Classical The best music site on the web there is where you can read about and listen to blues, jazz, classical music and much more. This is your ultimate music resource. Tons of albums can be found within. Fri, 23 Feb 2024 16:05:00 +0000 Joomla! 1.5 - Open Source Content Management en-gb Andre Gretry – Zemire et Azor (Beecham) [2011] Andre Gretry – Zemire et Azor (Beecham) [2011]

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1 		Act I: Overture 			5:20 	
2 		Act I Scene 1: Dialogue: Ariette: L'orage va cesser (Ali) 		3:13 	
3 		Act I Scene 1: Dialogue: Que dis-tu? L'orage redouble (Sander, Ali) 	0:16 	
4 		Act I Scene 1: Air: Le malheur me rend intrepide (Sander) 		2:38 	
5 		Act I Scene 1: Oh! moi, qui n'eus jamais d'autre bien que ma vie (Ali) 	1:23 	
6 		Act I Scene 1: Ariette: Les esprits, dont on nous fait peur 	2:05 	
7 		Act I Scene 1: Dialogue: Ali, pour le coup, est un homme.. (Sander) 	0:11 	
8 		Act I Scene 1: Duet: Le temps est beau (Sander, Ali) 			3:51 	
9 		Act I Scene 2: Dialogue: Allons, ma famille m'attend (Sander, Ali) 	1:43 	
10 		Act I Scene 2: Air: La pauvre enfant ne savait pas (Sander) 	4:16 	
11 		Act I Scene 2: Dialogue: J'ai l'ame assez compatissante (Azor, Sander) 	1:09 	
12 		Act I Scene 2: Air: Ne va pas me tromper (Azor) 			3:46 	
13 		Act I Scene 2: Finale: Symphoie qui exprime le vol du nuage 		0:58 	
14 		Act II Scene 1: Trio: Veillons mes soeurs (Zemire, Fatme, Lisbe) 		4:43 	
15 		Act II Scene 2: Dialogue: Ah mon pere! Quelle joie (Zemire, Fatme, Lisbe) 1:07 	
16 		Act II Scene 2: Ariette: Rose cherie (Zemire) 			2:50 	
17 		Act II Scene 3: Dialogue: Vous avez veille toute la nuit (Sander, Ali, Zemire)2:29 	
18 		Act II Scene 3: Recitative: Je vais faire encore un voyage (Sander) 	1:58 	
19 		Act II Scene 3: Duet: Je veux le voir; je veux lui dire (Zemire, Ali) 	3:37 	

1 		Act III Scene 1: Air: Ah! quel tourment d'etre sensible (Azor) 	5:20 	
2 		Act III Scene 1: Cruelle fee, abrege ou ma vie, ou ma peine (Azor) - Scene 2:…2:27 
3 		Act III Scene 2: Duet: Rassure mon pere (Zemire, Ali) 			3:30 	
4 		Act III Scene 2: Dialogue: Esclave, eloigne-toi (Azor, Ali) 			0:28 	
5 		Act III Scene 2: Entree des genies 			3:24 	
6 		Act III Scene 2: Allegro (Passepied) 			1:56 
7 		Act III Scene 2: Airs de ballet 			4:29 	
8 		Act III Scene 5: Dialogue: O ciel! (Zemire, Azor) 			1:01 	
9 		Act III Scene 5: Air: Du moment qu'on aime (Azor) 		4:10 	
10 		Act III Scene 5: Dialogue: Helas, je ne puis revenir (Zemire, Azor) 	1:14 	
11 		Act III Scene 5: Air: La fauvette, avec ses petits (Zemire) 	6:52 	
12 		Act III Scene 5: Dialogue: Vos chants pour moi sont (Azor, Zemire) 	0:28 	
13 		Act III Scene 6: Dialogue: Helas! comme il est triste! (Zemire, Azor) - Trio: Ah!… 	3:27 
14 		Act III Scene 7: Dialogue: Ah! cruel! (Zemire, Azor) 			1:38 
15 		Act III Scene 7: N'oubliez pas celui qui vous attend (Azor) - Larghetto 	0:57 	
16 		Act III Scene 7: Entr'acte 			2:07 	
17 		Act IV Scene 1: Ariette: J'en suis encor tremblant (Ali) 		2:18 	
18 		Act IV Scene 2: Dialogue: Volia ma soeur (Fatme, Lisbe, Sander) 	1:24 	
19 		Act IV Scene 2: Quartet: Ah! je tremble (Zemire, Sander, Fatme, Lisbe) 	4:29 	
20 		Act IV Scene 3: Air: Le soleil s'est cache dans l'onde (Azor) 	5:22 	
21 		Act IV Scene 3: Air: Azor! Azor! en vain ma voix l'appelle (Zemire) 	5:24 	
22 		Act IV Scene 5: Dialogue: Zemire! - Scene 6: Dialogue: Mon pere! Me soeurs!… 	1:10 
23 		Act IV Scene 6: Final: Amour, amour (All) 		1:15 	
24 		Act IV Scene 6: Le ballet termine le spectacle. Reprise de Passepied	1:43

