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Bamboschek Conducts Gounod

March 28, 2010

Metropolitan Opera Orchestra conducted by Giuseppe Maria Bamboschek
Gounod: Faust Selections

Recorded in 1920

Giuseppe Maria Bamboschek was only about 29 when this recording was made, which is quite young for a conductor, but he  was already conducting at the Metropolitan Opera. He had many more years of productive work in him: he taught Jeanette MacDonald and Beverly Sills, among others, and he worked well into the television age, directing a series of TV opera adaptations in the 1950s.

Here are some instrumental selections from Gounod’s Faust, and they give us a bit of an idea of how the music was interpreted nearly a century ago. In those days, there was a good market for popular melodies from well-known operas, which any middlebrow phonograph-owner would have been able to hum along with. Two sides of a twelve-inch record were enough to squeeze in most of the highlights of an average opera, and Faust is an opera particularly rich in melodic highlights.

As for the performance, it’s pretty good within the limits of this sort of thing. The orchestra is not always perfectly in tune, but these old records teach us that even the best orchestras were seldom perfectly in tune a century ago (Victor Herbert’s being a notable exception). An instrumental adaptation of vocal music is necessarily unfaithful to the original, if you worry about that sort of thing, but the orchestration is tasteful and generally effective. Sometimes the performance is a bit syrupy for my taste, but Chacun a son Gounod, as Mr. Punch so appropriately expresses it.


From → Classical, Opera

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