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Monday, August 21, 2017

Jacques Offenbach - Overtures (Bruno Weil)


Composer: Jacques Offenbach
  1. La fille du tambour-major
  2. Orphée aux enfers (arr. Carl Binder / J. G. Busch)
  3. La belle Hélène (arr. Friedrich Lehner)
  4. Barbe-bleue (arr. Fritz Hoffmann)
  5. La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein (arr. Fritz Hoffmann)
  6. Monsieur et Madame Denis
  7. La vie parisienne (arr. Bernhard Wolff)
  8. Vert-Vert (arr. Fritz Hoffmann)

Vienna Symphony Orchestra
Bruno Weil, conductor

Date: 1993
Label: Sony Classical



Offenbach overtures come in various forms. For later works such as La fille du tambour-major and Vert-vert, where he was writing for larger theatres and larger orchestras, these are indeed Offenbach's own. For the most part, however, the overtures played here differ in various ways from what he actually wrote—and not only in using a much bigger orchestra (with a larger string section and additional wind parts) than he himself had at his disposal at the Bouffes-Parisiens.

In the case of Orphee aux enfers the overture was certainly put together by another hand, but both it and the more authentic overture to La belle Helene are none the less splendid creations taken on their own terms. One simply has to recognize that the terms are those of Suppe and his Viennese colleagues rather than of Offenbach's Bouffes-Parisiens. In the case of Barbe-bleue and La Grande-Duchesse de Gerolstein, though, the results are less satisfactory, since the overtures comprise Offenbach's own compact preludes stretched out with crudely interpolated sections to create mere medleys.

This may concern anyone seeking some sort of consistent shape to a collection such as this, but it is less likely to worry anyone who simply wants the Offenbach melodies. The VSO's oboist shines in the Belle Helene Overture and Bruno Weil gives the waltz melodies a good lilt there and elsewhere. On the other hand, he lingers a little long over some other passages and the playing generally lacks the polish of Karajan's BPO collection. Altogether I can't help having a feeling of patchiness that is certainly not conveyed by the collection of authentic Offenbach overtures under Antonio de Almeida (Philips, 10/88), though sadly that seems to be unavailable at the moment.

-- Andrew Lamb, Gramophone

More reviews:


Jacques Offenbach (20 June 1819 – 5 October 1880) was a German-born French composer, cellist and impresario of the romantic period. He is remembered for his nearly 100 operettas of the 1850s–1870s and his uncompleted opera The Tales of Hoffmann, which remains part of the standard opera repertory. He was a powerful influence on later composers of the operetta genre, particularly Johann Strauss, Jr. and Arthur Sullivan. His best-known works were continually revived during the 20th century, and many of his operettas continue to be staged in the 21st.


Bruno Weil (born 24 November 1949 in Hahnstätten, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany) is a German conductor. He was a student of Hans Swarowsky and Franco Ferrara. Weil is principal guest conductor of period ensemble Tafelmusik, Toronto, Music Director of the Carmel Bach Festival in California, and artistic director of the period-instrument festival "Klang und Raum" (Sound and Space) in Irsee, Bavaria. He has made many recordings with Tafelmusik, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Vienna Symphony Orchestra for the Sony Classical label.


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