Sander, A Merchant: Bernard Lefort (Baritone)
Ali, His Servant: Michel Hamel (Tenor)
Azor, A Fearsome Beast: Michel Sénéchal (Tenor)
Zémire: Huguette Boulangeot (Soprano)
Fatmé: Arda Mandikian (Soprano)
Lisbé: Claire Duchesneau (Soprano)

The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Sir Thomas Beecham - conductor

Live broadcast performance: Bath, 1955


The operas of Grétry are seldom recorded, and even less often performed, today. The composer was for a time the personal director of music to Marie-Antoinette and there is a strong vein of pretty artificiality which can seem at best trivial in unsympathetic hands. The present recording is certainly not in such hands as Beecham had a particular liking for the music of Grétry and his contemporaries. It was presumably at his behest that this opera was chosen as part of the programme for the 1955 Bath Festival. The present issue derives from a set of private recordings on 78rpm acetates of a live broadcast of one of a series of five performances of the work.

The plot a merchant ruined by a shipwreck who seeks refuge in the house of a Prince transformed into a beast by an evil fairy. The merchant takes a rose from the Prince’s garden, and in return for this theft is condemned to sacrifice his life to the beast. One of his daughters offers her own life instead, but comes to realise that the beast - the Prince - is in fact gentle in his intentions towards her. Her sacrifice returns the Prince to his human form. If a story of sacrifice reminds you of Idomeneo or Jeptha this would be misleading, as there is little exploration of the complex human relations involved. Instead we have a delightful series of beautifully worked airs, ensembles and dance movements - including the gentle Airs de ballet which Beecham played frequently outside the opera. The result may not be Mozartian, although it is close to Les Petits Riens, but is extremely beautiful, diverting and concise. It is easy to understand what attracted Beecham to it.

Although the sound, as re-mastered by Gary Moore and Arthur Ridgwell, is adequate for its age and origin some creative listening is required but most listeners will find it tolerable. There are cuts and changes to the text in Beecham’s edition and inevitably the performance style is that of its time. I have no doubt that a modern historically informed performance would sound very different but I am also in no doubt as to the sheer beauty and character of the sounds and approach found here. It helps immensely that most of the singers are French, especially as there is spoken dialogue between most of the numbers. This is however not too extensive and the booklet includes the entire libretto with an English translation by Andrew Parker.

The result is a delightful experience which should attract not just admirers of the conductor but also those interested in this important but underrated composer. If you do not know his music it is worth sampling these discs. I would be surprised if they do not give considerable pleasure. --- John Sheppard, MusicWeb International


This is a most delightful release, and an instructive one—a live BBC recording of a performance of Grétry‘s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ opera in May 1955 at the Theatre Royal, Bath. Beecham’s affinity with 19th-century French music is well known, but while in Paris during the early 1900s he studied, and seriously studied, 18th-century opéra comique, and his understanding of—and sympathy with—the genre shines through in this enchanting performance.

