November 14, 2010

Philippe Gaubert - not your average body-and-fender man.

Apologies for not posting the Gramophone last week. This was originally supposed to be posted for Halloween, but it got sidetracked. Better late than never I suppose.

Tonight's post features the Paris Conservatory Orchestra lead by composer-conductor Philippe Gaubert. In the early days of electrical recording (everything after 1926), many labels had certain conductors more or less on staff, cranking out sessions to satisfy an insatiable appetite for the record buying public.HMV in Paris had Piero Coppola, who was responsible for first recordings of a lot of French repertoire. The competitor Columbia had for their Paris office Philippe Gaubert, who was not only a respected conductor but also a warmly regarded composer in his own right. And he was able to record a number of his pieces for the label as a result.

But tonight's featured piece is an old workhorse. The familiar (bordering on too-familiar) piece by Paul Dukas - Sorcerer's Apprentice recorded in February 1927.

What's nice about this particular recording is that, at the time the work was relatively new (it was composed in 1897 about thirty years earlier) and the orchestra still felt pretty fresh about it. And so there's an added bit of energy going into it that you don't often hear now, because frankly the orchestra isn't bored to death from playing it. Also, bear in mind that Dukas wasn't actually known for this piece at the time, but thanks to Walt Disney several years later, turned it into the animated classic from Fantasia.

I doubt you can listen to this as if you never heard it before - but if you can somehow erase Mickey Mouse from your mind while you are, that would be great. And I'm sure Goethe, who wrote the original poem from which the piece is derived, would probably be relieved too.

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