Wednesday, 2 September 2015

The byways of French Romantic music with the Palazzetto Bru Zane

Palazzetto Bru Zane
The Palazzetto Bru Zane, Centre de musique romantique Francaise, has released its 2015/16 programme and for anyone interested in the forgotten byways of French 19th century music then the season is full of delights. Though to call the works in the programme byways is unfair, as much of the French music which Palazzetto Bru Zane champions was highly popular in its day. As ever, the organisation's live concerts are linked to recordings, so you can expect to see recordings. And as the release this year of a CD of Saint-Saens opera La Barbares showed us, there are plenty of hidden gems. The 2015/16 season examine the work of two composers, Edouard Lalo and Benjamin Godard, whose output particularly their operas enable us to examine the influence of Wagner on French opera. In addition there is a chance to hear an opera by one of the founders of the early 19th century French style, Gaspare Spontini.

The music of Edouard Lalo is hardly a forgotten byway, but whilst a handful of works get exposure his operas less so. Le Roi d'Ys does get the occasional outing, rather more in the French speaking world than in the UK, but his final opera La Jacquerie will be a new experience for most. Completed after Lalo's death, it was premiered in Monte Carlo in 1895. Patrick Devin conducts the Orchestre Philharmonique de France with Veronique Gens as Blanche, Charles Castronovo and Edgaras Montvidas sharing the role of Robert. The first concert performance was at Opera Berlioz Montpellier last month, and it is repeated in Paris, at the Auditorium of Radio France, on 11 March 2016. The opera is accompanied by a festival in Venice, a cycle of eight concerts from 26 September to 10 November 2015 encompassing Lalo's chamber music, the Violin Concerto gets a rare UK outing when Jeremie Rhorer conducts the Philharmonia Orchestra with James ehnes in the solo part, at the Royal Festival Hall on 10 December 2015. A recording of Lalo's complete melodies is being released on the Aparte label in Octobr, and the complete orchestral concertante works come out on disc, on Alpha Classics, with Jean-Jacques Kantorow conducting the Orchestra Philharmonique Royal de Liege, in February 2016.

Benjamin Godard
Benjamin Godard
If the name Benjamin Godard means anything to you, it is for the Berceuse from his opera Jocelyn (1888). But he had an extensive career including six operas. His opera Dante, based on the life of the Renaissance poet, was premiered in 1890 at the Opera Comique in Paris. There are concert performances at the PrinzRegentenTheater in Munich (31 January 2016), and the Opera Royal de Versailles (2 February 2016) with Ulf Schirmer conducting the Munich Radio Orchestra and Bavarian Radio Chorus, with Edgaras Montvidas as Dante and Veronique Gens as Beatrice. For these performances a new edition of the opera has been made, base on the composer's autograph.  A varied selection of Godard's works will be presented at the Palazzetto Bru Zane's festival in Venice from 9 April to 15 May 2016. And there are excerpts from two of his symphonies in concert at Studio 1 im Funkhaus, Munich (20 September 2015).

The work of Gaspare Spontini was much admired by Berlioz, and Spontini's La Vestale has vestigial hold on the repertory (albeit often in the Italian translation). But his opera L'Olympie was premiered 1819 at the Academie Royale de Musique, Paris (the body which became the Paris Opera), though is is little known nowadays (Gerd Albrecht recorded it on the Orfeo label in 1984). There is a chance to catch up when Jeremie Rhorer conducts Le Cercle de l'Harmonie at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees on Friday 3 June 2016, with Karina Gauvin as Olympie and Charles Castronovo as Cassandre. The performance is part of a Palazzetto Bru Zane festival in Paris (3 June to 9 June 2016) which includes a lovely overview of French romantic music with performers including Marie-Nicole Lemieux in French song, and Quatuor Mosaique in quartets by Godard, Gounod and Debussy.

There is a lot more besides, and you can find full details on their website, bru-zane.com. The organisation is also highly active publishing, and they have now set up a website (bruznemediabase.com)combining articles, visual images and documents to make them more widely available. You can read more about the Palazzetto Bru Zane in my article about their programme of French piano music at the Institut Francais earlier this year.

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