About this Recording

Famous French Overtures

Jacques Offenbach (1819 - 1880)
La vie parisienne (Parisian Life)>

Adolphe Adam (1803 - 1856)
Si j'etais roi (If I were king)

Charles Gounod (1818 - 1893) (Like the Breeze)
Ainsi que la brise (Faust)

Emmanuel Chabrier (1841 - 1894)
Fête polonaise (Le roi malgre lui) (Polish Festival)

Daniel-Francois-Esprit Auber (1782 - 1871)
Les diamants de la couronne
(The Crown Diamonds)

Daniel-Francois-Esprit Auber (1782 - 1871)
Le cheval de bronze (The Bronze Horse)

Emmanuel Chabrier (1841 - 1894)
Danse slave (Le roi malgre lui) (Slavonic Dance)

Jacques Offenbach (1819 -1880)
La belle Helene (Fair Helen)

Daniel-Francois-Esprit Auber (1782 - 1871)
Masaniello (La muette de Portici)

Popular revolutions are not always good for opera, and the French Revolution had an immediately deleterious effect on standards at the Paris Opera, where works of an overtly political and patriotic nature were for a time encouraged. Something of a revival took place towards the end of the first decade of the nineteenth century with the work of Spontini, followed by a younger group of composers that included Boieldieu, Herold, Halevy and Auber. The last of these, christened Daniel-Francois-Esprit, was the son of a royal huntsman and became a pupil of the redoubtable Cherubini after the staging of his first opera in -1805, a work that enjoyed little success. He began to make a name for himself only in the 1820s, with La bergère chatelaine, and thereafter in collaboration with the librettist Augustin-Eugene Scribe. The opera Masaniello, otherwise known as La muette de Portici (The Dumb Girl of Portici), with a libretto by Scribe and Delavigne, was first staged at the Opera in February 1828. The hero of the piece, Masaniello, is a revolutionary leader in seventeenth century Naples. He succeeds in releasing his unjustly imprisoned dumb sister Fanella and seizing power, but is poisoned, driven mad, defeated and killed, while Fanella kills herself by jumping from her window into the volcano of Mount Vesuvius. Performance of Masaniello in Brussels in 1830 led to the Belgian revolution and establishment of independence. Scribe also wrote the libretto for Le cheval de bronze (The Bronze Horse), first produced at the Paris Opera-Comique in 1835, and collaborated with Vernoy de Saint-Georges on Les diamants de la couronne (The Crown Diamonds), successfully staged at the same house in 1841. The first of these, in its original form, was described as an opera-feerique, later to be expanded into an opera-ballet. The second, a thoroughly French piece, was set in Portugal. Unlike Masaniello, these two operas are typically graceful and relatively light-hearted, qualities apparent from the overtures.

Adolphe Adam, son of a pianist and teacher whose pupils included Kalkbrenner and Herold, is best remembered for his ballet Giselle. A prolific composer, he wrote some eighty works for the stage and enjoyed considerable contemporary success, starting with his Pierre et Catherine, staged at the Opera-Comique in 1827 as part of a double bill with Auber's La fiancée. Si j'etais roi (If I were king), with a libretto by Ennery and Bresil, was first mounted at the Theatre-Lyrique in Paris in 1852, the house that had taken the place of the Opera-National, a venture bankrupted by the 1848 revolution, leaving Adam with heavy debts that he attempted to discharge by a remarkable increase in activity as a composer that ceased only with his death in 1856.

The composer Jacques Offenbach was the son of a cantor at a Cologne synagogue, his surname derived from his father's place of birth and his first name a French form of the original Jacob. In Paris he became one of the most successful composers of popular music of the nineteenth century, rivalled only by Johann Strauss in Vienna. Of his ninety or so operettas written principally for the Paris stage, La vie parisienne (Parisian Life) and La belle Helene (Fair Helen) are among the most popular. The second of these, a frivolous version of Greek legend, with a libretto by Meilhac and Ludovic Halevy, was first produced at the Varietes in Paris in 1864, and the first two years later at the Palais-Royal.

Charles Gounod occupies a rather different position in French music, the leading French composer of his generation, his attention not exclusively directed towards the theatre, where his Faust above all retains a continuing position in operatic repertoire. The choral waltz Ainsi que la brise (Like the Breeze), the principal melody of which is entrusted to the orchestra, first appears in the second act but is used to dramatic effect when the heroine Marguerite, in prison and driven nearly out of her mind, recalls Faust's first meeting with her and the music of a happier time. The opera, based on Goethe, was first staged in Paris in 1859 at the Theatre-Lyrique and won immediate success.

Intended by his family for the law, Emmanuel Chabrier devoted himself fully to composition only later in life, although he had achieved some success in 1877with his light opera L'etoile (The Star). His penultimate work for the stage, Le roi malgre lui (The King in spite of himself), concerns the accession to the Polish throne in 1573 of the French Prince Henri III and hence includes a Fête polonaise, and a Danse slave for good measure. The piece might have proved initially successful in Paris had not the theatre burned down after the third performance, allowing the work to win its first fame abroad.

The Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra of Katowice (PRNSO)
The Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra of Katowice (PRNSO) was founded in 1945, soon after the end of the World War II, by the eminent Polish conductor Witold Rowicki. The PRNSO replaced the Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra which had existed from 1934 to 1939 in Warsaw, under the direction of another outstanding artist, Grzegorz Fitelberg. In 1947 Grzegroz Fitelberg returned to Poland and became artistic director of the PRNSO. He was followed by a series of distinguished Polish conductors - Jan Krenz, Bohdan Wodiezko, Kazimierz Kord, Tadeusz Strugala, Jerzy Maksymiuk, Stanislaw Wislocki and, since 1983, Antoni Wit. The orchestra has appeared with conductors and soloists of the greatest distinction and has recorded for Polskie Nagrania and many international record labels.

Czecho-Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra (Bratislava)
The Czecho-Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra (Bratislava), the oldest symphonic ensemble in Slovakia, was founded in 1929. The orchestra's first conductor was František Dyk and over the past sixty years it has worked under the direction of several prominent Czech and Slovak conductors. The orchestra has made many recordings for the Naxos label ranging from the ballet music of Tchaikovsky to more modern works by composers such as Copland, Britten and Prokofiev. For Marco Polo the orchestra has recorded works by Glazunov, Glière, Miaskovsky and other late romantic composers and film music of Honegger, Bliss, lbert and Khachaturian.

America's favourite "Pops" conductor, Richard Hayman is Principal "Pops" Conductor of the Saint Louis, Hartford and Grand Rapids symphony orchestras, of Orchestra London Canada and the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, and also held that post with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra for many years.

For over 30 years, Mr. Hayman served as the chief arranger for the Boston Pops Orchestra during Arthur Fiedler's tenure, providing special arrangements for dozens of their hit albums and famous singles. Under John Williams' direction, the orchestra continues to program his award-winning arrangements, and orchestrations.

Now residing in New York City, Mr. Hayman's work is in constant demand, in every medium of musical expression, from Boston to Hollywood. Though more involved with the symphony orchestra circuit, Mr. Hayman has served as musical director and/or master of ceremonies for the tour shows of many popular entertainers: Kenny Rogers, Johnny Cash, Olivia Newton-John, Tom Jones, Engelbert Humperdinck, The Carpenters, The Osmonds, Al Hirt, Andy Williams and many others.

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