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André Ernest-Modeste GRÉTRY (1741-1813)
Suites and Overtures
Céphale et Procris suite: Tambourin; Menuetto; Gigue.
Le jugement de Midas: Overture
L'épreuve villageoise: Overture
Le tableau parlant: Overture
Le huron: Overture
Lucile suite: Overture; Entrée des paysans; Air de danse.
Silvain: Overture
L'amitié à l'épreuve: Overture
L'ami de la maison suite Allegretto; Menuetto; Finale (Presto)
Zémire et Azor suite (ed. Beecham): Entrée; Passepied; Pantomime; Entr'acte; Finale.
Le magnifique: Overture
Guillaume Tell: Overture.
Orchestre de Bretagne conducted by Stefan Sanderling
ASV CD DCA 1095 [70:20]
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French of Walloon descent, André-Ernest-Modest Grétry was born in Liège. He has been called the Molière of music. He studied in Rome (1761-65) before settling in Paris. His style therefore easily encompasses French German and Italian influences. His life spanned the period from the death of Handel to the birth of Wagner - and he survived monarchy, revolution and Napoleon!

Grétry's métier was the opéra-comique. He left over 50 examples, nearly 40 of them were staged in Paris between January 1768 and the fall of the Bastille in 1789. They were highly successful money-spinners. Not surprisingly, for his music is very approachable; light frothy soufflés, sparkling and sunny - Grétry hardly wrote anything in a minor key!

This album is a delicious confection -- what Beecham used to call bon-bons or lollipops. Indeed the most substantial suite here is Beecham's editing of Zémire and Azor with its charming frolicsome 'Passepied', employing a glockenspiel, and the enchanting demurely romantic 'Pantomime'.

There is great wit here too. The story lines of most of the comic operas are outrageous (you only have to look at the costume above to realise this) and Grétry's music doesn't hesitate to parody and lampoon. Indeed, in such pieces as Le jugement de Midas, the music approaches the ridiculing of Peter Schickele's' PDQ Bach - in this particular piece there are wild thunderbolts and simulated gales (a wind machine is used in Almeida's editing). Influences of Mozart and Haydn are often evident, yet there is something of an anticipation of Rossini too. Underneath all the bubbly and frivolous music, however, there is considerable skill and innovation at work. The complex presto string writing always impresses and there are many passages and pieces that linger in the memory: the lovely Silvain Overture, for instance, that trips daintily and merrily along, the sparkle of the L'ami de la maison suite, especially the delightful 'Menuetto'; and then there is the more dramatic Le magnifique overture with its off-stage drum adding tension; and the artful use of the cow-horns in Guillaume Tell.

A delightful compilation full of charm and sharply observed wit. Calculated to cheer.

Ian Lace

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