Notes and Editorial Reviews
Note: A complete work list is currently under development.
No conductor working in the recording studios in the 1960s and beyond did more than Richard Bonynge to recover the sound of the 19th-century ballet, especially in its home of the Paris Opera-Comique. A central figure in that culture was Adolphe Adam, who supplied vaudevilles, ballets, pastiches and comic operas over the course of three prolific decades. He wrote with extraordinary facility, producing his balletic masterpiece Giselle in three weeks, and creating up to six new shows in a single year for the insatiable Parisian public.
With two recordings of Giselle and a critically acclaimed recording of the opera Le Toreador, Bonynge has been Adam’s most distinguished modern advocate on records. This new anthology includes the overture from Le Toreador as one of the substantial bonus items to a little known two-act ballet, Le Diable a quatre.
This was made in 1964 with the luxurious support of the London Symphony Orchestra and the legendary Decca producer Christopher Raeburn behind the glass. The Decca recording team captured the delicious, piquant colours of this music - conveyed with such flair by Bonynge - in vivid detail. Opening this new collection are two overtures from even more obscure productions, Giralda and La Poupee de Nuremburg. These were serendipitously recorded as part of an album of ‘French Romantic Overtures’ with the New Philharmonia Orchestra in March 1969: the conductor had been working with the English Chamber Orchestra on a new recording of Messiah with his wife, Dame Joan Sutherland, when vocal indisposition required her to fly home to Switzerland. During the studio time allotted for her to make a new recital album, this frothy collection of overtures was concocted, and although it has never been reissued complete on CD, it scored a hit with the public as Adam’s music so reliably does.
‘Lots of pretty tunes and um-cha accompaniments nicely played and well recorded.’ - Gramophone, November 1965 (Le Diable a quatre)
‘Richard Bonynge’s ability to persuade Decca to record out-of-the-way 19th-century French stage works has been to our repeated benefit over the past 40 years. Yet few of the results have been more welcome than this delightful operatic souffl .’ - Gramophone, April 1998 (Le Toreador)
This tribute to the intelligence, musicianship and questing spirit of Richard Bonynge is self-recommending. It contains reams of delightful music (try Messager’s Les Deux Pigeons–sound clip), much of which you simply won’t find elsewhere, all performed and recorded at a strikingly high level of quality. Yes, 45 CDs is a LOT of ballet, but this limited edition will not be around for long, I suspect, so if you have the slightest interest in this repertoire, get it while you can.
– ClassicsToday.com (David Hurwitz)