Boieldieu: Piano Concertos, Six Overtures

review boieldieu x1 cong

Adrien Boieldieu numbers among the most important exponents of the opéra comique of the French imperial era and the subsequent restoration. From 1803 to 1811 he was the court music director in St Petersburg, and in 1817 he became a professor of composition at the Paris Conservatory.

This programme of works is — as the name suggests — composed of the overtures of his opéras comiques. It’s all very jolly and easy to listen to.

Boieldieu anticipated thematic material from each opera in his opening, to prepare listeners for the atmosphere and tone of the particular opera and to introduce themes, and the listener can well imagine an audience collectively sitting back in its chair, unwinding and preparing for a night’s entertainment.

For those who don’t like opera, the collection has the added bonus of no singing.

The opener is from his one-act comic opera Le Calife De Bagdad from 1800, and it’s a good, lively intro. The sleeve notes say some Turkish instruments are used, but the sound is firmly European. Turkish-themed productions apparently delighted audiences at this time but this must have been more about the look and feel of the show, rather than the actual music. World music was presumably as niche then as it is now.

The overture from Emma Ou La Prisionnière (Emma dresses as a man, gets sent to prison, escapes dressed as another man) follows. It’s more genteel than the opener but just as lively.

It’s not all lively: Ma Tante Aurore has a slower start, though it gets more cheery.

This is an entertaining collection loosely similar to Mozart, rousing and uplifting, and accessible for even casual fans of the classics.

Natasa Veljkovic (piano) and the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana under Howard Griffiths perform.

This is out on CPO 555244-2.


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