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VERDI, G.: Ballet Music from the Operas (Complete) (Bournemouth Symphony, Serebrier)

Naxos 8.572818-19

   WQXR (New York), December 2012
   The Huffington Post, November 2012
   KDFC Radio, September 2012
   Fanfare, September 2012
   WETA, June 2012, June 2012
   BBC Music Magazine, June 2012
   Gramophone, June 2012
   WRTI-FM, Philadelphia, May 2012, May 2012
   MusicWeb International, May 2012
   American Record Guide, May 2012, April 2012
   WQXR (New York), April 2012
   MusicWeb International, April 2012, March 2012, March 2012
   David's Review Corner, March 2012
   Crescendo (Germany), February 2012

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WQXR (New York), December 2012

The Most Popular Classical Albums of 2012

The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra under José Serebrier makes a strong case for the complete Verdi ballet scenes: Otello, Macbeth, Jérusalem, Don Carlo, Aida, Il trovatore and I vespri siciliani. © 2012 WQXR (New York)

Lew Whittington
The Huffington Post, November 2012

On one of the top opera recordings of the year, there isn’t a tenor or soprano to be heard, it is conductor Jose Serebrier’s labor of exquisite love, Verdi: Complete Ballet Music from the Operas leading the resplendent Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in ballet scenes from ‘Othello’, ‘Macbeth’, ‘Jerusalem’, ‘Don Carlo’, ‘Aida’, ‘Il trovatore’ and ‘I vespri siciliani’.

This is a collection of Verdi’s deleted ballet scenes and is a defining recording of this rarefied work.

Serebrier is known for orchestral balance and this quality is certainly evident with Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra on this two-disc set very well engineered by Phil Rowlands at The Lighthouse studios in the UK over a three-day period in 2011. © 2012 The Huffington Post Read complete review

KDFC Radio, September 2012

No other composer is as closely associated with the world of opera as the great Italian Giuseppe Verdi. So much so that his non-vocal music has been somewhat overlooked. This new 2-CD set goes a long way toward addressing that neglect by presenting, for the first time, the complete ballet music from Verdi’s operas, including Il Trovatore, Aida, and Othello. The most familiar track may be the ballet music from the opera Macbeth which conjures images of the three witches at their cauldron. The longest contribution to the recording is the Four Seasons ballet which was composed for the Paris premiere of Les Vepres siciliennes (I Vespri siciliani). Jose Serebrier leads the Bournemouth Symphony. © 2012 KDFC Radio Read complete review

Henry Fogel
Fanfare, September 2012

VERDI, G.: Ballet Music from the Operas (Complete) (Bournemouth Symphony, Serebrier) 8.572818-19
VERDI, G.: Ballet Music from the Operas (Complete) (Bournemouth Symphony, Serebrier) (Blu-Ray Audio) NBD0027

…the performances demonstrates Serebrier to be…interpretively interesting conductor.

Serebrier…brings to the music a greater variety of color, more rhythmic energy, and a wider range of ideas about phrasing. The vitality of his rhythm is perhaps the most significant…it can be heard everywhere, in slow or fast music. The extra lilt he brings, for example, to the waltz right after the introduction of the Don Carlo ballet brings a smile to the listener.

While not all of this music is at Verdi’s most inspired level, none of it is unworthy of our attention. Second-rate Verdi is still better than most composers’ gems! Serebrier’s colorful, charming, and highly committed performances, and the Bournemouth Symphony’s excellent playing, make this a highly recommendable disc. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review

WETA, June 2012

Conductor José Serebrier has collected and recorded the complete known ballet music from Verdi’s operas with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.

In 1989, the late conductor Antonio de Almeida conducted Verdi’s ballet music on two CDs for the Philips label, and it was nearly complete, but lacked three dances from Aida. Now José Serebrier has collaborated with Naxos to create the first recording of all the known Verdi ballet music.

When Verdi wrote his operas for Italian audiences, the inclusion of ballet was not a significant factor. But when he learned that they would not be performed in Paris without ballet, he took pains to write such selections for his works. Later, he indicated that these ballets had become integral to the operas, and insisted that they always be included (although Serebrier is among the few conductors who insist upon this today).

Included in this 2-CD set are selections from Otello, Macbeth, Don Carlo, Aida, Il trovatore, Jérusalem, and the Four Seasons from I vespri siciliani. Jérusalem is a later version of I lombardi.

Maestro Serebrier speaks eloquently about his experience with this music with Classical WETA’s David Ginder. You can hear the conversation by clicking the link below. © 2012 WETA

Catherine L. Tully, June 2012

Verdi–Complete Ballet Music from the Operas provides a very unusual treat for fans of classical dance music.

