Bizet - Carmen Suite no.1, Symphony no.1; Gounod - Petite Symphonie
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Cat No: CKD624
Number of Discs: 1
Release Date: 13th March 2020
WorksCarmen Suite no.1
Symphony in C major
Petite Symphonie pour vents
ArtistsScottish Chamber Orchestra
The programme features Bizet’s Symphony in C major, written in a few weeks when the French composer was just seventeen, which is simply full of life, exuding brilliance, charm, wit and wonderful tunes. The Scotsman described his interpretation as ‘brisk, urgent, full of bite, and as playful as you could ever want it to be’.
Leleux is particularly suited to performing Gounod’s Petite Symphonie which is full of appealing melodies; the popular work has served as a model for French wind writing ever since its composition. Directing from the oboe Leleux joins the SCO section principals as they demonstrate the strength of their chamber music instincts in a performance which sparkles with personality and individuality. To complete the programme Leleux takes listeners to the opera with a suite from Bizet’s Carmen, which is bursting with the drama, passion and entrancing melodies that set this iconic opera apart.
François Leleux – conductor, leader and oboist – is renowned for his irrepressible energy and exuberance. As a conductor, Leleux continues to expand his successful collaboration with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and was recently announced as Artistic Partner of Camerata Salzburg. Leleux also maintains close relationships with Chamber Orchestra of Europe and Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.
The Scottish Chamber Orchestra is a world-renowned orchestra with an outstanding reputation; its extensive discography features Maxim Emelyanychev, Robin Ticciati, Charles Mackerras, Joseph Swensen, Elizabeth Watts, Alexander Janiczek, Sean Shibe, Karen Cargill, Francesco Piemontesi, Andrew Manze and Ingrid Fliter.
“As an oboist, Leleux is a remarkably charismatic, flamboyant performer, matching immaculate technique with a dazzlingly vivid identification with his music. Those qualities continue in his conducting – detailed, demanding, but full of such abundant enthusiasm that you’re swept up in it from the first moment.” – The Scotsman
“Gounod submitted his Petite Symphonie for nine of the finest wind players in Paris to play, performed here with style led by Leleux’s sweet toned oboe. The extraordinary sound world was compelling.” – BachTrack
1Bizet - Carmen Suite no.1 - Prelude - Aragonaise
2Bizet - Carmen Suite no.1 - Intermezzo
3Bizet - Carmen Suite no.1 - Seguedille
4Bizet - Carmen Suite no.1 - Les dragons d'Alcala
5Bizet - Carmen Suite no.1 - Les toreadors
6Gounod - Petite Symphonie - Adagio et Allegretto
7Gounod - Petite Symphonie - Andante cantabile
8Gounod - Petite Symphonie - Scherzo: Allegro moderato
9Gounod - Petite Symphonie - Finale: Allegretto
10Bizet - Symphony no.1 in C major - Allegro vivo
11Bizet - Symphony no.1 in C major - Adagio
12Bizet - Symphony no.1 in C major - Allegro vivace - Trio
13Bizet - Symphony no.1 in C major - Allegro vivace
At just under 20 minutes in length, the Gounod is a real jewel, and it leaves one in no doubt as to the strengths of the SCO’s formidable wind section, with special mentions for oboists Robin Williams and Rosie Staniforth, flute Silvia Careddu, and first clarinet Maximiliano Martín. No doubt Leleux brought his own wide experience to bear on this beautifully shaped and paced performance, which is a real winner from first note to last.
Gounod was a huge influence on Georges Bizet, and it’s fitting that two of Bizet’s most popular works should frame the Petite Symphonie. Proceedings open with an atmospheric account of the first Carmen Suite, arranged (after the composer’s tragically early demise in 1875) by Ernest Guiraud. It includes some of the opera’s most engaging numbers, including the Act III ‘Aragonaise’, the Act II ‘Intermezzo’ and the Act I ‘Séguidille’, finishing off with a good dose of the Overture including the ever-popular Toreador song. There are more turbo-charged performances of this Suite on disc, but the SCO’s performance has the advantage of a scale that seems far more in keeping with the music’s theatrical origins, and once again Leleux’s experienced, charismatic guidance secures a performance that feels thoroughly idiomatic.
The disc ends with a dazzling performance of Bizet’s Symphony in C. A student work with the palpable influence of the Viennese classics, Rossini and Mendelssohn, this precocious piece languished in obscurity until brought to public notice by Felix Weingartner and published in 1935 at his own experience. Thanks largely to its championing by Beecham, it was a concert staple in the postwar years, but Leleux’s breezy, fresh-spirited performance demonstrates that there’s still plenty of life in it. He coaxes from the SCO an energetic, buoyant account of the first movement, a dreamy Adagio with hints of southern climes, an exuberant Scherzo complete with rustic Trio section, and to round things off a witty, helter-skelter Allegro vivace that keeps the violins and upper wind in particular on their toes. Brass are ideally balanced to add punch without dominating, and there’s some lovely string portamento to add extra charm.
Musicians so often lift our lives away from everyday cares: now more than ever, with so many arts organisations on indefinite hold, they need our support. So do yourself and them a favour, and hear this splendidly pert, enlivening disc, excellently recorded in Dundee’s Caird Hall by Linn. It should bring a smile to even the dourest countenance.
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