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ALLA BREVE

November 23, 1986|ALLAN ULRICH

DELIBES: "COPPELIA." National Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Richard Bonynge. London 414 502-2 (two compact discs). Bonynge re-creates the elegance and the sentiment in Delibes'-Saint-Leon's 1870 hit, striking a comfortable balance between choreographic and purely orchestral demands. The spirited conducting immerses itself in the Second-Empire wit of the score, the extended, closing divertissement emerging with a much less anticlimactic feeling than usual. The minuses include an underpopulated orchestra, especially in the violins, and glassy, brittle digital sound, devoid of warmth.

ARIAS BY CILEA, GIORDANO, CATALANI, BOITO, ROSSINI, MEYERBEER, DELIBES, VERDI, CHERUBINI, SPONTINI. Maria Callas, soprano; Orchestra of the Teatro alla Scala, Milan, conducted by Tullio Serafin. Angel CDC-7472822 (mono compact disc). Reissued from two 1954-55 recording sessions, these 13 arias find the late Greek-American diva in her halcyon period, imbuing Verismo and early 19th-Century material with lacerating musical insights and interpretive nuance. One marvel follows another, from Boito's deranged, mournful Margherita to Rossini's calculating, determined Rosina, to the grandly tragic Giulia of Spontini's "La Vestale." Callas' range of color seems limitless, as does her rhythmic stability (try the Bolero from "Vespri Siciliani"), but even in this era, the curdled top notes can be excruciating. Serafin's peerless accompaniments and Angel's refurbished transfers command admiration, although the hiss level is high. Texts and translations.

ARIAS BY MOZART, GIORDANO, PUCCINI, ALFANO, CHARPENTIER, GOUNOD. Dorothy Warenskjold, soprano; assorted orchestras and conductors. Grand Prix GP-9010 (mono). In her prime (the 1940s and 1950s), the California-born and trained soprano was flagrantly ignored by commercial record companies despite her frequent appearances at the San Francisco Opera and on network radio. Grand Prix's collection of 12 arias, all drawn from air checks, should come as both a revelation and a confirmation of native vocal talent. Whether in the filigree passage work of six Mozart numbers, the passionate candor of "Andrea Chenier" or the muted pastels of "Louise," Warenskjold proves a sympathetic, stylistically attuned and golden-throated interpreter. She was also that rare breed of artist who could infuse an isolated aria with vibrant theatricality. The sound sources vary, orchestral playing is haphazard (although conductors include Pierre Monteux, William Steinberg and Gaetano Merola), but Grand Prix's surfaces pass muster, and there are complete texts and translations.

READ: SYMPHONY NO. 4. DICK: ADAGIO AND RONDO. Cleveland Orchestra conducted by Lorin Maazel. CRI SD-525. Except for their inclusion in the Cleveland Orchestra's repertory, their avoidance of passing compositional fads and their listener-friendly appeal, these two works share few characteristics. Gardner Read's Fourth Symphony (1973) depends on brooding polytonalism, formal sophistication and subtle dynamic contrasts, as it builds lyrical crescendoes for 30 minutes. Marcel Dick's 12-tone essay takes a more overtly angular, even theatrical stance in its post-Bergian deployment of conventional forms. Maazel's performances combine analytical clarity with remarkable intensity. If only the recordings, live Severance Hall air checks, and the gritty surfaces capitalized more completely on the potential of these scores.

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