Offenbach/Lalo

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COMPOSERS: Offenbach/Lalo
LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: Concerto militaire in G; Cello Concerto in D minor
PERFORMER: Ofra Harnoy (cello); Bournemouth SO/Antonio de Almeida
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 68420 2
Before he became world-famous as a composer of a host of operettas, Offenbach was a cello virtuoso, and it was during this stage of his career that the Concerto militaire was written, probably in 1847.

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The title refers to the mock-military opening, somewhat in the comic-opera manner of The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein. Offenbach brings the theme back to end the first movement, but in between seems at a loss how to proceed. The Andante, though, is pleasingly tinged with sadness, while the rondo finale has genuine verve.

Lalo’s Concerto (1876) is both more ambitious and less spontaneous. Though things once again improve for the work’s later stages, the laboured first movement rarely suggests the freshness of the composer of the Symphonie espagnole.

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Ofra Harnoy’s tone is at its least distinguished here, and her phrasing often routine. Antonio de Almeida knows more about Offenbach than anyone else, and the Bournemouth Symphony plays capably for him, but the recording might profitably have favoured the soloist more than it does. George Hall