Here you’ll listen to the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, conducted by José Serebrier as they play Giuseppe Verdi’s complete ballet music from the operas. There are pieces here that have only rarely been performed.

At the request of the Paris Opera Verdi began including ballets in his operas, but they were often left out of his published scores. This double CD with Verdi’s complete ballet music is a truly unique piece of musical history that ballet fans of all ages can appreciate. If you love this composer’s work, it is something you really should hear.

The first CD is just over 54 minutes long and includes music from Otello, Macbeth, Jerusalem and Don Carlo. The second is a little longer than an hour and features pieces from Aida, Il trovatore and I vespri siciliani. © 2012

George Hall
BBC Music Magazine, June 2012

Each piece’s vitality and colour are well captured in these performances which combine sweep with finesse. © 2012 BBC Music Magazine

Edward Greenfield
Gramophone, June 2012

Verdi’s penultimate masterpiece, Otello…bears little or no resemblance to the late style of the main opera but rather relates to the style of Verdi’s early operas. Shrewdly, Serebrier makes this point right at the start by placing this five-minute piece first on disc 1. In that brief span, Verdi offers a sequence of tiny genre pieces with an oriental flavour.

Serebrier follows that with the three atmospheric numbers Verdi wrote for Act 3 of his much earlier Shakespearean opera, Macbeth…Next comes the long ballet scene for the original French version of Don Carlos, with its sections including some for solo cello and violin, all beautifully played here.

The second disc opens with the one exceptional ballet, that for Aida. Last of all comes the most ambitious of all the ballets, the four substantial numbers representing the seasons of the year that Verdi wrote for I vespri siciliani.

As he has often shown in the past, José Serebrier has a remarkable gift for drawing polished and vigorous performances from his orchestra. The result has all the tension and bite of a live performance with the advantage of studio techniques, helped by refined and beautifully balanced recording, transparent in texture. © 2012 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

Mark Pinto
WRTI-FM, Philadelphia, May 2012

Mark Pinto Recommeds…

…José Serebrier…conducts all of Verdi’s operatic ballet music with England’s Bournemouth Symphony in this innovative and very enjoyable two-disc set from Naxos.

The Bournemouth Symphony performs this music with obvious affection. The players are quick-witted and responsive to the frequent tempo and mood changes and play with such precision and understatedness that you can practically see the dancers. The ensemble playing is tight, and the soloists are top-notch. If you’re an opera or ballet music lover wanting to hear more of Verdi than usually meets the ears, this recording will not fail to charm. © WRTI-FM, Philadelphia Read complete review

Stephen Eddins, May 2012

Serebrier and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra perform them [ballets] with a light touch and with idiomatic élan. Serebrier’s flexible, lilting phrasing makes it clear that this is music intended for dance, and besides being flawlessly graceful, the performances sound like fun. Some of the music, like the dances from Aida, is usually included in performances of the opera, but some, like the ballet from Jérusalem…Serebrier unearthed in opera house archives in preparation for this recording. Naxos’ sound is pristine and bright. This recording should be of strong interest to Verdi fans, and the sparkling performances should appeal to anyone who loves Romantic ballet. © 2012 Read complete review

Dan Morgan
MusicWeb International, May 2012

The thrustful, swaggering Ballabile from the Act III of Otello—penned for the Paris premiere in 1894—makes a splendid introduction to the set. Serebrier finds a thrilling momentum and ceremonial whirl here, the music capped by a hefty, crowd-pleasing bass-drum thwack. What a pleasure it is to discover that Naxos have produced a recording of untrammelled weight and range. The same musical and aural delights are apparent in the ballet music from Macbeth, revised for Paris in 1865. This may be slightly less memorable than that for Otello, but there’s an unmistakable undertow here, the music firmly rooted in the drama that surrounds it; indeed, those regal and impassioned perorations are simply glorious.

Jérusalem, which began life in 1843 as I Lombardi, was retitled and revised for Paris four years later. It’s disconcerting to discover that some of this ballet music is very similar to that of the partying Parisians in La Traviata (1853). That’s especially so in the deftly articulated—and convivial—Pas de quatre and the sparkling Pas de deux, whose frothiness hardly seems appropriate to a sober tale centred on the Crusades. Nevertheless, Verdi’s score is delivered with energy and polish, the melting, harp-led tunes of the Pas de solo most beautifully written and played.

