In a review, one critic referred to the “period instrument colonization” of 20th-century French orchestral repertoire, which set me thinking about those fears we used to have about an historically informed performance of Wozzeck. I have many older LP recordings of French repertoire performed by French orchestras which are so distinctly “Gallic” in the slightly flatulent horn sound and the (usually) delightfully vinegary woodwind, as to be instantly identifiable. Over the decades, this sound has virtually disappeared. Perhaps these recordings mark a reaction. 

Immerseel and Anima Eterna achieve a sound in Mother Goose which, in terms of sheer exquisiteness, is hard to beat. I instantly admired the way the cor anglais has been caught but the flute and clarinet are equally beguiling. The strings are similarly gorgeous. Did anyone ever compose anything as civilized? 

Pictures at an Exhibition is equally suave, perhaps a touch too much so. I like the trumpet slurs throughout the promenade sections but I think this super-refined playing isn’t really earthy enough: after all, it’s hard to depict a Polish ox cart as anything other than a Polish ox cart. The Great Gate of Kiev lacks the grandeur we normally associate with it. My main problem is duration: at less than 50 minutes, and full price it’s simply not competitive. Surely they could have come up with something else to plump it out.

Available on the iTunes Store: Ravel: Ma mère l’oye – Musorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition – Anima Eterna Brugge & Jos van Immerseel