WORKS: Der Bürger als Edelmann; Tanzsuite
PERFORMER: Academy of St Martin in the Fields/Neville Marriner
CATALOGUE NO: 446 696-2
This marvellous suite of gems for a scaled-down orchestra was salvaged from music which Strauss provided for a production of Molière’s play Le bourgeois gentilhomme. Though Strauss saw it through two incarnations, the play with music was a failure. Luckily, he tidied the various bits and pieces into this delightful suite. With its reduced orchestra, piano ‘continuo’ and air of pastiche, the suite is no less than an exercise in neo-classicism, though one in which Viennese grace and lightness means that there are no jolts or abrasive hard edges.
With their long experience of the Baroque and Classical repertoire, Neville Marriner and the players of his Academy of St Martin in the Fields are near ideal interpreters of this reimaging of 17th-century music. The appealing neatness of their playing is tempered by a delightful hint of Schmaltz; best of all, they never lose sight of the theatrical origins of the piece. In both Le bourgeois gentilhomme and the Dance Suite of 1940, based on harpsichord music by François Couperin, conductor and band always communicate their enjoyment of this captivating music. Brightly, but also delicately coloured, these are enormously appealing performances. Jan Smaczny