The first CD ends with a substantial ballet from the original—French—version of Don Carlo. This too is unremittingly dramatic and, at times, most exquisitely scored. Serebrier and his band invest the music with a limpid beauty and rhythmic pliancy that just underscores Verdi’s gift for simple –yet heartfelt—tunes. There’s heaving passion and bright majesty as well, and the Naxos engineers have done a magnificent job capturing the noble fanfares and dynamically impressive tuttis. Indeed, I’d say this is the most spectacular Naxos sound I’ve heard in a long time; bravos all round.

The ballet music from Aida is unusual in that it’s an integral part of the action and not just a fashionable accessory. Predictably it gets a rousing performance on this CD, the sinuous arabesques of the Act I ballet wonderfully atmospheric. Verdi had to bow to convention once more with Il trovatore, revised and retitled Le trouvère for Paris in 1856. The flashing gypsy rhythms are very well managed, and even if there’s a hint of rumty-tumtiness at times there’s no mistaking the hot blood that courses through the veins. The real delight is listening to the orchestra play as if their natural home were a theatre pit; in fact, it’s hard to imagine these scores more idiomatically played.

One might be forgiven for thinking that two hours of this fare would be tedious, but when the level of invention and the standard of musicianship are this high the time just flies by. Part of the secret is that Serebrier creates and sustains a powerful sense of theatre, the wild Galop (tr. 10) crying out for applause and an encore; all I can say is, thank heavens for the repeat button. After the fizz and fun of this finale the integral ballet music from Les vêpres siciliennes—written for Paris in 1855—has a clear structure and strong narrative. A depiction of the four seasons, the first part—L’inverno—has the assurance and sweep of a piece by Glazunov or Tchaikovsky. As for La primavera it’s blessed with a spontaneity and lift—a natural danceability—that’s hard to resist, while L’estate is most elegantly phrased; the changeability of autumn is evoked in music of felicity and strength.

There’s not a duff note or dull moment in the entire set, Verdi’s prodigious talents matched at every turn by those of Serebrier and his first-rate players. This is fresh, spontaneous music-making, whose dramatic peaks—while emphatic—are never coarse or overdriven. The Naxos engineers deserve plenty of praise too, as the fine sound adds immeasurably to one’s enjoyment of these vital scores.

Two hours of pure, unadulterated pleasure. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Steven J Haller
American Record Guide, May 2012

if you are primarily interested in the complete ballet music this welcome Naxos set is really the only game in town.

José Serebrier supplies much historical information about the productions—both French and Italian…It’s clear from these richly textured and exuberant performances that the expert Bournemouth players fully share Serebrier’s enthusiasm for this music, and this set will easily repay repeated listening as Verdi’s warm-hearted melodies and full-throated brass make for nearly two full hours of the best opera has to offer—and without temperamental divas to get in the way. All we need now from Maestro Serebrier are the overtures. © 2012 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide online, April 2012

Those looking for confirmation of how good Serebrier can be in Romantic music need look no further than a fascinating (++++) Naxos release in which Serebrier—again with the Bournemouth Symphony—presents all the ballet music from Verdi’s operas. …we have a fascinating recording, and a very well-performed one, of ballet music from Otello, Macbeth, Jérusalem (a reworking for Paris of I Lombardi alla prima crociata), Don Carlo, Aida, Il trovatore and I vespri siciliani…Serebrier does not attempt to turn these works into more than they are or twist them in any particular way—he lets them flow naturally…Sometimes lively, sometimes sensual, always well-constructed and often quite interesting [in] its own right (although not all the time), Verdi’s ballet music shows a side of the composer with which many listeners, including regular operagoers, will not be familiar. It also shows a side of Serebrier with which listeners are familiar… © 2012 Read complete review

WQXR (New York), April 2012

Verdi couldn’t have known how much fun future choreographers will have with his buoyant, sparkling music. The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra under José Serebrier makes a strong case for its charms in a new recording of the complete Verdi ballet scenes: Otello, Macbeth, Jérusalem, Don Carlo, Aida, Il trovatore and I vespri siciliani.

Just how rarely this music is actually performed in the opera house or in orchestral concerts only adds to the value of this recording.

Serebrier captures the spooky goings-on of Macbeth in exemplary fashion, particularly milking the grotesque final dance of the witches.