Grétry’s idiom has in the past been considered rather primitive, but his was an art that concealed art, simple, almost naïve on the surface but with many a hidden depth. Beecham catches to a tee both the surface charm and the less obvious compositional skill lying behind it. As the informative booklet notes admit, he ‘edited and arranged’ the score. Orchestral textures are filled out; just one number is cut, and there are internal snips within other numbers that one shouldn’t get too worried about—Grétry could be over-generous with repeats. Anyway, there are precedents: Adolphe Adam re-orchestrated the whole piece in the 19th century.

Beecham draws alert, pointed and disciplined playing from the Bournemouth orchestra and emphasizes the work’s swiftly changing moods. Much of it was very funny, to judge from the (unobtrusive) audience laughter, and the producer Anthony Besch obviously hit the mark, as he did with his later staging at the Camden Festival in 1980.

The sound has been brilliantly engineered, forward and ideally clear. The cast is remarkable and provides a demonstration of how French artists sang in those days—off the words and with clean-toned precision. Bernard Lefort, of course, went on to bigger things, but he was a first-rate baritone. The young Michel Sénéchal is in beautifully fresh voice and delivers some succulent soft passages—he was still singing nearly 50 years later. Huguette Boulangeot’s soprano tone is rather ‘white’, but she is very musical and has all the notes, up to a top D. Arda Mandikian, no less, sings Fatmé very sweetly, and with warmer sound.

One of the delights of the set is the spoken dialogue, taken at a fair lick and eliciting much of the laughter, thanks mainly to Michel Hamel’s Ali, as wittily sprightly in song as in speech. The French dialogue text and English translation are included in the booklet. Most warmly recommended. --- Rodney Milnes,

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]]> (bluesever) Gretry Andre Sat, 17 Jan 2015 17:10:09 +0000
André-Ernest-Modeste Grétry - L'épreuve villageoise (2015) André-Ernest-Modeste Grétry - L'épreuve villageoise (2015)

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1. Act I: Ouverture
2. Act I Scene 1: Couplet I: J' n'avions pas encore quatorze ans - Couplet II: Vous n'savez pas qu'il est jaloux (Denise)
3. Act I Scene 2: Duo: Bonjour Monsieur (Madame Hubert, La France)
4. Act I Scene 3: Duo: J'ai fait un bouquet (André, Denise)
5. Act I Scene 4: Ariette: J' commence à voir que dans la vie (Denise)
6. Act I Scene 6: Finale: André, tu me l'payras j'en jure - Scene 7: Eh bien Denise, mon billet
 - Scene 8: Ah venez ma mère et soyez juge (Denise, André, La France, Madame Hubert, Chorus)
7. Entr'acte
8. Act II Scene 1: Couplet I: Bon Dieu com 'à c'te fête - Couplet II:
 Queu danseux que c'monsieur d'la France - Couplet III: J'peux choisir au moins parmi douze (Denise)
9. Act II Scene 3: Ariette: Adieu, Marton, adieu, Lisette (La France, Denise)
10. Act II Scene 4: Trio: Je vous revois (La France, Denise, André)
11. Act II Scene 5: Duo: Viens mon André (Denise, André)
12. Act II Scene 6: Finale: Allons tous rendre hommage (La France, Chorus, Denise, André, Madame Hubert)
13. Act II Scene 6: Ballet: Allegretto
14. Act II Scene 6: Ballet
15. Act II Scene 6: Contredanse

Denise – Sophie Junker
Madame Hubert – Talise Trevigne
La France – Thomas Dolié
André – Francisco Fernandez-Rueda

Opera Lafayette
Conductor – Ryan Brown

Rec.: Dekelboum Hall, The Clarice, University of Maryland, USA, 25-26.I.2015.


