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Alfred BRUNEAU (1857-1934)
Messidor, Act IV: Prélude (1897) [5:54]
L'Attaque du Moulin Suite (1893) [21:39]
Naïs Micoulin, Act I: Prélude (1907) [6:13]
Messidor, Act III Tableau 1: La Légende de l'Or (1897) [30:13]
Barcelona Symphony and Catalonia National Orchestra/Darrell Ang
rec. L'Auditori, Barcelona, 2017
NAXOS 8.573888 [64:31]

Curiously, the two extracts from the opera Messidor are separated at the beginning and the end of the disc, and I can only assume that this was done to help separate their rather different sound-worlds. The Prelude to Act IV is rather in the style of verismo, with reminiscences of Mascagni and Puccini, as well as Bruneau’s teacher Massenet, particularly La Navarraise. The end of the CD contains a most interesting thirty-minute, purely orchestral Tableau, originally composed as a ballet but intended to precede the opera itself. As the booklet note points out, Wagnerian touches abound as might be expected from the pen of so vehement a Wagnerian as Bruneau. For example there is a repeated dotted rhythm on a single pitch, sounding similar to the mining motif in The Ring. The whole piece is very vivid, and rises to a tumultuous climax at the end, with tam-tam and thunder sheet making a very considerable impact.

The Prelude to Act 1 of Nais Micoulin reminds one of Massenet's Cendrillon, or even of Mendelssohn in Midsummer Night’s Dream and is a delight to hear.

A 22 minute Suite from the 1893 opera L’Attaque du moulin occupies the middle of the disc, with Bruneau setting the action in the French Revolution. Verismo once again makes its appearance, with cymbal clashes that would not sound out of place in Cavalleria Rusticana, although one can appreciate that the Italian full-blooded style is somewhat tempered to suit French appetites. As in the other works, the orchestra is deployed in a masterly fashion, a further tribute to Massenet. Massanet was able to change his style to suite the then current fashion in music and this ability has percolated through to Bruneau.

Darrell Ang propels the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra in a thoroughly committed manner, and they are recorded in a warm acoustic, admirably suited to the lush romanticism of these scores. The booklet notes are short, but admirably detailed, even giving the listener track timings to points in the works where the influence of other composers can be heard.

Rob Barnett has reviewed this excellent CD here and the Requiem is favourably reviewed here by Michael Cookson.

I have enjoyed this very much, and I hope that more of Bruneau’s music will be recorded.

Jim Westhead

Previous review: Rob Barnett


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