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Franz von SUPPÉ (1819-1895)

The Beautiful Galatea (1865) [6.22]
Pique Dame (1864) [7.28]
Light Cavalry (1866) [6.26]
Poet and Peasant (1846) [9.24]
Morning, Noon and Night in Vienna (1844) [7.32]
Boccaccio (1879) [6.48]
Daniel-François AUBER (1782-1871)

The Bronze Horse (1835) [6.49]
Fra Diavolo (1830) [7.31]
Masaniello, or La muette de Portici (1828) [6.26]
Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Paul Paray
Rec 29 Nov 1959 (Suppé), Cass Technical High School, Detroit; 4 April 1959 (Auber), Old Orchestra Hall, Detroit


Paul Paray’s various recordings for Mercury have achieved almost legendary status over the years, and hearing this new issue in SACD format it’s not difficult to understand why.

Auber and Suppé were both composers who made their careers in the theatre; yet both of them have survived in repertory of the concert hall thanks to the colourful and tuneful overtures they wrote. Of Auber’s forty-seven operas, thirty-eight are to libretti by Eugène Scribe, who wrote for most of the French and Italian composers of the day. And the element of formula that this efficiency implies transfers to Auber’s music too; even his contemporaries were known to complain of an ‘incorrigibly chirpy manner’. But it is also worth remembering that he had his admirers too, Rossini and Wagner among them.

A similar sparkle and lightweight charm is also found in the music of Suppé, who wrote operettas in Vienna and other centres during the age of Johann Strauss. There is a formula at play here, and it is rather better known than that of Auber. Each Suppé overture has an imposing or atmospheric introduction leading to an allegro, then a lyrical waltz-song and a final gallop. And the melodic invention is of a high order, so too the rhythmic verve.

These overtures by Auber and Suppé suit the Detroit orchestra as they suit their French conductor Paul Paray. The Mercury engineers in 1959 (in each of the featured venues) achieve extraordinarily vivid and immediate results. Thus the performances have real élan and spirit, with both corporate and individual contributions of a high virtuosity that we can recognize as wholly in the spirit and style of the pieces being performed. Of course this means that the driving rhythms of Suppé’s Light Cavalry have a special frisson of excitement, while at the opposite extreme the poetic opening measures of The Beautiful Galatea find the Detroit strings producing a wonderfully luminous sound. If anything, this passage is the highlight of the whole disc.

The lightness of touch in Auber’s little known but altogether splendid Fra Diavolo overture again relies upon the talents of the Detroit strings. But the wind players too bring distinction throughout this remarkable disc, as does the high production standard, including the detailed and informative booklet notes.

Terry Barfoot

see also review by Paul Serotsky

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