L’épreuve villageoise was the only collaboration of André-Ernest-Modeste Grétry (1741–1813), leading composer of eighteenth-century opéra comique, and Pierre-Jean-Baptiste Choudard (1746–1806; known as Desforges), a Parisian-born actor and dramatist. The pair likely met through their mutual association with the Comédie Italienne, the theatrical company which produced the majority of Grétry’s works and at which both Desforges and his wife were sporadically employed. (Madame Desforges would go on to play the wealthy fermière Madame Hubert during the opening run of the comic opera.)

L’épreuve villageoise was first performed under an alternate title (Théodore et Paulin) and in markedly different form—in three acts rather than two, and with a larger and more socially diverse cast. The opéra comique received only mixed reviews when it premièred before the French court at Versailles in March of 1784. The esteemed audience—which included Queen Marie Antoinette—appeared utterly indifferent to the principal plotline featuring noble characters, all the while delighting in the intrigues of rustic secondary figures. As the critic of the Mercure de France, a leading literary gazette, described it, the comic relief had completely overshadowed the main thrust of the drama (“l’accessoire a écrasé le principal”). In response, Grétry and his librettist undertook a drastic revision of their work, excising much of the serious material from the original and elevating the lighter-weight subplot into primary action. The result is a crisp and lively farce, centring on the clever farmer’s daughter Denise and her two competing suitors—the ambitious valet La France and the jealous, if otherwise well-intentioned, André. In this altered form, L’épreuve villageoise was promptly returned to the stage, appearing at the Comédie Italienne from June of 1784 onwards, and warmly embraced by Parisian audiences and critics alike.

The reworking of Théodore et Paulin into L’épreuve villageoise—and the elevation of the rustic topos inherent in this process—attests to the vivid appeal of paysannerie in the music, art, and literature of the late ancien régime. Grétry’s opéra comique is one of numerous contemporaneous examples of the genre engaging with a Rousseau-inspired validation of natural simplicity and the moral superiority of country life. It is hardly coincidental that the height of the work’s success at the French court corresponded with the construction of Marie Antoinette’s “hamlet” at the Petit Trianon, a pseudo-Norman village replete with a mill, a “pleasure” dairy, and a fully functioning farm. While the peasant Denise does not possess a formal education (when she receives a love letter from La France, for example, it is clear that she is unable to read it), she is nonetheless able to outwit her worldlier would-be suitor; in this case, common sense and country gumption prevail over the pretensions of the aspiring beau monde. And, throughout, La France is made an object of gentle ridicule for his insistence on the pleasures of the urban sphere. He adores fashionable theatre, concerts, and the brilliant splendours of court—which the villagers insist must pale in comparison to their own analogous entertainments: the beauty of nature, the warbling of birds, and the rising of the sun, respectively. Though, of course, there is a fair measure of irony here, given the dramatic medium through which this moral is communicated and the Parisian and courtly audiences to which it was originally addressed.

L’épreuve villageoise was one of Grétry’s most popular works, maintaining a presence on Parisian stages for more than a century after its première. In addition to hundreds of performances in the French capital, the opera was extensively disseminated elsewhere in Europe and in the New World, with documented productions in Amsterdam, Bern, Brussels, Cologne, Moscow, St Petersburg, New York, Cap Français, and Port-au-Prince, to name just a few. The extraordinary reach of L’épreuve villageoise is indicative of the international success attained by opéra comique, more broadly, in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Over and above the more prestigious tragédie lyrique, comic opera came to define French music outside of France because it was readily transportable—generally modest in scale and economically efficient to reproduce. Moreover, because it contained spoken dialogue rather than recitative, the genre was relatively straightforward to translate, further contributing to its exportability. Indeed, L’épreuve villageoise was eventually published in both Dutch and German in addition to the original French. Opéra comique had from its very start been defined by a spirit of adaptability, even beyond the professional stage. The greatest musical “hits” of L’épreuve villageoise were spun off in low-cost commercial prints, made widely available in chamber music arrangements for domestic use. And in his memoirs, Grétry himself suggested changes to the opera that an amateur troupe might make to render it easier to perform. Despite its fashionable status at the Bourbon court, then, this was a work—and an art form—tailored for flexibility, accessibility, and broad popular appeal.

