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Adolphe ADAM (1803-1856)
Le Diable à Quatre, ballet (1845) [56:57]
Giralda, ballet (1850): Overture [7:53]
La Poupée de Nuremberg, opéra-comique (1852): Overture [5:13]
Le Toréador, opéra-comique (1849): Overture [7:17]
London Symphony Orchestra (Diable), New Philharmonia Orchestra (Giralda, Poupée), Welsh National Opera Orchestra/Richard Bonynge
rec. 1964/69, Kingsway Hall, London
ELOQUENCE 4828603 [77:26]

This disc is principally a re-release of the 1964 LP of Le Diable à Quatre with other opera-comique and ballet overtures as fillers. This period in musical history was rich in romantic music yet many of its delights are somewhat neglected today. Adam was a prolific composer of ballet and light opera and is best known for his ballet, Giselle. Le Diable was his ninth work and carries historical significance since it has its roots in an old play, then an early comic opera by Barraund and Philidor (1796). The score used for this recording is from an 1850 edition. I remember that the recording paved the way for a revival of the full ballet in the 1980s, arranged by Lanchbery and choreographed by Hynd.

The delightful music of Le Diable à Quatre has great charm, with its numerous passages of exquisite melody. Adam composes well for the different sections of the orchestra and keeps the first strings busy. In fact, much of the success of this recording is due to the accurate string playing throughout. The colours of Act I and delicate harp passage towards the end of Act II Scene 1 are memorable.

Of the fillers the most recent recording is the 1998 CD recording of Le Toréador, from which we hear its Overture and Entr’acte. The music does not exude much of a Spanish flavor, yet the Overture has a haunting theme with balletic qualities. The short Entr’acte carries an extension of the main overture theme and gives little clue to any other music found in this opéra-comique. (The complete work is available on Decca 455 6642.)

Giralda and La Poupée de Nuremberg we written slightly later than the previous works yet carry a similar characteristic style. Giralda opens with a military announcement followed by a relaxed stately dance and gentle theme. La Poupée is a short overture that has a charming violin-led pastoral interrupted by choppy statements, before breaking into a fast, lilting waltz.

Richard Bonynge sets an ideal pace to accompany the brightness of this music. The melodic lines and lovely decoration, mainly provided by the strings, are nicely complemented by the suitably light reverberation of the Kingsway Hall for Le Diable. A feeling of clarity in this recording is brought about by the well-defined band sections that carry the countermelody.

Recordings of the sixties took place when Decca had a growing reputation for what used to be known as ‘The Decca Sound’, where experimentation with optimum microphone placings and clarity of transfer gave the company a glowing reputation. Decca had developed subsonic and ultra-high frequency amplifiers during World War II, so this experience put them at the top of the commercial world of sound recording. These AAD recordings sound modern, with their ideal acoustic and I think match well against today’s DDD recordings. In view of the revived interest in state-of-the-art LPs I decided to compare the 1964 LP alongside the 2018 CD for tonal quality. Apart from a total absence of track rumble in quiet passages the upper strings are slightly crisper despite the tonal balance being about the same. An obtrusive tape edit three seconds in on track 8 is unfortunate, but does not prevent enjoyment of the disc.

The notes (in English), taken verbatim from the 1964 LP recording notes of Le Diable by L.A. Yeats, are informative and provide interesting detail. Additional notes on the other works by Bruce Raggatt usefully put the works into context.

Raymond J Walker

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