R Strauss • Lully
R Strauss: Der Bürger Edelmann; Lully: Le bourgeois gentilhomme – excerpts
Norwegian Chamber Orchestra/Terje Tonnesen
This charmingly conceived CD links numbers from Lully’s incidental music to Molière’s Le bourgeois gentilhomme with a work for which it in part provided the inspiration nearly 250 years later, Strauss’s suite Der Bürger als Edelmann. The music from Le bourgeois gentilhomme, premiered in 1670, includes the overture and the more colourful dances including a fair few from the ‘Ballet des Nations’ which concludes the comedy. Although the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra is not an authentic instrument band, they certainly play stylishly, particularly in solo sections, and clearly relish the various embellishments of the outline of Lully’s orchestration.
Strauss’s Suite had its origins in the rather tortured history of his opera Ariadne, which was originally conceived as a substitute for the ‘Ballet des Nations’ in a version of Molière’s play with incidental music by Strauss. After various transformations, the Suite acquired independent life in 1918 and is a fine example of the way in which many early 20th-century composers turned to the Baroque to invigorate their musical language. There is a certain amount of Baroque pastiche in the Overture with its bustling figuration and spikey piano continuo. Elsewhere there is camp extravaganza, notably in the ‘Entry of the Fencing Master’ and the ‘Dance of the Tailors’ where the soloists of the band make the most of their ample opportunities. None of this is great music, but it is always diverting and in this lively, if not always flawless performance, a constant delight.