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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


Manet: Music of His Time.
Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)

Grand Valse brillante in A flat, Op. 34 No. 1. Waltzes – C sharp minor, Op. 64 No. 2; G flat, Op. 70 No. 1.
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)

Stabat Mater (1832) – Stabat Mater dolorosa.
Jacques OFFENBACH (1819-1880)

La Vie parisienne – Overture (1866).
Georges BIZET (1838-1875)

Jeux d’enfants (1871) – Trompette et tambour; La Poupée; La Toupie; Petit Mari, Petite Femme; Le Bal.
Edouard LALO (1823-1892)

Symphonie espagnole (1873) – Allegro non troppo.
Emmanuel CHABRIER (1841-1894)

Pièces pittoresques (1881) – Paysage; Idylle; Scherzo-valse.
Alfred BRUNEAU (1857-1934)

Suite from ‘L’Attaque du Moulin’ – Les Fiançailles au moulin (1893).
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)

String Quartet in G minor, Op. 10 (1893) – Animé et très décidé.
various artists DDD
NAXOS ART AND MUSIC 8.558117 [75’44]

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Naxos is to be applauded for the concept of this series. Art and music are intimately bound together (exactly how, though, provides much academic fodder). The combination of carefully chosen repertoire, an extended and insightful accompanying booklet essay (by Hugh Griffith) and a chronology is indicative of the care which has gone into this issue. The booklet firstly considers Paris at the time of Manet, then the man himself, then the music on the disc. All this makes for fascinating reading and the text is interspersed with several Manets: Olympia (1863); Madame Manet au piano (1868); Emile Zola (1868); Argenteuil (1874); Nana (1877).

Choice of repertoire mixes the familiar with excursions down some byways. Inevitably, this is an uneven hotch-potch of performances and an ingenious way to regurgitate back-catalogue material. Perhaps understandably, the programmers opt to begin and end with two of the jewels in Naxos’s exclusive artists roster: Idil Beret (in Chopin) and the Kodály String Quartet (in Debussy). Beret plays the Chopin Waltzes with a sensitive rubato and a keen awareness of voice-leading, with subsidiary voices subtly highlighted rather than forced on the listener. The nostalgic world of Op. 64 No. 2 is well shaded, and a light and flighty Op. 70 No. 1 rounds off her offering. Naxos’s ‘house’ quartet close the disc with a stylish performance of the first movement of Debussy’s G minor String Quartet.

An excerpt from Rossini’s Stabat Mater brings with it a nicely balanced line-up of soloists (Patrizia Pace, Gloria Scalchi, Antonio Siragusa and Carlo Colombara) and a good choir and orchestra (Hungarian State Opera Chorus and Orchestra, all under Pier Giorgio Morandi). This is slow and delicate, and full of feeling, but is marred by an over-zealous tenor and a recording that needs more depth. Offenbach’s Overture to La Vie parisienne, played by the Polish NRSO under Richard Hayman, is fizzy and fun.

The truly interesting curio on the menu, though, is Les Fiançailles au moulin from Alfred Bruneau’s :L’Attaque du moulin. Bruneau was a student of Massenet, and his music is accordingly well crafted and well behaved but also fun. The performance is more than adequately committed (the Rhenish Philharmonic Orchestra is conducted by James Lockhart).

Pianist Georges Rabol, playing three of Chabrier’s Pièces pittoresques, realises these pieces well, especially the sweet and lovely ‘Idylle’. The excerpt from Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole, played by Marat Bisengaliev with the Polish NRSO under Johannes Wildner, is dramatic if not life-changing.

An interesting idea, then, and worth the fiver to spend a couple of hours investigating Manet’s world.

Colin Clarke

see also review by Paul Shoemaker



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