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Luigi CHERUBINI (1760-1842)
Les deux journées

Constanza – Jeanine Micheau (soprano)
Comte Armand – Pierre Giannotti (tenor)
Daniele Micheli – Charles Paul (bass)
Antonio – Eugene Regnier (tenor)
Marcellina – Marion Davies (soprano)
Daniel, Semos – Donald Munro (bass)
BBC Theatre Chorus
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Thomas Beecham
Recorded Studio 1, Maida Vale, London, 19th December 1947
MALIBRAN MR 554 [78.45]


Cherubini’s operas deserve reappraisal. His command of instrumental sonority was considerable and his influence on successive generations of composers widespread (a treatise could be written on his effect on Weber’s instrumentation – and probably has). His flair for the dramatic is also marked and this, allied to colourful and characterful mood setting, subtle control of rhythm and instinct for the dramatic curve of an operatic structure give spine and significance to his works. It has fallen to smaller companies and off-air performances to keep alive such works, if we exclude Médée. One such example is the restoration of this famous 1947 Beecham radio production with French principals.

This has made an appearance before several times. Readers may have come across various LP incarnations on Voce and Cetra and, more recently, a CD appearance on Intaglio. Nevertheless there is now another entrant in the form of Malibran’s recent release which provides just shy of eighty-minutes’ worth of music.

The Overture is full of pregnant introspection and drama, from the black basses and bass clarinet up; the horns, led one assumes by Dennis Brain, announce their presence with initially baleful portent. The ensuing Allegro section is full of gusto and vigour. All are prime components of Beecham’s idiomatic control. Giannotti’s tenor is eloquent and youthful though not outstandingly personalised whilst amongst the other men the bass Charles Paul is attractively bluff. Jeanine Micheau proves an attractive Constanza. Of course in the recitativo or spoken dialogue one can hear that Marion Davies and Donald Munro can’t match their French counterparts when it comes to pronunciation – but they have good voices and use them musically. Much of the string writing is exceptionally clever and prescient of orchestral developments, whilst there are also reminiscences of Mozart in the Trio O mon liberateur. The Chorus is reserved for dramatically powerful and climactic moments, such as the Chorus of Soldiers that opens Act II.

There is a ration of acetate swish on the 1947 sides but more worrying there are little dropouts in the first act that prove disconcerting and unwelcome. Comparison with Intaglio’s transfer also shows two further things; that this Malibran is cut and that the sound is decidedly murky in comparison with the earlier CD incarnation. Malibran have cut some of the dialogue (altogether there are some 13 minutes’ worth of cuts) to fit onto a single CD whereas the two CD Intaglio set lasted some ninety-one minutes. Given these problems, and the fact that the Intaglio is now long out of print I would hope a company like Guild might investigate the position. In the meantime I’d offer no more than a cautious welcome to this one.

Jonathan Woolf


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