French Romanticist Léo Delibes (21 February 1836 – 16 January 1891) is best known for his works for the stage. His opera Lakmé is still a staple of the repertoire and the two ballets subjects of this latest Reference Recordings CD, Coppélia and Sylvia. Both ballets are firm favourites and are part of the core repertoire of Romantic Ballets for all the great companies, including the San Francisco Ballet, whose orchestra stars on this recording.
Conducted by current Music Director, Martin West, the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra shine in this very familiar repertoire. They remind the listener of the qualities of the scores and why composers such as Tchaikovsky valued them so highly.
Both scores receive first rate performances. Soloists have character and ensemble is generally very fine. And West keeps the tempi moving. That said, many recordings represent both pieces as mere orchestral showpieces with whipped up speeds and playing for effect. This orchestra follows the conductor perfectly — he obviously knows the scores like the back of his hand and how to relate the music to the dance. As such, both Coppélia and Sylvia are performances of grace and elegance.
The recording by Keith Johnson echoes the magic of the music. Recorded at the famous Skywalker Sound, this setting is different than the standard concert halls in which Reference usually record. I’m not sure whether they use the scoring soundstage or there is hall on the campus — either way, Johnson captures his usual glorious sound. Air and ambiance surround the orchestra, solos especially, and when the volume ‘goes to 11′, fans of Reference will not be disappointed. Recommended.
Playing time: 72:41
Reference Recordings RR-125