Opera Lafayette’s production of L’épreuve villageoise draws upon this rich history of adaptation and cultural transfer, situating Grétry’s comedy on the outskirts of the operatic capital of the antebellum United States: New Orleans. New Orleans was the first city in North America to host a permanent opera troupe. And by the opening decade of the nineteenth century, remarkably, it boasted not one but two lyric companies to serve its population of roughly 12,000 residents, the competing theatres of the Rue St Philippe and the Rue St Pierre. Opéra comique, in general, and the compositions of Grétry, in particular, dominated the repertories of these rival institutions during this period. Grétry’s Silvain is the first opera known to have been presented in the city (at the St Pierre in 1796); and in the next fifteen years New Orleans would be treated to a further 79 performances of twelve different works from his oeuvre. It is only fitting that Opera Lafayette—an American company at the vanguard of the modern revival of French comic opera—should return L’épreuve villageoise to this site of its first “homegrown” efflorescence. ---Julia Doe,

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]]> (bluesever) Gretry Andre Wed, 29 Mar 2017 13:37:23 +0000
Gretry - Andromaque (2010) Gretry - Andromaque (2010)

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Disc: 1
  1. Andromaque, opera: Ouverture
  2. Andromaque, opera: Act 1. Scene 1. Cessez de répandre des larmes...
  3. Andromaque, opera: Act 1. Scene 1. C'est le seul espoir qui me reste...
  4. Andromaque, opera: Act 1. Scene 1. Si, fidèle au noeud qui l'engage...
  5. Andromaque, opera: Act 1. Scene 2. Marche
  6. Andromaque, opera: Act 1. Scene 2. Au vainqueur des Troyens...
  7. Andromaque, opera: Act 1. Scene 2. De tous nos rois secondez la colère...
  8. Andromaque, opera: Act 1. Scene 2. Non, non, veux défendre et le fils et la mère...
  9. Andromaque, opera: Act 1. Scene 2. Je ne fus que trop implacable...
  10. Andromaque, opera: Act 1. Scene 2. Je défendrai contre eux est le fils eet la mère...
  11. Andromaque, opera: Act 1. Scene 2. Marche
  12. Andromaque, opera: Act 1. Scene 3. Je l'envoie, je le sais, aux pieds de sa maîtresse...
  13. Andromaque, opera: Act 1. Scene 4. Où portez-vous vos pas?...
  14. Andromaque, opera: Act 1. Scene 4. Ils me menacent de leurs armes...
  15. Andromaque, opera: Act 1. Scene 4. Triste, captive, importune à moi-même...
  16. Andromaque, opera: Act 1. Scene 4. Votre vainqueur baigne de larmes...
  17. Andromaque, opera: Act 1. Scene 4. Ah! dites-moi seulement que j'espère...
  18. Andromaque, opera: Act 1. Scene 4. Murs sacrés! que n'a pu conserver mon Hector...
  19. Andromaque, opera: Act 1. Scene 4. Cruelle!...
  20. Andromaque, opera: Act 1. Scene 4. Vous le voulez? Hé bien, cruelle!...
  21. Andromaque, opera: Act 1. Scene 4. Le fils, dans ma juste colère...
  22. Andromaque, opera: Act 1. Scene 5. Ah! c'en est fait, cruelle!...
  23. Andromaque, opera: Act 1. Scene 5. Je m'applaudis de ma victoire...
  24. Andromaque, opera: Act 1. Scene 5. Qu'on cherche Oreste, amenez Hermione...
  25. Andromaque, opera: Act 1. Scene 6. Fille de Ménélas, Oreste...
  26. Andromaque, opera: Act 1. Scene 6. J'oublie à jamais l'ingrate...
  27. Andromaque, opera: Act 1. Scene 6. Dieux! que cet aveu me flatte...
  28. Andromaque, opera: Act 1. Scene 6. Marche

