> Adolphe Adam - La Jolie Fille de Gand [RW]: Classical CD Reviews- July2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Adolphe ADAM (1803-1856)
La Jolie Fille de Gand, ballet (1842)
Queensland Symphony Orchestra/Andrew Mogrelia
Rec. Ferry Road Studio, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, March 1996
MARCO POLO 8.223772-73 [CD1 66.45, CD2 69.04]


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This performance is the first of two complete Adam ballets that Marco Polo has issued. It was written a year after the immediately successful Giselle and upstaged Thomasís opera Le Guerillero, performed on the same evening in Paris.

Adolphe Adam wrote: "My only aim is to write music which is transparent, easy to understand and pleasing to the public." To be certain, his music carries that effervescence and warm colouring which complements the ballet so ideally.

Adam was trained at the Paris Conservatoire, initially as an organ scholar, having been prepared by his pianist and composer father. Boieldieu communicated a love for the theatre to Adam and pointed out the lucrative returns that composers such as he could receive by active involvement. Adam set out on a musical career that resulted in around forty lyric works, with some twenty vaudevilles, ballets and opéra comiques. He is best remembered for his opéra comiques: Le Postillon de Longjumeau and Si jíétais Roi; along with the ballet, Giselle. Composed in 1841, Giselle became a lasting success and still appears in today's international repertoire. Only a year later La Jolie Fille de Gand was written. The opportunity that Marco Polo have given us to hear two of his less-famous ballets is most welcome.

La Jolie Fille de Gand is a full-length ballet lasting 2hrs 12mins (despite it being premièred alongside an opera). The work is based on a book by Jules-Henri Vernoy, Marquis de St. Georges and Perrot with a story set in Ghent, Belgium concerning a forthcoming marriage between Beatrix and Benedict. After an overture the curtain rises on a goldsmithís shop, where Beatrix the daughter of its owner is discovered. Although her beloved brings flowers she is distracted when a stunning Marquis enters the shop. He has come to Ghent to attend the fair.

A second colourful scene opens on a busy town square where the fair is in progress. Bowmen, guilds and pageant wagons provide a spectacle to match Adamís colourful music. The Marquis wins a shooting match contest over Benedict and dares to give the garland he wins to Benedictís lover, Beatrix. This reinforces the girlís infatuation for the Marquis. The festivities are interrupted by a gathering storm.

The Marquis later abducts Beatrix, but not against her will, and a ball is thrown. But by now, the Marquis has become attracted to another and provokes Beatrix to jealousy. Benedict has gained access to the ball and challenges the Marquis by drawing his sword. One of Benedictís supporters curses Beatrix who faints into the arms of the Marquis.

A new act, set at night in the garden of the Marquisí villa, reveals the company feasting. The Marquis is invited to gamble by an old friend where he loses everything. Beatrix assures him that they can live on her gold and jewels.

Following a complex entanglement, we return to Ghent where Benedict is about to marry another. Beatrix returns to be faced with this and the knowledge that her father is dead. In a final scene Beatrix awakens, realising that the past events have been a dream. Events conclude with the true wedding about to take place.

The balletís music, composed during a fertile period with Adam at the height of his creative talents, is elegant. In orchestration, the piccolo is prominent and is used to brighten many of the theme lines. The music is engaging and at times powerful. It goes without saying that the ballet contains charming melodies, Adam never being short of good melodic ideas to aid description of a scene.

However, CD1 tk7 opens with a passage imitating church chimes, but to me its tempo sounds lethargic and inappropriate to the mood of the scene. Had the opening been played nearly twice as fast with improved dynamics, the impact would have been considerably heightened and would have been more likely to complement the bustling activity on stage. Noticing this caused me to reassess the pace of the rest of the work. Without sight of score tempi markings one cannot be sure of what Adam intended, but I can believe that Mogreliaís sometimes ponderous pace (despite its stately effect), does not accurately accompany a fitting choreography. When compared with Mogreliaís other Adam ballet recording for Marco Polo, Le Filleulle des Fées (recorded around the same time by the same orchestra) this reading sometimes misses an opportunity to sparkle with energetic vitality. Both the orchestra and recording sound well.

The booklet by Keith Anderson give good background material on Adam and a full and detailed synopsis taking the listener through the ballet's development track by track. The notes are written in English, French and German. Although this Marco Polo has been issued for some time, it complements Adamís recently released other ballet, Le Filleulle des Fées on 8.223734-35, reviewed on a separate web page.

Raymond Walker


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