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Les Musiciens du Louvre(Grenoble); Lyon opera Chorus / Marc Minkowski - Conductor
Gramophone CD of the Month - June 2008
There are many very good recordings of this music, but few truly great ones, and even fewer that make the music sound new (and old--more on that anon). This certainly is one of them, the finest disc of Carmen and L'Arlésienne suites since Markevitch with the Lamoureux Orchestra. Marc Minkowski offers the standard L'Arlésienne suites, plus a selection of the original incidental music shorn of the tiny bits of fragmentary fluff that make hearing the complete score such a frustrating experience. This permits the most complete appreciation of Bizet's genius thus far available on disc in this particular work. The Carmen music includes the prelude and standard entr'actes, with a reprise of the prelude to round off the proceedings. It's all so intelligent and enjoyable for home listening.
Better still, using period-ish instruments, Minkowski achieves a truly "French" sound, perhaps for the first time on disc since the 1950s or '60s. The compact ensemble sonority, pert winds, bright brass, and slightly wiry strings restore to the music so much of its innate vividness. Listen to the high-kicking brass in the Carmen Prelude, or the rhythmic "ping" that Minkowski brings to the Carillon in L'Arlésienne. Then there's the wonderfully touching but never sticky Adagietto and a closing Farandole that brings a genuine physical thrill to the program's conclusion (and you get to hear the music's first version, with voices, from Bizet's theatrical score). Perfectly natural sonics present the whole program with tactile immediacy, and the deluxe booklet is magnificent. You're going to love this.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com