[ Decca Australian Eloquence / 2 CD ]
Release Date: Friday 6 March 2020
It is the sense of being present at a live performance that critics prized in Fistoulari's ballet recordings. As an experienced conductor in the pit, who (perhaps apocryphally) led his first opera performance at the age of twelve, he understood how to make a score glisten with greasepaint in the studio.
Swan Lake was among the Concertgebouw Orchestra's first stereo recordings for Decca. Sessions were taped in February 1961 and the performances and sound engineering are still as vivid as ever - in fact, quite overwhelming.
The other two albums issued here were originally made by Philips, though the Serenade was first released on its Mercury sub-label, and the Suite from The Nutcracker was not issued at all until 1967, five years after being recorded. The delay is unaccountable: Fistoulari's light hand at the tiller is unmistakable as the LSO glide through the dances of the second act. An array of soloistic musicians filled the front desks of the orchestra during the early 60s, and the wind and string solos are all played with finesse here and in the excerpts from Sleeping Beauty.
'[A] bright, exceptionally clean-lined reading. Though he has had wide experience as a ballet conductor, Fistoulari prefers here to treat the music in concert fashion. The recorded sound is very good, with considerable spaciousness imparted by stereo.' High Fidelity, September 1961 (Swan Lake)
'I doubt if any other disc of Swan Lake bits and pieces has such wonderful quality.' Gramophone, October 1961 (Swan Lake)
CD 1 1-13 Swan Lake, Op. 20 (Highlights)
14-17 Serenade for Strings in C major, Op. 48*
CD 2 1-8 The Nutcracker: Suite, Op. 71a°
9-23 Sleeping Beauty (Highlights)