It’s usually damning with faint praise to say something is nice background music, but in this case it is. The pieces on this entertaining programme from Mr Strauss are all incidental music.
The title piece, Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme suite, was one of his own favourite scores — he had it played at his 84th birthday — and was written for the revival of a comedy ballet, one in which, according to the sleeve notes, Jean-Baptiste Lully stuck his own conductor’s stick through his foot and later died of a blood infection, batons being much shorter ever since. It’s playful and romantic. The music, not the infection.
Ariadne auf Naxos is more of the same, witty, melodic and lush. The two apparently go together: Ariadne auf Naxos was written to be paired with Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, telling the story of a play within a play, with the lighter piece of Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme running first.
The Buffalo Philharmonic perform, out on Naxos 8.573460.