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Christoph Willibald GLUCK (1714-1787)
Philémon et Baucis: Aristeo (1769) [53:07]
Atto di Bauci e Filemone (1769) [44:31]
Ditte Anderson (soprano); Ann Hallenberg (mezzo); Marie Lenormand (mezzo); Magnus Staveland (tenor); Chœur de chambre de Namur; Les Talens Lyriques/Christophe Rousset
rec. live, 8-10 January 2006, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels. DDD
AMBROISIE AMB 9995 [53:07 + 44:31]

By the end of the 1760s, Gluck had behind him both an impressive series of opéra-comiques in French. These included such as L’Ivrogne Corrigé (1760) and Le Cadi Dupé (1761) as well as some of the great and enduring masterpieces on which his modern reputation largely depends.
Orfeo ed Euridice was produced in Vienna in 1762 and Alceste in the same city in 1767. In his work with the librettist Ranieri Calzabigi - described by no less than Casanova as “well aware of the main chance, well versed in financial dealings, familiar with the trade of all nations, learned in history … poet and great lover of women” – from 1761 onwards he had introduced operatic reforms which were to some extent influenced by French models. Gluck was a big name, a much discussed innovator and well aware of the music of France. He was a natural choice for the Francophile court of Parma to turn to when commissioning new work.
The composer Tommaso Traetta took up an appointment at the court in Parma in 1758. Working with the poet Carlo Innocenzio Frugoni, Traetta produced work much influenced by French operatic models, not least that of Rameau. Traetta’s aspirations had much in common with those of Gluck. Alfred Einstein’s 1936 book on Gluck quotes a letter, from July 1758, from Count Paradisi to Count Algarotti: “I went to the opera at Parma, where I found many things entirely to my satisfaction … the way seemed to me open for a renewal of the miracles of that art which the Greeks so much prized”. That unattainable dream of the revival of the music-drama of the ancient Greeks was one that held particular sway at the Francophile court of Parma when, in 1769, works were commissioned as part of the celebration of the marriage of Ferdinand, Duke of Parma, grandson of Louis XV to Maria Amalia, Archduchess of Austria, sister of Marie Antoinette. Gluck was commissioned to write Le Feste d’Apollo for performance as part of the elaborate celebrations of the marriage.
Le Feste d’Apollo was made up of a prologue and three independent acts. Its conception owes much to an earlier (1760) work by Traetta and Frugoni, written for another courtly marriage at Parma. Act I, L’Atto d’Aristeo, was composed to a libretto by the poet-priest Giuseppe Pezzana (1735-1802); Act II, L’Atto di Bauci e Filemone made use of a libretto by Giuseppe Maria Pagnini (1737-1814), a monk with a considerable reputation as a scholar of ancient Greek literature. Act III was a one act version of Orfeo.
These are the first recordings of the first two Acts. In them Gluck recycles quite a lot of material from such earlier works as La Cythère assiégée, Telemaco, Semiramis, L’innocenza giustificata and Ezio. The results are attractive if not of major significance and they are given very assured and intelligent performances here. Rousset elicits orchestral playing of considerable vivacity and the soloists acquit themselves with considerable credit. The Danish soprano Ditte Anderson is particularly impressive, as Cirene, water nymph and mother of Aristeo in the first Act and as Bauci, young lover of Filemone in the second Act.  The elderly Baucus and Philemon of Ovid’s Metamorphoses have been rejuvenated by Pagnini. Both works (‘Acts’) contain some attractive arias; Bauci e Filemone is perhaps the more satisfying of the two.
It is good to have the chance to hear this music, especially in such affectionate and stylish performances. Yet it leaves one wishing that one could hear these two ‘acts’ in their full musical-dramatic context: with the prologue and with the one-act Orfeo. That would enable one to trace the musical and poetic cross-references which seem, on this limited evidence, to knit together Le Feste d’Apollo.
These recordings come from live concert performances held in support of a charity devoted to rare diseases. The recorded sound is wholly satisfactory, in terms both of clarity and balance. Full texts and translations are provided.
So, a pleasant recording which should be valuable to all with an interest either in Gluck in particular or the evolution of eighteenth century opera in general. There’s quite a lot of Gluck of which we don’t have recordings. This two CD set stirs up the desire to hear more.
Glyn Pursglove



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