About this Recording

Carl Maria yon Weber (1786 - 1826) Invitation to the Dance

Adolphe Adam (1803 - 1856)
Excerpts from Act I & Act II of Giselle
Charles Gounod (1818 - 1893)
Ballet Music from Faust
Leo Delibes (1836 - 1891)
Ballet Music from Lakmé
Amilcare Ponchielli (1834 - 1886)
Dance of the Hours from La gioconda

Carl Maria von Weber, a cousin of Mozart's wife Constanze, was to suffer a peripatetic childhood, as his father, a musician and actor, among other occupations, travelled or changed from one interest to another. He excelled as a pianist and was to win even more lasting reputation as the creator of the first Romantic German opera, Der Freischuetz.

Invitation to the Dance, a rondo, was written in 1819, originally for the piano. The work offers a simple programme. The dancer first approaches his prospective partner and persuades her to dance with him. They talk together, their conversation increasing in warmth, and then they dance, chatting as they do so. The dance ends; the man thanks the woman and she replies politely; they part and all is over.

Weber's programme for the piece is clear enough. Nevertheless it was intended not for the stage but rather for the salon. It was the French composer Berlioz who orchestrated the work for performance in Paris as an obligatory divertissement for the last act of Weber's great German Romantic opera Der Freischuetz, for which he had already provided recitative, in place of the original dialogue. French opera had traditionally included ballet, while spoken words were forbidden on the stage of the Opéra. It was to comply with this usage that Berlioz, using his own rather than Weber's orchestral forces, made the present orchestral version to Invitation to the Dance.

Possibly the best known use of Weber's work in ballet is in the Fokin version of the invitation to the Dance, under the title le spectre de la rose, choreographed for the company of Sergey Dyagilev in Paris in 1911, and danced by Karsavinaand Nijinsky. A young girl returns from the ball, bringing with her a rose, and falling asleep, dreams that she is dancing with the rose. The spirit of the rose leaps through the window and she awakes.

Adolphe Adam, remembered today chiefly as the composer of Giselle, rather than for any of his many operas or other works, was born in Paris in 1803, the son of a musician who forbade his offspring any form of musical education and went on to extend this prohibition, having given way on the first point, to the composition of any work for the stage. Adam acquired his knowledge of music through his own efforts and entered the Conservatoire, where he studied the organ under Benoist but later deserted this instrument for the harmonium, on which he performed effectively in the fashionable salons of Paris.

As a composer Adam won popularity for a series of works designed for the Opéra-Comique and in 1847 opened his own Théatre National with the notion of encouraging younger composers. The venture was ill-timed and came to nothing the following years, when political disturbances broke out in Paris. Adam spent much of the rest of his life paying off the debts he had occurred in this enterprise.

Giselle, the seventh of Adam's ballets, was first staged at the Paris Opéra in 1841 and is based on a story recounted by Heine. The country-girl Giselle falls in love with Count Albrecht, of whose identity and earlier betrothal to a noblewoman she is unaware. When she learns the truth she goes mad and dies In the second act Albrecht comes to worship at the tomb of Giselle, in the forest, where, at midnight, Queen Myrtha and the Wills appear, ghosts of girls who loved dancing but died before their wedding-day. Albrecht's companion, Hilarion, is driven to his death, but the Count himself is saved by the ghost of Giselle, who dances with him until dawn breaks, and the Wilis must return to their graves.

Goethe was preoccupied with the story of Faust for the greater part of his life His poetic drama was to prove a seminal work for the Romantic generation that followed, with the hero a personification of the artist-hero, the individual rebel against convention and custom Based on earlier legend, derived, perhaps, from the life of Paracelsus or some other late medieval scientist, the story tells of how the old scholar Dr Faustus sells his soul to the Devil in return for youth and power, both of which he misuses. In Goethe's version he is finally saved from his bargain by the intervention of Margarete, the girl he has wronged.

