ALBUM TITLE: Offenbach
WORKS: Grand Concerto for Cello and Orchestra; Les fées du Rhin; Ballet des flocons de neige; Orphée aux enfers – overture
PERFORMER: Jérôme Pernoo (cello); Les Musiciens du Louvre/Marc Minkowski
CATALOGUE NO: 477 6403
The playing from orchestra and soloist alike is of the highest class and, allied to the generous but not cavernous acoustics of the Grenoble Maison de Culture, has given us a disc that will no doubt give great pleasure to many, and not only Offenbachophiles. Under Minkowski’s alert baton, rhythms bounce, tunes sparkle and dynamic contrasts make you jump.
Much as I should like to extend this enthusiasm to the composer’s newly rediscovered Concerto militaire, I cannot. The central Andante boasts a charming tune, but beyond that Offenbach is so keen to astonish by taking the soloist into areas of rarefied oxygen that the actual music falls by the wayside. Pernoo copes with these outrageous demands with unfailing skill – but for me they remain outrageous. A mystery, too, in that the music differs in all three movements either in treatment of material (in the first and second) or in the actual material itself (in the third) from the hitherto known version, which is not quite what the sleeve note tells us; it’s also getting on for twice as long, which is certainly longer than the music can stand. Offenbach may have been called ‘the Liszt of the cello’, but the structure of his first movement, belonging to the and-now-forsomething- completely-different school, forswears that master’s formidable cogency and not all the acrobatics in the world can make up for this basic weakness. Roger Nichols