Disc: 2
  1. Andromaque, opera: Act 2. Scene 1. Modérez ce transport jaloux...
  2. Andromaque, opera: Act 2. Scene 2. Régnez à jamais dans mon âme...
  3. Andromaque, opera: Act 2. Scene 2. Bientôt le pompe nuptiale...
  4. Andromaque, opera: Act 2. Scene 3. Ne fuyez point un spectacle si doux!...
  5. Andromaque, opera: Act 2. Scene 4. Elle fuit, la cruelle, et se rit de mes larmes...
  6. Andromaque, opera: Act 2. Scene 4. Chère épouse, dit-il, je te laisse ce gage...
  7. Andromaque, opera: Act 2. Scene 4. Et sa mère pourrait supporter son trépas?...
  8. Andromaque, opera: Act 2. Scene 5. Hâtons-nous et quittons ce rivage...
  9. Andromaque, opera: Act 2. Scene 6. Phoenix, il faut aux Grecs livrer le fils d'Hector...
  10. Andromaque, opera: Act 2. Scene 6. Hélas! vous pouvez, sans pitié...
  11. Andromaque, opera: Act 2. Scene 7. Je ne puis résister à ses larmes...
  12. Andromaque, opera: Act 2. Scene 7. À votre fils, je servirai de père...
  13. Andromaque, opera: Act 2. Scene 7. Ciel c'en est fait !...
  14. Andromaque, opera: Act 2. Scene 8. C'est pour l'hymen d'une immortelle...
  15. Andromaque, opera: Act 2. Scene 8. Gavotte
  16. Andromaque, opera: Act 2. Scene 9. C'en est fait! Le parjure!...
  17. Andromaque, opera: Act 2. Scene 9. Va lui jurer la foi que tu m'avais jurée...
  18. Andromaque, opera: Act 2. Scene 9. Quoi! préférer à la fille d'un roi...
  19. Andromaque, opera: Act 2. Scene 10. Croirai-je que vos yeux sont enfin désarmés?...
  20. Andromaque, opera: Act 2. Scene 10. Lâche! n'espère plus obtenir ma conquête!...
  21. Andromaque, opera: Act 2. Scene 10. Il ne mourra que de la main d'Oreste...
  22. Andromaque, opera: Act 2. Scene 10. Jurez de venger son injure...
  23. Andromaque, opera: Act 3. Scene 1. Ombre chérie, ombre sacrée...
  24. Andromaque, opera: Act 3. Scene 1. Reçois, chère ombre que j'adore...
  25. Andromaque, opera: Act 3. Scene 1. Vivez pour votre fils et faites son bonheur...
  26. Andromaque, opera: Act 3. Scene 2. Pyrrhus vous attend à l'autel...
  27. Andromaque, opera: Act 3. Scene 3. Quel spectacle cruel!...
  28. Andromaque, opera: Act 3. Scene 3. Bravons la crainte et le danger...
  29. Andromaque, opera: Act 3. Scene 4. Gavotte
  30. Andromaque, opera: Act 3. Scene 4. Menuet
  31. Andromaque, opera: Act 3. Scene 4. Reprise de la Gavotte
  32. Andromaque, opera: Act 3. Scene 4. Marche
  33. Andromaque, opera: Act 3. Scene 4. Dieu d'Hymen, que sous ton empire...
  34. Andromaque, opera: Act 3. Scene 4. Andromaque, régnez sur mon peuple et sur moi...
  35. Andromaque, opera: Act 3. Scene 4. Combat
  36. Andromaque, opera: Act 3. Scene 5. Quels cris me remplissent d'effroi?...
  37. Andromaque, opera: Act 3. Scene 6. Princesse, c'en est fait! votre haine est servie...
  38. Andromaque, opera: Act 3. Scene 7. Est-ce Hermione?... Et que viens-je d'entendre?...
  39. Andromaque, opera: Act 3. Scene 8. Ô fureur! Ô funeste sort!...
  40. Andromaque, opera: Act 3. Scene 8. Sauvons-le de sa fureur!...
  41. Andromaque, opera: Act 3. Scene 8. Filles d'enfer, vos mains sont-elle prêtes?...
  42. Andromaque, opera: Act 3. Scene 8. Dieux implacables, dieux vengeurs...

