Roger Desormiere (1898-1963), up until about 1952, was France's leading ballet conductor and an active proponent of modern music. I feel that he was one of the greatest conductors ever. Sadly, he suffered a stroke in his early 50's while sitting in his car. It resulted in aphasia - the inability to communicate intelligibly - and he spent his last 10 years living as a hermit. As with the similar fate that struck pianist Cuttner Solomon in his prime, the music world lost one of its greatest talents.
This Testament CD restores to circulation some of Desormiere's finest work. His Ibert Divertissement has an infectious mischief that has never been matched. The Ippolitov-Ivanov Caucasian Sketches receives here its finest interpretation - but be warned that this wonderful orchestra is of the French "old school" - reedy winds, wavery horns and the like. I personally feel that this is EXACTLY what French & Russian composers had in mind when orchestrating - but if you are used to the precise, rather colorless American style of playing, you may need to make some adjustments. For me, I find it all rather hypnotic, especially in the slow tempo Desormiere adopts for the Procession of the Sardar. After playing it, I quickly discarded my otherwise fine Slatkin version because I knew I would never be listening to it again.
Both the Sleeping Beauty and the Scarlatti-Tommasini Good-Humoured Ladies are delightfully dancelike. This is one of those CDs I will be returning to again and again. The transfers are fine - they sure beat my worn-out old LPs. This sort of historical re-issue won't be around for long - grab a copy while you can.