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Jacques OFFENBACH (1819-1880)
Gaîté Parisienne (1938) (arr. Manuel Rosenthal) [41:13]
Les belles américaines (1875?) (transc. Mark McGurty) [6:39]
Galop from Geneviève de Brabant (1859) [2:28]
Jacques IBERT (1890-1962)
Divertissement for Small Orchestra (1930) [15:08]*
Cincinnati Pops Orchestra/Erich Kunzel
rec. 4 November 1991, 16 December 1990*, Music Hall, Cincinnati, Ohio. DDD
TELARC CD80294 [65:53]

Offenbach’s frothy Parisian frivolity is meat and drink to Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra.
The story of the origin of Gaîté parisienne, this most popular of Offenbach scores, is well known. Half a century after Offenbach’s death, the impresario Sol Hurok had the idea of turning his most popular melodies into a ballet. The first composer commissioned for the job made no headway with the project and passed it on to French composer and conductor Manuel Rosenthal. No mere tune-raider, Rosenthal took fistfuls of Offenbach’s dance numbers and songs and turned them into a colourful ballet score, touching up the orchestration and composing idiomatic bridging passages as he went. All the favourites are there, from Orpheus’s Cancan to Hoffman’s Barcarolle. Massine, who choreographed the original production of the ballet, initially rejected Rosenthal’s score. Fortunately for music-lovers, Stravinsky persuaded him to stage it. While the ballet has all but disappeared, the score lives on. Kunzel here leads the Cincinnati Pops in a colourful performance, helped by the bright Telarc sound. Together they spin out Offenbach's polkas, mazurkas and waltzes with high energy and a sense of fun – just listen to the raucous raspberries from the trumpets!
The two shorter Offenbach items are performed in the same spirit. The waltzing Les belles américaines was initially composed for piano but has been scored idiomatically, this time by Mark McGurty. The Cincinnati Pops are elegant here and in their hands the following Galop, also known as the Gendarmes’ Duet, is appropriately cheeky.
Filling out the disc is the Divertissement by another Parisian composer, Jacques Ibert. Ibert composed the piece as incidental music to a farce and, although the orchestral palette is immediately different and the idiom busily neo-classical, his music has as much of a sense of fun as Offenbach’s. A lot of it is actually very funny, as Ibert toys mercilessly with Mendelssohn’s Wedding March, mocks waltzes as a genre and taunts the orchestra by writing mistakes and prominent whistle solos into the “quasi cadenza” finale. Kunzel and his orchestra do not sparkle quite as brightly in this score as they do in the Offenbach, and the recording balances the brass a little too far forward, but overall the performance is very enjoyable.
This is a welcome mid-price reissue of delightful music, stylishly played.
Tim Perry


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