Karine Deshayes - soprano
Maria Riccarda Wesseling - mezzo-soprano
Sébastien Guèze - tenor
Tassis Christoyannis - baritone

Le Concert Spirituel
Hervé Niquet - conductor


Working in collaboration with the Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles and the Palazzetto Bru Zane (Centre de Musique Romantique Française), Hervé Niquet and Le Concert Spirituel carry on with their journey of rediscovering forgotten operatic works, this time pitting themselves against music from the close of the Age of Enlightenment, in Andromaque (1778), the single tragédie lyrique written by André-Ernest-Modeste Grétry (1741- 1813). Known above all for his light opéras- comiques, at the end of his career the composer turned towards an increasingly heroic style in the vein of Méhul and Cherubini.

The work reflects the tendency of an age of changes which was torn between a nostalgia for the times of the reign of Louis XIV and the cult of modernity and progress. Thus, it overlays on the barely- altered Jean Racine text of Andromaque (1667) a music already suffused with Romantic aspirations where literally unheard-of tones and accents clothe the passions of the Classical Greek age in a new guise. Never performed again after its initial production Andromaque today reveals all the modernity of the French school on the eve of the French Revolution and imposes itself without doubt as one of the most singular and unexpected links between the Baroque and Romanticism.


Grétry composed this work in 1780, when he had already had ten years of success writing comic operas in Paris. But this is a tragedy with a text derived from the revered dramatist Jean Racine, and it ends with the stage littered with dead bodies - Andromache of Troy (wife of the dead Hector) kills herself rather than live with Pyrrhus (ruler of Epirus in north-west Greece); Hermione (rejected lover of Pyrrhus) has Pyrrhus killed, and then stabs herself to death; and Hermione’s lover, Orestes, then attempts to commit suicide.

The performers face interesting challenges here because Grétry’s music is not up to the histrionic mayhem. Some scenes do come off – the lovely exchange between Andromache and the chorus at Hector’s tomb (Act III, Scene 1) is brought to life by the mezzos: Karine Deshayes’s mercurial and heartfelt expression in the title role, and Maria Wesseling as Hermione makes the most of her full-blooded ‘revenge’ monologue (Act III, Scene 3).

But elsewhere the fine, clear voice of tenor Sébastien Guèze as Pyrrhus is made by the music to sound as if he is addressing a public meeting (Act I, Scene 4) rather than quietly pleading for Andromache’s attention, and the overture to Act I is ridiculously perky for a tragedy. Under Hervé Niquet’s guidance, the orchestral sound is always tuneful, piquant and alert. -- Anthony Pryer, BBC Music Magazinea,

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]]> (bluesever) Gretry Andre Thu, 14 Mar 2019 16:06:51 +0000
Grétry, Gossec, Giroust - Grands Motets (2006) Grétry, Gossec, Giroust - Grands Motets (2006)

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André-Ernest-Modeste Grétry (1741-1813)
1 Confitebor tibi Domine 2’58
2 Magna opera Domini 3’24
3 Confessio et magnificentia 3’20
4 Memoriam 3’36
5 Memor erit 1’22
6 Ut det illis 3’30
7 Fidelia omnia mandata ejus 3’47
8 Redemptionem misit 3’00
9 Sanctum et terribile nomen ejus 4’05
10 Intellectus bonus omnibus 3’22
11 Gloria Patri 4’26

François-Joseph Gossec (1734-1829)
Terribilis est locus iste
12 Terribilis est locus iste 1’21
13 Quam dilecta tabernacula tua 4’17
14 Et enim passer inventi 4’13
15 Beati qui habitant 6’38

