Bizet • Gounod: Carmen Suite, Petite Symphony, etc
Scottish Chamber Orchestra/François Leleux (Linn Records)
Bizet • Gounod
Bizet: Carmen Suite No. 1; Symphony No. 1 in C major; Gounod: Petite Symphonie
Scottish Chamber Orchestra/François Leleux
Linn Records CKD 624 63:30 mins
Conductor and oboist Francois Leleux is a frequent figure on the concert platform with the Scottish Conductor and oboist Francois Leleux is a frequent figure on the concert platform with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and here makes his first recording with the orchestra in this fizzing programme of Bizet and Gounod. The SCO have a thrilling way with Bizet, opening Ernest Guiraud’s Carmen Suite No. 1, put together by Bizet’s friend as a concert piece after the composer’s death, with foreboding knife-edge thrill and panache. Guiraud wasn’t concerned with a chronological run-through, so in this ‘no particular order’ Carmen, the orchestra hop from an Intermezzo that is truly the woodwind calm before the storm, backed by rich playing in the strings, to the operatic earthy vigour of their Séguedille without words.
All this finely-sculpted woodwind playing is brought to the fore in Gounod’s somewhat less dramatic and rather pastoral Petite Symphonie, which is more a balm to frayed nerves than exciter of grand passions. Delightful and light, this melodic piece for nine woodwinds was first performed in Paris in 1885, beautifully judged here from both the SCO wind soloists and Leleux, leading up front from the oboe.
The Bizet bookend is the joyous Symphony in C, written by Bizet when he was just 17, unplayed in his lifetime and subsequently lost for 70 years, and surely among the most buoyant masterpieces in the repertoire. It bubbles along with infectious delight in the SCO’s hands – I could listen to them playing this all day – dazzling between wind and strings, the former evocatively bucolic in the Allegro Vivace Trio, the latter nimble in the finale.
Sarah Urwin Jones