It is understandable
though regrettable that Blanc's music
has disappeared under the grand production
of his Francophone contemporaries: Franck,
Saint-Saëns and Fauré. No
disservice is intended to Blanc's name
or to his champions.
Born in Manosque in
France's Basses-Alpes region, Blanc
came from an affluent background. As
a teenager he studied music in Paris
with the operatic composer Halévy.
Had he embraced opera for which at that
time France had a seemingly unappeasable
appetite he might have made more of
an enduring mark. As it was he focused
on chamber music. There are songs, pieces
for piano and violin, choral works and
some orchestral works. There's also
a burlesque symphony for string quartet
and various children's instruments.
He was conductor at Paris's Théâtre
Lyrique between 1855 and 1860 when Gounod's
operas held centre-stage.
What of the music?
It is highly accomplished and well wrought.
It pleases the ear and each instrument
contributes tellingly. Listening to
the Septet one is struck, especially
in the first two movements, by the golden
Mozartean manner. It is only ‘modern’
in that its melodies suggest those of
Gallic lyric opera of the era. There
is a bubbling tarantella taken at headlong
pace by André Moisan's ensemble.
The finale takes off in another direction
altogether with Vivaldian violin solos
until at 3:24 Blanc bids us an effervescently
The Trio Op.
23 begins enchantingly with a breathing
motif like a distant and peaceable shadow
of the opening of the Waldstein sonata
before returning to classical serenity.
Blanc then moves to a whimsical Haydnesque
scherzo before concluding with some
slippery and humorous virtuosity for
clarinet and piano.
The Quintet suggests
early Beethoven at first but this only
prepares the way for a contrasting lyrical
cantilena at 2.00 onwards. A
merry-eyed scherzo, cassation-like,
gives way again to Beethovenian sobriety.
Tragic overtones are carried by the
bassoon but all ends in affable effervescence.
Be warned there is
some key noise from the clarinet but
the sound of the impacts has a dulled
'sticky' quality - nothing too clattery.
A decently documented
issue even if the music is more a curiosity
than a desperately compelling addition
to the repertoire.