François Giroust (1738-1799)
Benedic anima mea
16 Benedic anima mea 3’20
17 Qui fundasti terram 4’27
18 Qui emittis fontes 3’58
19 Jucundum sit ei 2’49
20 Cantabo Domino 3’30
21 Sit gloria Domini 4’01

Kareen Durand, dessus 
Cyril Auvity, ténor
James Oxley, ténor 
Alain Buet, basse
Choeur de Chambre de Namur
Les Agrémens
Jean-Claude Malgoire, direction


François Giroust, André-Modeste Grétry and François-Joseph Gossec all belong to the same generation of artists: at the height of their activity between 1760 and 1780, they are among those who contemplated the final flowering of the ‘Baroque’ style in France – Rameau, Mondonville, Dauvergne were still composing – and who introduced to Paris and Versailles the modern inspiration of the ‘Classical’ era.

Yet their careers have little in common. Giroust, perhaps the most unassuming of the trio, was essentially interested in sacred music. Having become sous-maître at the Royal Chapel a year after the death of Louis XV (1775), he went on to compose the majority of his grands motets for that institution. Grétry and Gossec both enjoyed highly successful careers in Paris during the reign of Louis XVI: they made only episodic forays to Versailles, even though Grétry obtained the official post of maître de musique to the queen. He became known chiefly for his opéras comiques, which continued to be performed successfully until the late nineteenth century and were particularly appreciated by Marie-Antoinette. Gossec, for his part, was considered the true father of the French symphony, and was fêted at both the Concert des Amateurs of the Hôtel de Rohan and the celebrated Concert Spirituel. In 1795-6, all three were granted the ultimate accolade of appointment as members of the Music section of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in the newly created Institut de France.

Three composers, three styles: if the works of Giroust, Grétry and Gossec flow from the same general aesthetic position – the Classicism of which Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven were to be the chief exponents – it is nonetheless true that their respective manners situate them as the heirs to the three dominant national tendencies of the period.

Giroust, first of all, fights to continue the aesthetic tradition of the French grand motet. Following on from Blanchard and Mondonville, he renewed the genre while still retaining the elements of the French style: his Benedic anima mea conserves rigorous, emphatic declamation, refined ornamentation, five-part choral textures, and a close relationship between the soloists and the choral forces (grand choeur), all features which are vestiges of the Baroque grand motet as conceived by Lalande at the end of Louis XIV’s reign.

Grétry, on the other hand, cannot conceal the Italian influence that was to dominate his output throughout his career: the Confitebor, composed during his period in Italy, owes everything to that country’s great masters, foremost among them Pergolesi whose famous Stabat Mater was then the most universally applauded composition. Thus it takes the form of a string of solo arias occasionally relieved by a chorus, and gives vocal virtuosity primacy over the learned complexities of counterpoint. The three-part string ensemble (first and second violins and bass, without wind instruments) is handled in brilliant and modern fashion: orchestral unisons, tremolos, rushing scales, arpeggios are among the mannerisms taken over from the emerging Mannheim school and abundantly exploited by the likes of Jommelli, Sacchini, and Piccinni in Rome, Naples, and Venice. In his Terribilis est locus iste, Gossec displays an art that has reached its full maturity. The ample formal schemes, skilful modulations and eloquently shaped melodies here evoke the grand German style of Haydn and Mozart as it became established in France in the 1770s.

Bringing together horizons as varied as those of Mondonville, Pergolesi and Haydn, the ‘French Classical style’ of Giroust, Grétry and Gossec is therefore the product of a harmonious synthesis, which took place all the more easily since, during the last twenty-five years of the eighteenth century, Paris became the artistic capital of Europe. In the course of their travels, Piccinni, Sacchini, Salieri, Gluck, Johann Christian Bach and Mozart mingled with each other in Paris and had their masterpieces performed there, speeding up the process which was to lead to the birth of an ‘international style’ around 1785.. ---Editorial Reviews

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]]> (bluesever) Gretry Andre Fri, 04 Nov 2016 13:15:15 +0000