French Bonbons

Definitely a programme to cheer you up on a winter's day, beautifully performed by the BBC Philharmonic

Author: 
Ivan March

French Bonbons

  • Zampa, Overture
  • Marche funèbre d'une marionette
  • Mignon, Overture
  • Mignon, ~, Me voici dans son boudoir (Gavotte)
  • (La) Vierge, Le dernier sommeil de la Vierge (Last Sleep of the
  • Si j'étais roi, 'If I were King', Overture
  • Habanera
  • (Le) Cheval de bronze, '(The) Bronze Horse', Overture
  • (Les) Erinnyes, Tristesse du soir (mélodie-élégie)
  • (La) Belle Hélène, 'Beautiful Helen', ~, Overture (prep. E Haensch)
  • Thaïs, Méditation
  • (Les) Dragons de Villars, Overture
  • (Les) Contes d'Hoffmann, '(The) Tales of Hoffmann', Belle nuit, ô nuit d'amour (Barcarolle)
  • Joyeuse marche

This splendid collection is a worthy successor to many nostalgically re-membered LPs by Paul Paray and others, and if I say the performance of La belle Helene Overture (a splendid concoction arranged by Haensch, including a charming waltz, a delicious oboe solo and a can-can at the end) can stand beside that of Martinon and the LPO on Decca (1/52 - nla) - which is very special indeed - that is the highest praise.
The concert opens in the bandstand with gusto and style; and after Herold's Zampa comes Gounod's whimsical little Marche funebre d'une marionette, beloved of Alfred Hitchcock. The succession of wind (and harp) solos at the opening of Mignon is beautifully played (there is plenty of warm romantic feeling throughout the disc) and Adam's Si j'etais roi is delectably pointed, as is the exhilarating closing galop of Auber's Cheval de bronze. Maillart's grandiose, very French military piece is vigorously projected, Chabrier lilts, and the gentler evocations by Massenet make seductive interludes. But it is the overall zest one remembers. Tortelier doesn't push anything too hard, yet gives the rhythms plenty of lift, and his codas fizz nicely.
The BBC Philharmonic is on top form (the strings and brass both deserve accolades) and the Chandos recording is top-drawer, vivid, resonant and glowing. All in all, a programme to cheer you up on a bleak winter's day. Just try La belle Helene and you will be won over.'

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