Notes and Editorial Reviews
"Despite its early opus number, Iphigénie is a work of Gouvy’s late maturity that post-dates many of his compositions with later catalog assignments. Premiered in Leipzig on January 31, 1884, it was the most often performed of Gouvy’s four “dramatic scenes,” or oratorios drawn from subjects of classical mythology, the others being Oedipe à Colone, Électre, and Polyxène. (Gouvy also composed an oratorio on a subject drawn from Norse mythology, Asléga.) For the text, the composer adapted large portions of the libretto written by Nicolas-François Guillard for Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride and wrote the remainder himself. Compared with the Gluck opera, Iphigénie and the chorus have
more prominent roles; however, the distribution of the voice parts for the soloists in both works is the same (soprano, tenor, baritone, bass). The work displays all of Gouvy’s usual fastidious craftsmanship and superior technical command of orchestration and of vocal and instrumental part-writing. Interestingly, though, compared to his symphonies, the Germanic element is present to a considerably lesser degree. Whereas one might well have expected his usual musical kinship with Mendelssohn, Schumann, and Bruch (especially the latter, as a major contemporary oratorio composer) to be to the fore, instead the style is more closely aligned with figures such as Gounod, Saint-Saëns, and Bizet (and perhaps a tad of Berlioz, a composer whose music Gouvy reportedly disliked despite that composer’s high praise for him).
All four soloists have excellent voices and commendable diction. Christine Maschler has a middleweight soprano with both lyricism and heft; Vinzenz Haab (a dark baritone) and Ekkehard Abele (a lyrical bass) have voices of sufficiently comparable weight and timbre that one could almost imagine them exchanging roles, though their voices are distinct enough to tell apart. I would single out tenor Benjamin Hulett for special praise; he may be British, but he wields an authentic French tenor of a sort that has been virtually nonexistent since World War II. The chorus has splendid balance and clarity of sound and enunciation; the orchestra plays ably; conductor Joachim Fontaine has a conscientious command of the score, though I can imagine podium maestros who would give the work considerably more punch. The recorded sound is up to cpo’s usual excellent standards; the booklet provides a detailed essay and full text and translations. (Curiously, whereas the English text follows the French original quite literally, the German version is highly paraphrastic.)"
FANFARE: James A. Altena
Works on This Recording
Iphigénie en Tauride, opera, Op. 7 by Louis Théodore Gouvy
Christine Maschler (Soprano),
Benjamin Hulett (Tenor),
Vinzenz Haab (Baritone),
Ekkehard Abele (Bass)
Grande Société Philharmonique
Venue: Evangelical Church, Saarlouis, Germany
Length: 3 Minutes 28 Secs.
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