Here's another new release from Reference Recordings which is on CD only. It is becoming obvious they've thrown in the towel on multi-channel SACD releases and have gone back to good old fashioned stereo CD. And perhaps that's not a bad thing, as some of this label's recordings in recent years have not been particularly stellar. Going back to basics is probably the best path forward for this little label.
That being said, this attractively-priced 2-CD release is quite wonderful. The score is glorious in a big, Romantic way - richly scored for large orchestra, full of color and atmosphere with rhapsodic, sweeping lines. (Roussel came to mind frequently.) It is perhaps a tad over-long as purely orchestral music (much of Act II, in particular, is a bit lacking in compositional interest). But taken as a whole, it is nonetheless quite enjoyable.
The orchestra plays very well and the recorded sound is very good, considering the source and origins - it's a "live" performance by a pit orchestra. And with it we hear occasional stomping sounds from the dancers overhead, particularly in the more energetic/rambunctious passages, along with stage sound-effects. And audience applause is retained - which is really annoying at the end, as it isn't abbreviated, but is allowed to continue on and on, complete with all the hooting-n-hollering and cheering as each principal takes a bow. (Good grief, RR. SMH.) However other than that, the extraneous noise is not too obtrusive; and if you can ignore it, the spontaneity of the performance is actually heightened.
Even with the less than ideal recording conditions involved, this CD sounds more natural than some other recent offerings from this label, many of which have grown grotesquely bass-heavy and with obvious knob-twiddling from the control room. So Reference Recordings finally seems to be back on the right track.
This is not meant to be a full review, just a heads-up for all lovers of ballet music. This is a captivating score, lovingly played and naturally recorded here, and is thus a delightful CD release from a label I've highly criticized in the past. I have to give credit where credit is due. This one from RR can be recommended to all lovers of ballet music.