CERTAIN PROJECTS suggest themselves with such obviouness that no one ever gets around to realizing them. Since Manuel Resenthal, who arranged the Offenbach tunes so brillantly for the ballet Gaite parisienne, happens to be one of the finest conductors of his generation, why hasn't there been a recording of that music under his direction? It was Efren Kurtz who made the first recording of a quarter-hour's worth of "highlights," shortly after the ballets 1938 premiere, and he remade that much of LP a decade later. Arthur Fledler was the first to record the entire score, which he has done three times now; Antal Dorati, Charles Munch, Eugene Ormandy, Leonard Bernstein and Herbert von Karajan are among the others who have given us all or substantially all of Gaite parisienne on dics.
It happens tht Rosenthal himself is among this company, after all. He first recorded the utterly complete score with the RIAS Symphony Orchestra of Berlin, then at its peak, in the late 1950s for Remington Records, the pioneering American low-priced label which gave us quite a few memorial items before its demise nearly 20 years ago (and even commissioned a suite of Offenbachiana from Rosenthal, which he recorded with the same orchestra). In the early '60s this uniquely authentic recording circulated - outside the respectability of a Schwann listing - on various obscure labels sold in supermarkets and drug stores. Last year it was mentioned tht Vox may have obtained rights to reissue it in its Turnabout historical series.
In the meantime, without any advance annoucement or special promotion, Angel has just issued a brand-new recording of Gaite parisienne by Rosenthal and the Monte Carlo Opera Orchestra (S-37029). While this quite good orchestra may not be match for the stunning RIAS Orchestra at the top of its form (or for the virtuoso ensembles that have recorded the work under other conductors), the performance isaffectionate and persuasive, the sound is of course more up-to-date (not only in stereo but, if anyone cares, encoded for "SQ" quadraphonic playback), and there is an attractive little bonus on side 1 in the form of the unfamiliar overture to Offenbach's 1844 operetta La Fille du Tambour-Major.
The liner carries a misleading enumeration of the sections of the work (omitting any mention of the famous Barcarolle in the finale), but Rosenthal's original contributions to the score are identified at last (perhaps Dorati's original material in Graduation Ball will be similarly identified when his new Vienna Philharmonic recording of that work is released), and he has also contributed a charming program note in which we learn that we might never have heard Gaite parisienne at all has it not been for the advocy of - Igor Stravinsky.
Rosenthal writes that his score "was turned down by Massine, who was responsible for the choreography and who did not think I had shown enough respect for Offenbach. I then proposed that we should have recourse to an arbitrator, which . . . may seem incongruous in view of the character of the musician in question . . . [Stravinsky] dismissed Massine's plea, turning him out of his flat saying, 'Leonide, if you reject this score you are an idiot . . .'"
The Monte Carlo Opera Orchestra which had been recording primarily for Philips for the last several years, is heard in more dance music on another Angel disc, music of Waldteufel under Willi Boskovsky may have shown himself to be a somewhat less interpreter of the waltzes of Johann Strauss, but he brings an uncommon level of elegance to this Waldteufel program, and the orchestra, not faced with the virtuoso demands of Rosenthal's score, rises nobly to the occasion.
In addition to the four waltzes - the expected Estudiantina and The Skaters, the delicious waltz-paraphrase of Chabrier's Espana, the unfamiliar but attractive Acclamations - Boskovsky conducts three of Waldteufel's polkas (Minuit, Bella Bocca, L'Esprit francais) and the dashing Prestissimo galop. A thoughtful collection and, by any standards, a thoroughgoing delight.