one of those French composers along with Grétry much beloved
of Beecham. In the 1890s and 1900s Beecham's trips to Paris
were spent poking around libraries and bookshops for toothsome
discoveries with which to delight British audiences.
The Méhul we know through Beecham is
the Méhul of the operatic overture –
the bite-sized chunk. These two Beethovenian
symphonies are burly and alive with
dissolute and unruly life. Each is in
four movements. They stand clear of
Beethoven's first two symphonies and
share something of the Fourth and Eighth
symphonies. In the pizzicato Menueto
of the First Symphony Méhul seems
to prefigure Tchaikovsky whereas in
the finale the model may be Beethoven's
Fifth even if the liner-notes indicate
that Méhul could not possibly have known
that work. This piece, especially in
the finale, evinces brilliant work by
the winds of the Musiciens du Louvre.
In the Second Symphony Beethoven's Seventh
is standing n the wings. Lightning and
victory crown the end of the first movement.
A thunderous and also Haydnesque menuetto
and trio is alive with abrasion and
tension. The finale looks toward to
the more demonstrative episodes from
Beethoven's Pastoral. It was
Napoleon who commented to Méhul that
his symphonies were too Germanic. One
can understand this hearing these symphonies.
However this composer also struck out
in directions later to be fully developed
by Berlioz and Mendelssohn.
four complete symphonies from the period 1808-1810. A fifth
was in process but only first movement survives as disillusion
and tuberculosis took hold. If you want to hear all four
plus two overtures there is an admirable full price set on
Nimbus NI 5184/5 (see review) where the Gulbenkian Orchestra
is conducted by Michel Swierczewski in recordings made in. Lisbon
1988. Those Lisbon recordings were made for the Bicentennial
of the French Revolution. Indeed Méhul lived through those
Beethovenian symphonies - a real discovery if you are exploring
your way through classical period symphonies. Minkowski and
the Louvre players clearly have a whale of a time.
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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