WORKS: Suite pastorale; Habanera; España; Larghetto for Horn and Orchestra; Gwendoline Overture; Prélude pastoral; Marche française; Fête polonaise
PERFORMER: Ronald Janezic (horn); Vienna PO/John Eliot Gardiner
CATALOGUE NO: 447 751-2
John Eliot Gardiner’s enthusiastic advocacy of the Gallic tradition here results in a winning anthology of a composer whose work typifies three of its essential virtues: delicacy, vivacity and wit.
The Vienna Philharmonic essays a convincing French accent, with tangy oboes and clarinets, while Gardiner, deft and sensitive to the idiom, misses only the last ounce of sheer pep required by the more extrovert pieces, where a slightly more raucous, Latin approach would not have come amiss.
This is true, at least, of España and the Marche française. The latter – a former Beecham favourite, more familiar as the Joyeuse marche – turns out, together with the Prélude pastoral, to have originally been part of a pair.
The less well-known items all prove worthwhile. The Suite pastorale is a graceful, Fauré-like essay in orchestral pastel tones, and the Larghetto for horn an appealing cameo (Ronald Janezic is the mellow-toned soloist). If the Prélude pastoral carries echoes of Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll, the Gwendoline Overture climaxes in a full-blown, Tannhäuser-like peroration, and one has to admire the sheer bravura with which Chabrier steers it to a frenetic conclusion.
The sound is a shade undefined for the distinctive subtleties of the orchestration, though its sonic range is broad. George Hall