Charles Gounod, a French composer who enjoyed great popularity in the second half of the nineteenth century, created. In his opera on the subject of Faust the most famous operatic version of Goethe's work, however remote it may be from the original. The principal ballet music in the opera occurs in the fifth act, in which Faust and the Devil Mephistopheles visit the Brocken Mountain for the Witches Sabbath, Waipurgisnacht, at which the spirits of many famous women of the past appear At the end Faust sees Margarete (Marguerite) with a red mark round her neck, a sign of her coming execution for the murder of her child, as Faust is later to discover.

Léo Delibes inherited musical ability through his mother, daughter of an opera singer, if not through his father, who worked in the French postal service. He entered the Paris Conservatoire in 1846, the year after his father's death, studying the organ there under Benoist, and composition under Adolphe Adam It was the latter, composer of Giselie, who found him a position as accompanist at the Théatre-Lyrique, in 1853, the duties of which he combined with those of organist at St. Pierre de Chaillot. He was to serve as organist at Saint-Jean-Saint-Francois from 1862 until 1871, although his chief association had long been with the theatre For the Théatre-Lyrique he wrote comic operas, and for the Folies-Nouvelles and other companies operettas.

Appointment as accompanist at the Opéra in 1863 brought Delibes further opportunities, In 1866 he was allowed to join Louis Minkus in the composition of the score for the ballet La source, and his success in that task led to a commission for a divertissement, Le pas des fleurs, to be added to Adolphe Adam's Le corsaire.

With the ballet Coppélia, staged at the Paris Opera in 1870, Delibes scored a considerable success, In 1871 Delibes was able to relinquish his positions as accompanist and organist and to marry, settling down to life as a composer His comic opera Le roi l'a dit of 1873 was followed three years later by another full-length ballet, Sylvia, or La nymphe de Diane.

The opera Lakmé was staged at the Opéra-Comique in 1883 with considerable success, to which its exotic setting and charming music contributed. The Beli Song remains a favourite with ambitious coloratura sopranos. The story, based on Le mariage de Loti, by Gondinet, who had a share in the opera libretto, is set in British India, where the British officer Gérald falls in love with Lakmé, daughter of a Brahmin priest Nilakantha, with predictably tragic consequences for her, As was usual in French opera, there was a place for dance, and the present recordings offers the exotic ballet music from the work.

Amilcare Ponchielli, an Italian composer of some importance in the opera-house in his own time, is probably best remembered for La Gioconda, with its libretto by Arrigo Boito, disguised under the anagram of Tobia Gorrio, first performed at La Scala, Milan, in 1876 The Dance of the Hours, which has its own popularity apart from the opera of which it forms a part, takes place at a party in Act III. The dance itself is in singular contrast to the tragic circumstances soon to be revealed, in a plot of some complexity.

Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra (Bratislava)
The Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra (Bratislava), the oldest symphonic ensemble in Slovakia, was founded in 1929 at the instance of Milos Ruppeldt and Oskar Nedbai, prominent personalities in the sphere of music. The orchestra was first conducted by the Prague conductor Frantisek Dyk and in the course of the past fifty years of its existence has worked under the batons of several prominent Czech and Slovak conductors. Ondrej Lenard was appointed its conductor in 1970 and in 1977 its conductor-in-chief. The orchestra has recently given a number of successful concerts both at home and abroad, in West and East Germany, Russia, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Spain, Italy, and Great Britain.

Ondrej Lenard
Ondrej Lenard was born in 1942 and had his early training in Bratislava, where, at the age of 17, he entered the Academy of Music and Drama, to study under Ludovlt Rajter. His graduation concert in 1964 was given with the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra and during his two years of military service he conducted the Army Orchestral Ensemble, later renewing an earlier connection with the Slovak National Opera, where he has continued to direct performances.

Lenard's work with the Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra in Bratislava began in 1970 and in 1977 he was appointed Principal Conductor. At the same time he has travelled widely abroad In Europe, the Americas, the Soviet Union and elsewhere as a guest conductor, and during his two years, from 1984 to 1986, as General Music Director of the Slovak National Opera recorded for OPUS operas by Puccini, Gounod, Suchon and Bellini.

Lenard has recently been appointed Principal Guest Conductor of the Shinsei Nihon Symphony Orchestra of Japan.

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