Serebrier, whose interests run from neglected works by Glazunov to film scores, is no Italophile but he renders this undervalued music with great expressive range. © 2012 WQXR (New York) Read complete review

Paul Corfield Godfrey
MusicWeb International, April 2012

The performances under Serebrier are everything that the music needs: lively, responsive, and dramatic…very well performed and recorded here. The price is right if you want to explore some Verdi with which many listeners will be totally unfamiliar. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

David Hurwitz, March 2012

The only other serious competition in this repertoire, and it’s not as complete as this release (the Aida items are missing), is an old Philips Due mostly conducted by the late Antonio de Almeida. Those are good performances, but they don’t outclass these, either interpretively or sonically. You might say that it doesn’t take much interpretive insight to conduct Italian ballet music, but ultimately the goal is always the same: to avoid boredom. This may be even harder in music whose purpose is largely decorative and expressively limited. It’s to Serebrier’s (and Verdi’s) credit that there isn’t a bar here that fails to entertain, or that doesn’t make an excellent case for believing that this music is of much higher quality than its reputation suggests.

The two big “finds” for most listeners will be the extensive ballet music from Jérusalem (a.k.a. I lombardi), and the similarly large-scale (20 minutes) dance episodes from Il trovatore. This last item quotes the “gypsy” tunes from the opera’s first act, including the Anvil Chorus, and it’s really delightful. The sonics are clear and vivid, and with a playing time of nearly two hours, this set easily becomes the modern reference for this undervalued repertoire. © 2012 Read complete review

Christie Grimstad, March 2012

this Naxos CD is the first of its kind, bringing together in one album the collection of all Verdi ballet music, some of which has been seldom heard for years. The recording is perfect from beginning to end. Award winning José Serebrier has a penchant for digging into the peripheries of opera by uncovering new discoveries and parlaying them into a thoughtful and coherent manner. Under his masterful supervision, The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra hits every note and dynamic with punctilious flair. From percussion to strings to woodwind to brass, detail abounds. The tempos have comfortable zest without a sense of drag.

La Peregrina is a showcase piece featuring a beautiful section for solo violin. Saddled on both sides of the Triumphal March from Aida are three splendid movements, initiated by the Bournemouth Symphony’s beautifully executed flute section wafting with exotic élan.

Serebrier’s forward is well written and informative. Quoted as saying, “Whenever I conduct Verdi operas I find myself having to insist on including the ballet scenes, most of which have been left out of the published scores or included as an optional addendum…”, Serebrier’s passion for ballet music is well represented.

The Naxos/Serebrier venture is simply superior on all counts. © 2012 Read complete review

David Denton
David's Review Corner, March 2012

To meet the demands of the wealthy young men of the famous Jockey Club in Paris, opera composers were obliged to write a ballet for their Paris performances. Many simply held up the dramatic action and were inserted against all the instincts of the composer. The result was often hack writing at its worst, though to Verdi’s credit, that was certainly never the case as this disc will testify. Today they are seldom performed in a visual age where audiences look for increased reality in the story, and only in Aida do they fit into the story. The present discs claim that they offer the first time that all of his ballet music is gathered together in one recorded project. So what do we have? Well, for a start, a really fine ballet sequence depicting the four seasons from I vespri siciliani that should be included in the concert stage repertoire as it is a gorgeous piece of music lasting around half an hour. Then we have almost a potpourri of the best known melodies from the opera in the ballet sequences from Il Trovatore. Thankfully I have never seen on stage a production that includes the ballet sequence to disturb the third act of Otello, worthy though the music may be, and I would have to say much the same about the Don Carlo ballet which adds a quarter of an hour to an already long evening. Maybe some dancing witches would be fun in Macbeth, but heaven knows how you find a reason to include a ballet in Jerusalem, a story of the Crusades. Yet it is this one—lasting almost twenty minutes—that is the most engaging. The conductor, José Serebrier, speaks passionately for their inclusion in his booklet notes, and that passion carries over into these performances from the Bournemouth Symphony. I guess it is the first time they have encountered any of it, save, maybe, the Aida excerpts, but they play it with that strong feeling of familiarity, instrumental solos all of outstanding quality. The recording has plenty of impact, and comes down to the most atmospheric pianissimos. © 2012 David’s Review Corner

Christoph Schlueren
Crescendo (Germany), February 2012

This is a premiere: the complete ballet music from the operas by Guiseppe Verdi that we have long awaited. But did we know that we would get such a finely-nuanced, well-balanced, firey, full of energy, and characterful version from the traditional master José Serebrier, which is at once authentically freshly Italian and full of blooming cantabile? Stylistically, Serebrier reminds us somewhat of Victor de Sabata and the earlY mastery of Arturo Toscanini. Also the sharp, martial music is played with verve, although never getting out of control. The rarities from Macbeth, Don Carlos, Trovatore and others—really unknown— from Jerusalem are absolutely fascinating, even though we were not expecting any real surprises. The strong music from the well-known numbers from Otello and Aida, the wonderful Four Seasons Ballet from Vespri Siciliani and the melancholy Summer, all have an intimate magic. © 2012 Crescendo (Germany)

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