French Overtures

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Famous French Overtures

Jacques Offenbach (1819 - 1880)

La vie parisienne (Parisian Life)>

Adolphe Adam (1803 - 1856)

Si j'etais roi (If I were king)

Charles Gounod (1818 - 1893) (Like theBreeze)

Ainsi que la brise (Faust)

Emmanuel Chabrier (1841 - 1894)

F?¬te polonaise (Le roi malgre lui)(Polish Festival)

Daniel-Francois-Esprit Auber (1782 - 1871)

Les diamants de la couronne

(The Crown Diamonds)

Daniel-Francois-Esprit Auber (1782 - 1871)

Le cheval de bronze (The Bronze Horse)

Emmanuel Chabrier (1841 - 1894)

Danse slave (Le roi malgre lui) (SlavonicDance)

Jacques Offenbach (1819 -1880)

La belle Helene (Fair Helen)

Daniel-Francois-Esprit Auber (1782 - 1871)

Masaniello (La muette de Portici)

Popular revolutions are not always good for opera, and theFrench Revolution had an immediately deleterious effect on standards at the Paris Opera,where works of an overtly political and patriotic nature were for a time encouraged.

Something of a revival took place towards the end of the first decade of the nineteenthcentury with the work of Spontini, followed by a younger group of composers that includedBoieldieu, Herold, Halevy and Auber. The last of these, christened Daniel-Francois-Esprit,was the son of a royal huntsman and became a pupil of the redoubtable Cherubini after thestaging of his first opera in -1805, a work that enjoyed little success. He began to makea name for himself only in the 1820s, with La berg?¿rechatelaine, and thereafter in collaboration with the librettist Augustin-EugeneScribe. The opera Masaniello, otherwise known as Lamuette de Portici (The Dumb Girl of Portici), with a libretto by Scribe andDelavigne, was first staged at the Opera in February 1828. The hero of the piece,Masaniello, is a revolutionary leader in seventeenth century Naples. He succeeds inreleasing his unjustly imprisoned dumb sister Fanella and seizing power, but is poisoned,driven mad, defeated and killed, while Fanella kills herself by jumping from her windowinto the volcano of Mount Vesuvius. Performance of Masaniello in Brussels in 1830 led tothe Belgian revolution and establishment of independence. Scribe also wrote the librettofor Le cheval de bronze (The Bronze Horse), first produced at the Paris Opera-Comique in1835, and collaborated with Vernoy de Saint-Georges on Lesdiamants de la couronne (The Crown Diamonds), successfully staged at the samehouse in 1841. The first of these, in its original form, was described as anopera-feerique, later to be expanded into an opera-ballet. The second, a thoroughly Frenchpiece, was set in Portugal. Unlike Masaniello,these two operas are typically graceful and relatively light-hearted, qualities apparentfrom the overtures.

Adolphe Adam, son of a pianist and teacher whose pupilsincluded Kalkbrenner and Herold, is best remembered for his ballet Giselle. A prolificcomposer, he wrote some eighty works for the stage and enjoyed considerable contemporarysuccess, starting with his Pierre et Catherine, staged at the Opera-Comique in 1827 aspart of a double bill with Auber's La fiancee.

Si j'etais roi (If I were king), with alibretto by Ennery and Bresil, was first mounted at the Theatre-Lyrique in Paris in 1852,the house that had taken the place of the Opera-National, a venture bankrupted by the 1848revolution, leaving Adam with heavy debts that he attempted to discharge by a remarkableincrease in activity as a composer that ceased only with his death in 1856.

The composer Jacques Offenbach was theson of a cantor at a Cologne synagogue, his surname derived from his father's place ofbirth and his first name a French form of the original Jacob. In Paris he became one ofthe most successful composers of popular music of the nineteenth century, rivalledonly by Johann Strauss in Vienna. Of his ninety or so operettas written principally forthe Paris stage, La vie parisienne (ParisianLife) and La belle Helene (Fair Helen) are among the most popular. The second of these, afrivolous version of Greek legend, with a libretto by Meilhac and Ludovic Halevy, wasfirst produced at the Varietes in Paris in 1864, and the first two years later at thePalais-Royal.

Charles Gounod occupies a rather different position in Frenchmusic, the leading French composer of his generation, his attention not exclusivelydirected towards the theatre, where his Faust above all retains a continuing position inoperatic repertoire. The choral waltz Ainsi que labrise (Like the Breeze), the principal melody of which is entrusted to theorchestra, first appears in the second act but is used to dramatic effect when the heroineMarguerite, in prison and driven nearly out of her mind, recalls Faust's first meetingwith her and the music of a happier time. The opera, based on Goethe, was first staged inParis in 1859 at the Theatre-Lyrique and won immediate success.

Intended by his family for the law, Emmanuel Chabrier devotedhimself fully to composition only later in life, although he had achieved some success in1877with his light opera L'etoile (TheStar). His penultimate work for the stage, Le roimalgre lui (The King in spite of himself), concerns the accession to the Polishthrone in 1573 of the French Prince Henri III and hence includes a F?¬te polonaise, and a Danse slave for good measure.

The piece might have proved initially successful in Paris had not the theatre burned downafter the third performance, allowing the work to win its first fame abroad.

The Polish Radio National SymphonyOrchestra of Katowice (PRNSO)

The Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra of Katowice(PRNSO) was founded in 1945, soon after the end of the World War II, by the eminent Polishconductor Witold Rowicki. The PRNSO replaced the Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra which hadexisted from 1934 to 1939 in Warsaw, under the direction of another outstanding artist,Grzegorz Fitelberg. In 1947 Grzegroz Fitelberg returned to Poland and became artisticdirector of the PRNSO. He was followed by a series of distinguished Polish conductors -Jan Krenz, Bohdan Wodiezko, Kazimierz Kord, Tadeusz Strugala, Jerzy Maksymiuk, StanislawWislocki and, since 1983, Antoni Wit. The orchestra has appeared with conductors andsoloists of the greatest distinction and has recorded for Polskie Nagrania and manyinternational record labels.

Czecho-Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra(Bratislava)

The Czecho-Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra (Bratislava), theoldest symphonic ensemble in Slovakia, was founded in 1929. The orchestra's firstconductor was František Dyk and over the past sixty years it has worked under thedirection of several prominent Czech and Slovak conductors. The orchestra has made manyrecordings for the Naxos label ranging from the ballet music of Tchaikovsky to more modernworks by composers such as Copland, Britten and Prokofiev. For Marco Polo the orchestrahas recorded works by Glazunov, Gli?¿re, Miaskovsky and other late romantic composers andfilm music of Honegger, Bliss, lbert and Khachaturian.

America's favourite "Pops" conductor, Richard Haymanis Principal "Pops" Conductor of the Saint Louis, Hartford and Grand Rapidssymphony orchestras, of Orchestra London Canada and the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra,and als
Disc: 1
1 La vie parisienne
2 Si j'etais roi
3 Ainsi que la brise
4 Fete polonaise
5 Les diamants de la couronne
6 Le cheval de bronze
7 Danse slave
8 La belle Helene
9 Masaniello
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