Yorkshire Times
Weekend Edition
Andrew Palmer
Group Editor
12:00 AM 29th June 2024

Classical Music: French Opera Overtures

French Opera Overtures

Daniel-François-Esprit Auber Overture to ‘Le Domino noir’; Overture to ‘La Muette de Portici’; Overture to ‘Les Diamants de la couronne’; Jean Robert Planquette
Overture to ‘Les Cloches de Corneville’; Alexandre Charles Lecocq Suite from ‘Mam’zelle Angot’.

Estonian National Symphony Orchestra
Neeme Järvi
Triin Ruubel leader

Chandos CHAN 20318

This highly enjoyable album features examples from nineteenth-century French opera overtures that were for many years looked down on by certain music critics (and musicians), largely as the genre turned its back on the historical adherence to strict musical form (fugue, sonata form, etc). Roger Nichols, in his interesting notes also cites Percy Scholes in the 1955 Oxford Companion to Music: ‘a cheap but not always ineffective type of opera overture is that of the potpourri or medley—little more than a string of tunes from the work to follow.’

These overtures were incredibly popular in their time, and Neeme Järvi and the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra are reviving these irresistible gems on a disc that will undoubtedly stimulate interest.

All orchestral departments under Jarvi's direction are in excellent shape, with polished and lissom contributions. The playing is full of character, and the fun elements shine through. It is truly delightful to coin the old usage of the words gay and light.

Nichols' notes provide insight into this intriguing repertoire, which may not be widely known, but it is certainly entertaining. Alexandre Lecocq’s La Fille de Madame Angot premiered in Brussels in 1872 and is set in post-revolutionary Paris. Gordon Jacob recreated a series of engaging short pieces, primarily from the opera, for Léonide Massine's ballet Mam'zelle Angot, which closely follows the opera's action in addition to the overture. The Estonian National Symphony Orchestra closes the disc with a finale, leaving everyone beaming.

Dniel Auber composed more than fifty operas, some for the Paris Opéra and some for the Opéra Comique. His Grand Opera, La Muette de Portici, famously sparked the Belgian revolution in 1830, which led to the country’s independence in 1839. The piece's character shines rhythmically, thanks to wonderful contributions from the woodwind and delightful string accompaniment.

The elegantly phrased melodic overture of Les Cloches de Corneville is another composition in which Jarvi showcases the orchestra's ability to provide colour.

Each piece on this charming disc features a tuneful motif and vibrant colours full of eloquence and warmth that will simply delight.