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Daniel-François Esprit AUBER (1782-1871)
Opera Overtures - Volume 1
La circassienne (The girl from the Caucasus) (1861) [7:59]
Le cheval de bronze (The bronze horse) (1835) [7:28]
Le domino noir (The black domino) (1837) [7:42]
Fra Diavolo (Brother Devil) (1830) [8:18]
La fiancée (The betrothed) (1829) [7:46]
Les diamants de la couronne (The crown diamonds) (1841) [7:23]
Marco Spada (1852) [9:56]
L'enfant prodigue (The prodigal son) (1850) [7:21]
Orchestre Régional de Cannes/Wolfgang Dörner
rec. 24-26 June 2015, Théâtre Croisette de l’hôtel JW Marriott, Cannes, France
NAXOS 8.573553 [63:53]

Auber is best known for his opera La muette de Portici, premiered in 1828; it wasn’t his first contribution to the genre – that was the one-Act Le séjour militaire of 1813 – but it was the one that took Europe by storm. Not only that, it established a new form, that of grand opera, soon to be embraced by the likes of Gioachino Rossini and Giacomo Meyerbeer. Although Auber’s operas have fallen out of favour the overtures haven’t; those to Fra Diavolo, Le domino noir and Le cheval de bronze come to mind. It’s the kind of effervescent repertoire that Ernest Ansermet and Albert Wolff did so well. Indeed, several of the overtures in this Naxos collection can be found on the vintage Decca set Overtures in Hi-Fi (review).

The Cannes orchestra and their Viennese-born music director Wolfgang Dörner are new to me, but then this label has made a virtue of showcasing the talents of regional bands and baton wavers. This partnership has also recorded what Goran Försling dubbed a ‘wholly charming’ disc of dance pieces by Joseph Lanner (review). Of course, collections such as these are best sampled in small doses, especially when the material is generally so lightweight. That said, Ansermet et al make it all too easy to get through a box of sweeties in a single sitting.

In such illustrious company Dörner and his band have plenty to prove. Alas, first impressions are not encouraging. For a start, the playing lacks character; even more dispiriting are the unsubtle phrasing and dogged rhythms, both fatal in such buoyant repertoire. As if that weren’t bad enough the sound is pretty dismal. I suspect that’s because the hall has the acoustic properties of a barn; the bass is boomy, textures are smeared, and there’s far too much reverb and resonance. This might do for a weekend matinee, but it won’t do here. In short, a wasted opportunity.

There’s little charm or charisma in this collection; dreadful sonics, too.

Dan Morgan



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