Although no stranger to repose
the abiding impression left by this music is of flames licking
at its heels. It looks back to late Mozart (40, 41) and forward
to the wondrously gifted Méhul and beyond to Beethoven's Eroica
even Brahms and Berwald.
Rigel was born in Wertheim
and studied in Germany with Jommelli and Richter. In 1767
he moved to Paris which he made his home. He was a well-loved
figure in the French capital with symphonies, oratorios and
concertos flowing in abundance. The French Revolution drew
a number of politically suitable works from him. He was a
leading teacher at the newly established Paris Conservatoire.
The life story is nicely outlined by Benoît Dratwicki in
the integral liner-note.
Rigel’s twenty-plus symphonies
vied in Paris with those of Gossec and Leduc. The symphonies
represented here range in duration from 10:03 to 15:33. The
Fourth is full of enthralling detail. Rigel adopts the orchestral
style familiar to us from early Beethoven and Mozart but
there are many original touches. This is impetuous music
- a child of the buffeting storm with gruff horns and a cauldron
of classical conflict. The Seventh starts imperially emphatic.
It is at times reminiscent of Beethoven's Seventh and the
Great Ludwig’s bull-in-a-classical-china-shop manner. Even
so this elbows-out approach is tempered by the kindly harpsichord
continuo so noticeably absent from the Fourth. The Eighth
is full of charming touches including seductive wind solos
and surprisingly ear-tickling dynamic contrasts. Its central
slow movement shows the mulch from which Berlioz’s Symphonie
grew. Number 14 has a startlingly inventive
apple-pure pizzicato middle movement and a really Mozartean
sense of peaceful repose. The gallant finale races along
with chasseur horns. The Tenth Symphony combines dignity
and exuberance which bridges the exhilaration of the Mozart
K364 Sinfonia Concertante
, the London Symphonies of
Haydn and, in the finale, the Rossini overtures.
These outstanding performances
are resonantly recorded, delightful in their range of physical
impact and rippling with life. I hope there will be Rigel