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Franz von SUPPÉ (1819-1895)
Overtures and Marches
see track listing below review
Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Neeme Järvi
rec. Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow, 17-18 April 2012
CHANDOS CHSA 5110 [79:42]

In the days when those of us of a certain age bought LPs, Suppé Overtures were a standard part of such a collection. Normally you could get four on each side and the standard classics were Light Cavalry, Morning, Noon and Night in Vienna and Poet and Peasant. They were pieces you knew and heard on the Light Programme - later called Radio 2 would you believe - or elsewhere often in curious arrangements or at the Sunday bandstand. I don’t know why but it seems odd that Chandos of all labels and Neeme Järvi of all conductors should feel that they want to tackle this project but they do.
 
Here we have eight overtures with the added interest of marches. There are also other bits of incidental music created within the operettas but which are less well known. These from a composer known sometimes as the ‘Viennese Offenbach’ having been born in what was then Austria, now Croatia.
 
In many cases Järvi’s tempi are much brisker than you may be used to. The disc is so well filled that if he had added a couple of overly exaggerated rallentandos one of the items would have had to go, perhaps that accounts for his tempi. A casualty of this is the OvertureThe Beautiful Galatea with its absolutely gorgeous waltz tune, which comes twice. Järvi lacks style in this wonderful melody and it all appears rather breathless. Indeed Light Cavalry is also so fast that the string articulations and syncopations are not clear in the Allegretto brillante section; notice that it’s only Allegretto. I find this all rather disappointing but then Järvi has done this sort of thing before, as I recall.
 
That said, most other pieces come off very well. Järvi responds positively to the exuberance of the OvertureBoccaccio, one of the composer’s most inventive and successful operettas which includes the rarely encountered rather Straussian Boccaccio March, the booklet notes indicate that this march concludes the opera in a bound of joy but it has little to do with the author or with the book! The same thing applies to the operetta Pique Dame using Pushkin’s story The Queen of Spades, to which Suppé’s plot is only vaguely related, although the overture is one of his best. Its good to know that Suppé could write memorable tunes right up to the end as in the middle section of his last overture to the incomplete operetta The Modelwhich ends with yet another March.
 
A March of special interest is the Marziale using themes from a real hit, the operetta Fatinitza, a military story based around events in the Crimean war. Max Schönherr compiled this piece using about four of the best tunes. Its opening trumpet fanfare sets the appropriate mood. A further march is the short Up Hill and Down Dale, a piece of uncertain antecedents. There is also the happy little Juanita-March,a work set in Spain at the time of the Peninsular War. Suppé adds some attractive castanets for local colour.
 
Another rare oddity, but a distinctly attractive and witty one is the Humorous Variations on a Student Song, indeed the very song which Brahms, who admitted to being influenced by Suppé, also used for his Academic Festival Overture. In Suppé’s hands it turns into a waltz, a gallop and to start with a sort of mysterious Lament.
 
The booklet cover picture shows the marching Imperial Viennese Guard. You will have gathered by now that many of these operettas had a militaristic plot but often set within a comic context. One such is Isabella with its splendid trumpet fanfares and marching opening melody. Here Rossini might come to mind - a composer whom Suppé had carefully studied. In fact his earliest overture the famous Morning, Noon and Night in Vienna is also rather Rossini-like; at times it recalls Weber also.
 
I have much enjoyed this disc despite the opening caveats and I’m sure that you will too. The orchestra responds enthusiastically but precisely to the music. The booklet essay by Calum MacDonald tells you all you need to know. There are a few black and white photos and the Super-Audio recording is superb, immediate and detailed.
 
Gary Higginson 

see also reviews by Simon Thompson, Dan Morgan, John Sheppard and Rob Barnett

Track Listing
Overture to Leichte Kavallerie (1866) [6:33]
Overture to Boccaccio (1879) [6:51]
Boccaccio-Marsch (1879) [2:36]
Overture to Pique Dame (1864) [6:45]
Humoristische Variationen (1848) [5:46]
Overture to Dichter und Bauer (1846) [9:26]
Marziale nach Motiven aus der Operette - Fatinitza (1876) [4:24]
Overture to Das Modell (1895) [6:35]
Uber Berg, uber Thal (date uncertain) Adaptation by Max Schönherr (1903-1984) [2:35]
Overture to Die schöne Galathee (1865) [6:51]
Juanita-Marsch (1880) [4:39]
Overture to Ein Morgen, ein Mittag und ein Abend in Wien (1844) [8:08]


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