Following up on its 1995 Nutcracker disc, Boston Ballet has issued this highlight CD for The Sleeping Beauty, which itís currently performing at the Wang Theatre. Although Iím sorry the company didnít have the financial resources to record the complete ballet, this release is welcome, since there arenít many highlight discs devoted entirely to Sleeping Beauty (most give you snippets of all three Tchaikovsky ballets) and Jonathan McPhee is one of the worldís better Tchaikovsky conductors.
Some quibbles about the packaging: superimposing Alex Lapshin and Pollyana Ribeiro on a rose background gives the CD a dated RCA Red Seal í50s look, and NOWHERE are we told that whatís inside isnít the complete ballet. On the back, too, the prologue and act one are run together, and the score numbers arenít given, so you canít tell whatís missing.
What is inside is reasonably generous, 67 minutes, but it doesnít start auspiciously: the 16th notes at the third beat of the first bar arenít altogether clear, and after stating the Carabosse theme, the Introduction jumps over the Lilac Fairy theme (these two should be indivisible) and goes right into the Marche. Itís also hard to understand why poor Breadcrumb is done out of her variation when the other five fairies have theirs ó surely Boston Ballet could have managed another 60 seconds on the disc. Thereafter McPhee comes into his own, with lilting tempos (just a shade slower than usual) and seductive phrasing and plenty of room for the winds and percussion. High points include the first-act Garland Waltz and Rose Adagio and the third-act polonaise.
For the moment this release is on sale only at the Wang Center boutique (where Sleeping Beauty audiences will doubtless be happy to have a souvenir of what they heard in the theater), at the companyís Clarendon Street studio, and at its Web site (www.bostonballet.org). You can get the George Weldon/Philharmonia 77-minute highlight disc for half its $15 cost and the complete Antal Dorati/Royal Concertgebouw or John Lanchbery/Philharmonia recording for about the same money, but not McPheeís insights or Boston Balletís natural, gratifying sound. I imagine Valery Gergievís Kirov highlight disc would give this a tussle, but I havenít seen it around, and the complete Kirov performance runs three discs at full price.
(See www.bostonphoenix.com/boston/arts/dance/documents/01560126.htm for Jeffreyís review of Boston Balletís current production of The Sleeping Beauty.)