La Jolie Fille de Gand (complete
Queensland Symphony Orchestra
(conducted by Andrew Mogrelia)
(recorded 26 February & 1 March,
Marco Polo 8.223772-73
Adolphe Adam (1803-56) was one of those 19th century composers whose operatic
conveyor-belt rarely halted even for an overhaul (he composed more than 70).
He also wrote a fair number of ballets: Giselle, his best-known, has remained
a firm favourite since its triumphant premiere in 1841 but La Jolie Fille
de Gand, which enjoyed equal success a year later, has long been forgotten.
This is its world premiere recording.
A fluent melodist, skilful orchestrator (within limited parameters) and a
master of dance form, Adam evolved a winning formula which, like all of his
kind, he proceeded to exploit remorselessly. No doubt this score worked well
in the theatre of its day (its feeble plot may be the reason for its subsequent
neglect) but few complete ballets can stand up in the concert-hall (Stravinsky
being the obvious exception) and this is certainly not one of them. Lasting
well over two hours (whichever of the three different timings scattered in
the otherwise helpful accompanying booklet is chosen - there are also marked
discrepancies in the timings of individual tracks), the music simply lacks
the weight and variety to sustain interest for that length of time, and one
wonders what sort of listener the disc seeks to attract.
The Queensland Orchestra tackles this undemanding score with spirit and style
(it possesses an outstanding principal oboe) and the sound is bright if at
times a touch over-reverberant.