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Bizet: L'Arlesienne, incidental music.

Bizet: L'Arlesienne, incidental music. Michel Plasson, Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse. EMI Classics 0946 3 55671 2.

When Georges Bizet wrote his incidental music to Andre Daudet's play L'Arlesienne (The Girl from Arles) in 1872, the public and critics thought it distracted from the rest of the production. The fact is, it was probably better than the drama and upstaged it. Neither the play nor the incidental music has fared well ever since in its original form. But the sly Bizet recognized a good thing when he heard it and extracted two suites of music from his work, which have, of course, have gone on to become classic warhorses that we all have in our collections.

Anyway, in 1982 Michel Plasson recorded the complete incidental music for EMI, pretty much as Bizet first intended it, and EMI have reissued it at budget price. It is a bargain for those looking for something different. The performance is delicate and nuanced, filled with sweetness and passion in equal amounts, but characterized mostly by the suaveness of Plasson's direction. Oh, you'll recognize all the familiar bits, to be sure, but it's the additional twenty minutes or so that are fascinating. It's also interesting, if not entirely better, to hear the music in its initial dramatic order.

The sound is fine, too, warm and spacious, with plenty of bloom and ambient air. However, and here's the rub, when you compare it as I did to Paul Paray's 1956 recording of the suites for Mercury, you find the old Mercury sounding much firmer, much more transparent, and much more authoritative all the way around. Think of that: A recording thirty years older sounding thirty years better than the newer one.
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Author:Puccio, John
Publication:Sensible Sound
Date:May 1, 2007
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