John Wilson / Sinfonia of London

Escales: French Orchestral Works

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John Wilson's Escales: French Orchestral Works offers an entertaining program of splashy popular pieces that, paradoxically, depict places other than France, and distant times that stimulated the imaginations of French composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Emmanuel Chabrier's España and Maurice Ravel's Rapsodie espagnole frame the collection, representing the French penchant for exoticism and the powerful attraction of Spanish culture. Hearkening back to ancient times, Jules Massenet's Méditation from Thaïs is taken from a comédie lyrique about the fourth century Roman courtesan and desert saint, Thaïs of Alexandria, while Camille Saint-Saëns evokes classical Greek mythology in Le Rouet d'Omphale and Claude Debussy alludes to amorous pastoral adventures in Prélude d'après-midi d'un faune. Perhaps the biggest signal of the album's essential wanderlust is Jacques Ibert's Escales... (Ports of Call), which offers three vignettes that suggest embarking on journeys from Rome to Palermo, Tunis to Nefta, and from there to Valencia, again touching on the Iberian culture that was so dear to the French. Only Maurice Duruflé's lush Trois Danses avoids specific images and references to other times and places, but even in its abstraction, it paints gorgeous scenes that readily suggest magical realms and colorful festivities. Wilson leads the highly talented Sinfonia of London in these 2019 recordings on Chandos, which make an appealing showcase for the group, and the sound of the multichannel recording is spacious and atmospheric, contributing greatly to the album's success.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 06:09 Amazon
Trois Danses, Op. 6 (Three Dances) pour Orchestre
2 07:16 Amazon
3 08:46 Amazon
4 05:18 Amazon
5 07:34 Amazon
6 09:20 Amazon
Escales... (Ports of Call)
7 06:13 Amazon
8 02:34 Amazon
9 05:34 Amazon
10 05:42 Amazon
Rapsodie espagnole
11 03:58 Amazon
12 02:03 Amazon
13 02:38 Amazon
14 05:55 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick