Auber: Overtures and ballet music from La muette de Portici; Le dieu et la bayadère; Jenny Bell; La sirène; Vendôme en Espagne

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Auber
LABELS: Sterling
WORKS: Overtures and ballet music from La muette de Portici; Le dieu et la bayadère; Jenny Bell; La sirène; Vendôme en Espagne
PERFORMER: Gothenburg Opera Orchestra/B Tommy Andersson
CATALOGUE NO: CDS-1039-2
Most of François Auber’s prolific output remains stranded in mid-19th-century Paris. A whole operatic era was overtaken by events as Verdi, Wagner and local high Romantics swept the globe. Yet the fame of La muette de Portici and Fra Diavolo has never quite been forgotten, and as Sterling’s brave and enjoyable selection shows, there is good reason.

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This vivacious and elegant music occupies a niche between Rossini and Delibes. Lilting lines, buoyant allegros and rousing orchestral flourishes set its tone. Knowing his audience, Auber set out to entertain with ease, and would never have worried about stamping his personality on his material. The task needed unfailing skill and there’s a Mozart-like Classicism about the results, because even in the less distinctive items he could draw on endless grace, wit and lightness.

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The album’s bravery rests in shunning the old favourites. Brightest of the previously unrecorded overtures is Jenny Bell, which cross-cuts an upbeat gavotte with a harp-laden valse, but only one ballet number outstays its welcome and there’s verve and melody everywhere. The music is played for elegance rather than dash, and could do with more oomph – it would be great to hear Marc Minkowski conducting Auber. Still, for addicts of the genre it’s unmissable. Robert Maycock