One of the most grown-up review sites around
One of the most grown-up review sites around

Search MusicWeb Here


International mailing

Up to 40% off

  Founder: Len Mullenger



Buy through MusicWeb for £16.00 postage paid World-wide.


Musicweb Purchase button

Etienne MÉHUL (1763-1817)
The Complete Symphonies of Méhul

Overture: La Chasse du Jeune Henri (1797) [10.35]
Symphony No. 1 in G minor (1808-9) [25:57]
Symphony No. 2 in D major (1808-9) [27:33]
Overture: Le Trésor Supposé (1802) [4.28]
Symphony No. 3 in C major (1809) [23:40]
Symphony No. 4 in E major (1810) [25:44]
The Gulbenkian Orchestra/Michel Swierczewski
rec. Lisbon, Portugal, 19-23 December 1988. DDD
NIMBUS NI 5184/5 [64:05 + 53:52]

This Ardennes-born pupil of Gluck wrote some forty-two operas of which these days most people know only the overtures. For years Méhul lived on among English-speaking audiences because Beecham championed La Chasse du Jeune Henri and several of the other operatic overtures. You can hear him in Timoléon; Le Trésor Supposé and La Chasse du Jeune Henri on Sony (see review). La Chasse was also taken up by Albert Wolff who can be heard on the Timpani label (see review).
The symphonies might seem to be something of a side-show to his many operas but they are in fact much more than merely estimable. These are handsome works that move and sing with an elegance that draws sustenance from precise yet springy performances from Swierczewski and his Lisbon orchestra.
La Chasse instantly announces a 34 year old composer at ease with the idiom of late Mozart and early Beethoven. That sighing initial theme is in the style of the great Wolfgang. Horn-calls and quiet galloping ostinati build tension and prepare or track through the ground for Weber’s overtures and symphonies and for Beethoven. It is not the last time that we will catch fugitive echoes of Beethoven 5 which are also evident in the bristlingly athletic finale of the First Symphony which also recalls Rossini. Intriguingly the start of La Chasse recalls George Butterworth’s Banks of Green Willow.
The Second Symphony contrasts grandmaster gesture with affable and warm writing that again brings us to Mozart’s 40 and 41 and Beethoven’s first two symphonies. The finale has a lovely liquid sense of movement. I wonder if the composer heard his symphonies played this well during his own time; I rather doubt it. Like all these works they are cleanly orchestrated – a joy to hear.
Le Trésor Supposé is touched with Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro and with Beethoven’s Pastoral – supple and pleasing music.
The first two symphonies are not unknown to collectors but number 3 and 4 were only discovered by David Charlton in 1979. The Third again has the effervescent irrepressible energy of Mozart’s Jupiter bustling and inspirational in the outer movements. The shade of Beethoven is very strong in the Andante. The Fourth Symphony is in four movements unlike the Third. Méhul uses the horns cannily yet assertively. The cellos present a broad and warm ‘Pilgrims’ March’ over a cockle-warming pizzicato in the Andante. The finale is a thing of sheer fly-away delight and it is magnificently paced and performed.
What we hear has surely benefited from the extended preparation time evident from the session dates. The recording is notably clean and lively. It recreates what sounds to be a believable and agreeable acoustic.
Ths disc is well annotated by the leading authority on Méhul: David Charlton who thankfully writes like a communicator rather than an academic but with the gravity of someone who knows his subject from firsthand sources.
If you seek a more modest bargain price introduction to Méhul then try the first two symphonies on Naxos 8.555402 with the Rhenish Philharmonic Orchestra/Jorge Rotter and Warner Apex 0927 49535 2 with Les Musiciens du Louvre/Marc Minkowski (see review); both discs from the late 1980s.
In these days when we can hear the symphonies of Ries and Cannabich do not neglect Méhul the symphonist. He has the capacity to delight still and these recordings are a sublime avenue through which to approach this composer.
Rob Barnett


We are currently offering in excess of 52,000 reviews

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

a vibrant slice of life

stylistically assured

About Every Hill and Valley
Swedish Songs

Hallberg and Dente
interesting and most welcome

An inspired partnership
additional review

A valuable document

Musicweb sells the following labels

Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Return to Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.