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Daniel-François-Esprit AUBER (1782-1871)
Overtures - Volume 2
Markéta Čepická (violin)
Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra/Dario Salvi
rec. 2019, The House of Music, Pardubice, Czech Republic
NAXOS 8.574006 [61:06]

I have always quite enjoyed this anecdote: Auber was born in a stagecoach on a journey in no-man’s land (somewhere between France and Germany, I think). His home was near Caen in Normandy but he was later inspired by the Italy of Donizetti. This internationalism can be heard in his music. Rossini’s crescendi are almost present in many pieces, French comedy and burlesque is there. You may detect a touch of Mendelssohn. Auber also came across to England with the wish to learn the language, and enjoyed the races at Ascot and Goodwood. I hear Arthur Sullivan in some of Auber’s melodies, thinking that his music to have been enjoyed in London in the 1860s and 1870s. We can also find him in Belgium in the 1820s. Auber would almost certainly have been a strong supporter of the EU.

I missed volume 1 of the Overtures but volume 2 is a good place to start, particularly as it includes Auber’s first ventures into opera, Julie, ou L’Erreur d’un moment, and Couvin, ou Jean de Chimay. These were first performed mostly by amateurs but Cherubini got wind of the young man’s talents and gave him advanced tuition at the Paris Conservatoire.

Auber, it seems, was as successful (and possibly as rich) as Andrew Lloyd-Webber. For instance, Firella had 118 performances, Le Concert á la cour received 246 airings. Lestoocq, a story concerning Peter the Great’s daughter Elizabeth, is incredibly considered much less successful, at a mere 93 performances. His most successful opera Fra Diavolo (not yet recorded in this series) was performed regularly between 1830 and 1911. Very little of this stuff is heard any more – how fashions change. We are, then, indebted to Naxos, the superb Czech Chamber Philharmonic orchestra and Dario Salvi who has made it his life’s work to dig out these forgotten gems of the archives.

In truth, many of these pieces are undemanding, even lightweight, but Auber has a real talent for melody. Not only are we given Overtures on this disc but also brief, trifling extracts from the operas, normally an entr’acte. The one from Lestocq is especially agreeable.

Rather oddly, the main work on this disc is a Violin concerto, probably written when Auber was about twenty-three. The first movement is very gentle and genteel, like a Mozart slow movement; the second is a very melancholy and lyrical aria, which might have worked vocally in an opera context. The woodwinds are used sparingly, the range of the violin is never fully explored and virtuosity is not important. It is not until the Haydnesque, peasant- dance finale in rondo form that the soloist has to stretch herself technically. Even so, this is charming music, and well worth reviving. Markéta Čepická never puts a foot wrong. The whole ensemble seem to be lovingly engaged in its presentation.

Not only are the performances crystal clear – wonderfully articulated and lovingly brought to life in what seems to be an ideal acoustic – but the CD booklet essay by Robert Ignatius Letellier gives excellent information on each piece and a brief resume of the opera plots. There is also a photo of the orchestra and a colour one of Dario Salvi standing in front of an imposing portrait but next to what appears to be flying handkerchief.

Gary Higginson

Le Concert à la cour, ou La Débutante (1824):
Overture [7:19]

Violin Concerto in D major (c.1805) [18:57]

Fiorella (1826):
Overture [8:33]
Entr’acte to Act III [1:02]

Julie, ou L’Erreur d’un moment (1805):
Overture [8:33]
Finale [1:53]

Lestocq, ou L’Intrigue et l’Amour (1834):
Entr’acte to Act III [1:31]

Léocadie (1824):
Overture [7:42]
Entr’acte Act II [1:05]
Entr’acte to Act III [1:22]

Couvin, ou Jean de Chimnay (1812):
Introduction to Act I [2:56]
Introduction to Act III [1:24]

La Fiancée (1829):
Entr’acte to Act III [2:01]

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