Massenet

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COMPOSERS: Massenet
LABELS: Chandos
ALBUM TITLE: Neeme Järvi conducts Massenet
WORKS: Ballet Suite from Le Cid; Le dernier sommeil de la Vierge; Overture from Le Roi de Lahore; Fantaisie; Overture from Phedre; Scene religious from Les Erinnyes; Entr’acte Sevillana from Don Cesar de Bazan; Scenes pittoresques
PERFORMER: Truls Mørk (cello); Orchestre de la Suisse Romande/Neeme Järvi
CATALOGUE NO: CHSA 5137

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The supreme operatic craftsman of the Belle Époque, Jules Massenet was a theatrical chameleon, able to lend each of his operas a unique musical colouring across a wide spectrum of historical and fictional settings. This new collection seems designed to show that his orchestral works are equally kaleidoscopic.

Of the three more substantial items, the two most familiar – the suite of Spanish regional dances from Le Cid and the atmospherically varied Scènes pittoresques – are played by Neeme Järvi and his Swiss orchestra with infectious panache and finesse. Rarer is the 1896–97 Fantaisie, with Truls Mørk matching the vibrant tone of his Montagnana ‘Esquire’ cello to the work’s nervy iambic opening. He mellows to a warmly expressive cantabile for the sweetly singing second theme and jauntily picks his way through the offbeat ‘quasi cadenza’.

The Norwegian cellist also plays admirably unsentimental accounts of that Beecham ‘lollipop’ Le dernier sommeil de la vierge (The Last Sleep of the Virgin) as well as the lesser-known Scène religieuse from the incidental music to Les Érinnyes (The Furies). This last piece, a more decorous take on the Elektra legend than Strauss’s, finds Mørk tenderly impassioned in the daughter’s desolate lament for her murdered father.

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Mark Pappenheim