The Quadrille is a dance for four couples, initially facing each other in a square. By the mid-nineteenth century in Vienna it had been formalised into a series of six figures - Le Pantalon (a pair of trousers
), L’été (summer
), La Poule (the hen
), La Trénis, La Pastourelle ( the shepherd girl
) and Finale. The music accompanying the dance comprised a series of eight bar sections, repeated and varied in a set order. In other words, this is very much music for use, and it would be unreasonable to expect that composers under such strict discipline would create music of great individuality or interest. Indeed that is the case with the bulk of the many Quadrilles published in that period. None of those included here could be described as much more than gently amusing and entertaining. Most are that, however, and worth hearing if you enjoy the music of either of the composers in the title given to the disc.
In fact only seven of the ten Quadrilles included here are based on the music of Offenbach. The last three derive from Le Caïd
by Ambroise Thomas, Faust
by Gounod and Crispino e la Comare
by the Ricci brothers. Of these the Quadrille based on themes from Faust
is the most entertaining, with the familiar themes cut and pasted as is necessary in this form. Indeed the chief pleasure for the audience tends to be the abrupt way in which themes are forced into the eight bar sections. When they are already in such sections, as with many of the Offenbach selections, this novel irreverence is missing. In such cases the main interest is simply the choice of themes and their orchestration.
The leaflet notes by Franz Mailer give detailed and interesting information about both the Quadrilles and the works from which they are derived, although they say nothing about the Quadrille form as such. This is certainly not a disc to be played through from start to finish; the endless succession of short phrases rapidly becomes wearisome. Taken one or two at a time, however, there is much pleasure to be gained from listening to them. I suspect that there must be even more if you were able to use them for their original purpose of dancing