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Gretry Traversant L'acheron / Penson, Bernier, Et Al


Release Date: 10/17/2000 
Label:  Cypres   Catalog #: 3618   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  André Modeste GrétryArmand-Louis CouperinWolfgang Amadeus MozartDieudonné Gaubert,   ... 
Performer:  Guy PensonDirk VandaeleFrédéric DussenneSylvia Bernier
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 13 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Testimony to Grétry’s great reputation … played with zest and assurance.

There was a time when there were no turntables or CD players. As not everyone was able to go to the opera to hear the fashionable works of their time, the only alternative was an arrangement of complete operas or parts of them for keyboard or for different kinds of ensembles, from piano trios to flute quartets or wind ensembles. The number of arrangements of an opera was an indication of the popularity and reputation of its composer. By that standard André-Ernest-Modeste Grétry was one of the most popular composers of the second half of the 18th century.

Grétry was born in Liège in the Southern
Read more Netherlands - now Belgium - where he had his first musical education as a choirboy in one of the city's churches. Later on he studied in Rome and worked for some time in Geneva. It was there that he became acquainted with the opéra comique which was to influence his career decisively. In Paris Grétry produced no less than six such works, which were very successful. In time Grétry rose to a position of wealth and influence. Although he had close ties with the French royal family he still had some success with his music after the Revolution of 1789, despite facing a change in public taste and needing to adapt his compositional style.

Grétry's popularity was not restricted to France. Apart from his native country, where he received official honours, his works were performed in Germany, Austria and Italy. This is also reflected in the arrangements: none other than Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote a series of variations on a chorus from Grétry's opera 'Les mariages samnites'. And Jan Ladislav Dussek arranged two overtures for keyboard with violin ad libitum. This is another sign of the reputation of Grétry, as Bohemian-born Dussek was one of the leading keyboard players in Europe and was soon to rise to prominence as a composer himself.

A special work in the programme is the 'Passage de l'Acheron par Grétry', written by Dieudonné Gaubert. He sang as an haut-contre in the Paris Opéra from 1798 to 1828 and in this capacity had participated in a number of performances of Grétry's works. His composition for keyboard and declamation is a tribute to the composer on the occasion of his death in 1813. It is a kind of 'Apothéose de Grétry' which describes how the composer crosses the Acheron and arrives in the Elysian fields where he is welcomed by the likes of Rameau, Gluck and Philidor.

Interestingly Grétry remained popular - or perhaps regained popularity - during the 19th century. This is testimony to the pieces by composers like Boëly and César Franck. Both were interested in the music of the 18th century, but - as Manuel Couvreur states in the programme notes - there was a political aspect to this Grétry revival too. "The quartet in Lucile, 'Où peut-on être mieux qu'au sein de sa famille?' ('Where is it better to be than in the bosom of one's family?') became a 'loyal air' under the Restoration. After Louis-Philippe's accession to the throne of France, the opéras-comiques that he had loved in his youth found renewed lustre".

In the case of Franck the fact that Grétry was of Belgian origin may have played a role as well. That was definitely the case with Félix Godefroid, who was from Namur and was mainly known as a brilliant player of the harp. But he also was an accomplished pianist, and he wrote two virtuosic fantasies on items from two of Grétry's operas.

The Belgian pianist Arthur De Greef transcribed a suite of 'Danses villageoises' in 1901, and that was probably the last time someone paid this kind of tribute to the composer Grétry. In our time he is still waiting to be recognized as one of the great opera composers of the late 18th century. It would be nice if this disc could play a part in such a process.

The artists have made a good choice of music which is played with zest and technical assurance. The use of period instruments, among them a piano by Érard from 1882 in the last three items, and the recording greatly contribute to the atmosphere of the drawing room where this kind of music was played. Anyone interested in this period of (French) music history should look for this disc.

-- Johan van Veen, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1.
Seizčme leçon: Marche des accords by André Modeste Grétry
Performer:  Guy Penson (Harpsichord)
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1803; Paris, France 
Date of Recording: 1999 
Venue:  Koninklijk Conservatory, Gent, Belgium 
Length: 2 Minutes 36 Secs. 
2.
Zémire et Azor: Overture by André Modeste Grétry
Performer:  Guy Penson (Harpsichord), Dirk Vandaele (Violin)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1771; Paris, France 
Date of Recording: 1999 
Venue:  Koninklijk Conservatory, Gent, Belgium 
Length: 4 Minutes 7 Secs. 
Notes: Transcribed: Jan Ladislav Dussek 
3.
Variations for Harpsichord on Grétry's "Que le sultan Saladin" by Armand-Louis Couperin
Performer:  Guy Penson (Harpsichord)
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1784; Paris, France 
Date of Recording: 1999 
Venue:  Koninklijk Conservatory, Gent, Belgium 
Length: 4 Minutes 15 Secs. 
4.
Le jugement de Midas: Overture by André Modeste Grétry
Performer:  Guy Penson (Fortepiano), Dirk Vandaele (Violin)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1778; Paris, France 
Date of Recording: 1999 
Venue:  Koninklijk Conservatory, Gent, Belgium 
Length: 4 Minutes 18 Secs. 
Notes: Transcribed: Jan Ladislav Dussek 
5.
Variations (8) for Piano in F major on "Dieu d'amour", K 352 (374c) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Guy Penson (Fortepiano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1781; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 1999 
Venue:  Koninklijk Conservatory, Gent, Belgium 
Length: 14 Minutes 38 Secs. 
6.
Passage de l'Achéron par Grétry et sa réception au Champs Élysiens by Dieudonné Gaubert
Performer:  Frédéric Dussenne (Spoken Vocals), Guy Penson (Fortepiano)
Period: Classical 
Written: France 
Date of Recording: 1999 
Venue:  Koninklijk Conservatory, Gent, Belgium 
Length: 14 Minutes 9 Secs. 
7.
Variations (7) for Violin and Piano on Grétry's "La danse n'est pas ce que aime" by Alexandre Pierre Boëly
Performer:  Dirk Vandaele (Violin), Guy Penson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1819; France 
Date of Recording: 1999 
Venue:  Koninklijk Conservatory, Gent, Belgium 
Length: 9 Minutes 31 Secs. 
8.
École Chantante: Une fičvre brűlante by Félix Godefroid
Performer:  Sylvia Bernier (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: by 1862; Belgium 
Date of Recording: 1999 
Venue:  Koninklijk Conservatory, Gent, Belgium 
Length: 4 Minutes 46 Secs. 
9.
École Chantante: Tandis que tout sommeille by Félix Godefroid
Performer:  Sylvia Bernier (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: by 1862; Belgium 
Date of Recording: 1999 
Venue:  Koninklijk Conservatory, Gent, Belgium 
Length: 3 Minutes 58 Secs. 
10.
Duo for Piano 4 hands no 2 on the Quartet from Lucile, M 19/Op. 17 by César Franck
Performer:  Sylvia Bernier (Piano), Guy Penson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1862; France 
Date of Recording: 1999 
Venue:  Koninklijk Conservatory, Gent, Belgium 
Length: 9 Minutes 38 Secs. 

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