to be written off as a bit of a vaudevillian, but he had been Klemperer’s associate at the Los Angeles Philharmonic pre-war, and a well-regarded conductor at the prestigious Hollywood film studios too. There’s a hint in the booklet notes that he was using these LPs to manoeuvre himself back into the symphonic field – though if that’s true he chose a very odd route, given the repertoire. He did however pioneer the performance of popular music in arrangements for big symphonic orchestras. He also championed an ‘electronic vibrator’, for which innovation posterity congratulates him. It was, in fact, a kind of echo chamber.
Recorded in Everest-sized brightness, with close up percussion and no occluded instrumentation the selection reflects Paige’s clearly larger-than-life ambitions. His Bizet has oodles of panache and introduces a selection that is strong on high-calorific colour. His Brahms is zesty. The Dinicu, heard in Heifetz’s arrangement is pumped up, Schwarzenegger-like, and has – if one is unsympathetic – just a soupçon of the Firehouse Five about it. Not inappropriate really as they were on the west coast in the studios and crept out at night to jazz it up. I wish, in passing, that some intrepid fiddle player would go and listen to Dinicu’s own performance of his Hora staccato in preference to Heifetz’s delightful but somewhat concert-sleek version.
You would expect the Rimsky to be richly voiced, and the Dvořák Slavonic Dance to sound just a bit excessive: correct on both counts. The performance of Chopin’s Minute Waltz may put one in mind of the refined understatement of André Rieu. Everest’s terrific spatial sound is tested in Berlioz’s Rakoczy March – and proves superbly resilient, the forward winds, brass and percussion serving up a five-minute mini-sonic spectacular. The Russian selection is predictable though welcomingly vibrant – Bumble Bee, Sabre Dance, Gopak – and whilst the Girl with the Flaxen Hair seems to have grown up in Burbank (and never to have heard of Jacques Thibaud) one can forgive this piece of perfumed film transformation. Antal Dorati’s arrangement of the medley from Offenbach’s La Vie Parisienne sees the disc off in fine, boisterous and at times romantic fashion.