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“Les Nuits de Paris”
Jules Massenet: Le Carillon: “Valse au cabaret”
Hervé: Paris Exhibition: “Espagnoles et Séguedille” – Sports in England: “Valse du mal de mer”
Jeanne Danglas: L’Amour s’éveille
Isaac Strauss: Hébé-Polka – Quadrille on Offenbach’s “Orphée aux Enfers”
Théodore Dubois: La Farandole: “Valse des âmes infidèles”
Emile Waldteufel: Grande Vitesse – Valse des patineurs – Bella Bocca
Charles Gounod: Faust: “Ballet. Les Troyennes”
Victorin Joncières: Le Chevalier Jean: “Ballet. Valse”
Camille Saint-Saëns: Le Timbre d’argent: “Valse”
Ambroise Thomas: Raymond: Ouverture
Ernest Guiraud: Gretna‑Green: “Valse de Colin-Maillard”
Phillipe Musard: Ouistiti-Polka
Léo Delibes: Coppélia: “Valse lente”

Les Siècles, François‑Xavier Roth (conductor)
Recording: Théâtre Raymond Devos, Tourcoing, France (January 8‑9, 2022) – 69’23
Bru Zane BZ2005 (Distributed by Naxos of America) – Booklet in English, French and German

Taking a brief respite from the disciplines of opera, Bru Zane has now cleverly presented dance music that wound its way from the Folies Bergère to the esteemed Paris Opéra. Brilliant in scope, the enclosed write ups by Alexandre Dratwicki and Etienne Jardin help the listener better understand the reasoning for this supportive music that weighed heavily and effectively during the requisites of the 19th century Romantic period.

What better place to begin this compendium of music than by turning attention to Jules Massenet, a masterful man in so many disciplines. In particular, we turn to the balletic venue and his ability to carry the genre to the forefront with an array of broad and colorful displays. Though not as familiar as other passages from his operas, for example, we have the opening dance music from his Le Carillon (1882) that support the notion of his vastly popular and innovative talents. Massenet could wash a scene or image with endless vibrancies. Centered within Courtrai, Belgium, Massenet’s passages uplift on all fronts, giving a musical mantle while embracing a wide range of hard working individuals living in the 15th century.

Hervé’s energetic passage opening the Paris Exhibition is brilliantly infused with the percussive tambourine, reminiscent of Bournonville’s 1856 La Ventana with all the Spanish verve the passage can stand. Dynamic. In contrast, Hervé suffuses broad delight during his execution of the Sport of England. All the comical detail is broadly brought to the forefront without excessive drivel.

But on another tangent, the female contingency is beautifully displayed by the pulsating yet lively waltz cadences inside Jeanne Danglas’ L’Amour s’éveille and its dignified yet, at times, demurred and amorous strength. Though the lines are markedly Viennese in scope, there are tinges of French domain that give this piece such amorous charm. Literally translated as “Love Awakens”, Mlle Danglas has given her music a brevity of politeness yet filled with clauses of sparkling pops...so toned down yet eloquent in its own stance.

While many of the balls at the Opéra allowed composers to surface using their own brand of vivacious magic, Isaac Strauss was no exception. Within “Les Nuits de Paris” we await the incessant chatter inside the bars of the Hébé-Polka and its march‑like frequencies of trumpet fanfare and occasional moments of dolce cadences...humorously spritely and springy.

Turning to heavier glades of pleasantries, it is refreshing to hear idyllic sequences pulling away from the curtain to reveal a dashing yet dignified composition with Théodore Dubois’ three‑act ballet, La Farandole (1883) that has a tremendous drive despite its an antithetic translation entitled, “Waltz of the unfaithful souls”.

If there’s a composer who fills the airwaves with sparkling lightness and frivolity, look no further than Strasbourg-native Emile Waldteufel and his sassy‑driven Grande Vitesse. Classified as a “galop”, the title holds true to its name in verve and charisma. Surrounded by a soft‑spoken melody, the well‑known melodic lines of his Les Patineurs agreeably ices the CD with ice‑skaters’ smooth glides and benevolent lifts. Deliciously exquisite. Later to follow we hear a genteel and most agreeable rendition of his polka, Bella Bocca.

For the sake of grand sentimentality the sweeping lines inside “Les Troyennes” (Act V) gives Charles Gounod’s Faust an ethereal eloquent reach that continues to retain its position inside the halls of Romantic operatic French ballet.

With a bit of lilting diversity we find a weaving storying line situated atop Victorin Joncières’ Le Chevalier Jean that takes on its own momentum of lyrical independence and stately commentary. The musical enclaves are refreshing, timeless and oh, so filled with an intimate storyline. No wonder this chivalric ballet, originally staged at the Opéra‑Comique, won the hearts of many audience members. Dreamy, creamy and executed with stupendous genteel.

An interesting aspect to point out is how Bru Zane assiduously sequences the numbers to provide the most effective impact in terms of harmony and contrast. Case in point: following the aforementioned, we are welcomed by Camille Saint-Saëns’ first opera, Le Timbre d’argent that has some surprising pairings with those of Joncières’ œuvre. The “Valse”, though not found in the Bru Zane transcript, acts wholly by itself as a ballet. Standing independently, this music is briskly effervescent yet tinged by a libidinous backdrop, which is in keeping with the opera’s synopsis. Le Timbre d’argent provides an intelligent comparison/contrast to its musical predecessor. This passage, pocketed by a billowy foundation, is packed with pulsating cymbal javelins that throw majestic grandeur flying into the air. Fabulous.

François-Xavier Roth gives an encouraging nudge to the tempo inside Ambroise Thomas’ lesser known opéra‑comique, Raymond (1851). While the preamble can, often enough, get stuck in a syrupy mess, the conductor tends to the score with remarkable energy and vivaciousness, yielding dramatic dialogues. The familiar “choral” conclusion is played with broad fanfare and poignant coloring. This is truly how Thomas’ music should fluidly lift off the pages...and it does.

Better known for completing works such as Les Contes d’Hoffmann and Carmen, Ernest Guiraud regaled inside his balletic composition entitled Gretna‑Green, depicting the southern Scottish parish. M. Roth’s refreshing pace well‑succeeds in stimulating the score with surprising energy and buoyant delights. Flutes kindly chirp away at the notes and well‑support the notion that the “Valse de Colin‑Maillard” is strongly pointing to the idea of a lively bout of Blind Man’s Bluff via a Waltz with its sizeable frivolity and lightheartedness.

Another short but glowing delight pops up in the end of the CD featuring a bevy of brass instruments that elevates Philippe Musard’s Marmoset Polka. A bit raucous, the score is refreshed due to its rather shortened length and also the nice contrast in the dynamics.

When it comes to tuning into Léo Delibes’ “Valse lente” from the ballet, Coppélia, the rapid tempo garners enthusiasm and endless excitement. Speaking of lightness, an adept tempo ensues the Quadrille drawn from Offenbach’s Orphée aux Enfers. It has an uncanny draw of kinetic enthusiasm that never lets down. This is the way M. Roth maintains the music with unbridled pizzazz.

The recipe for success inside “Les Nuits de Paris” can be credited to François‑Xavier Roth’s ambitious tempos...the CD is fed by endless musical refreshments. Pace is everything and movement is de rigueur.

Christie Grimstad




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