CLASSICAL MUSIC / Greatest of late starters: Anthony Payne feasts on Chabrier
Saturday 12 February 1994
Although viewed by his contemporaries as partly amateur - he did not compose full-time until he was nearly 40 - he is quickly able to impress everyone with his extraordinary originality of style and vitality of invention. A reputation was born which was never subsequently challenged, and composers as different in temperament and vision as Franck, Debussy and Ravel found in him a figure of great significance, a pioneer of many of those musical elements which the next generation of French composers would employ to establish a newly independent national identity.
It is the short orchestral pieces which have largely kept the composer's name before the public in this country, and it was appropriate that the festival opened at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on Tuesday with a concert by the English Northern Philharmonia which included such dazzling little masterpieces as Espana, Joyeuse Marche and Fete Polonaise. Chabrier's utterly original ear for orchestral sonority has always been an admired trait along with his daring rhythmic invention, and these characteristics were specially welcome in the Bourree fantasque. This late piano piece, left in an incomplete orchestral version at the composer's death, had been completed for the occasion by Robin Holloway, and it made an absolutely authentic impression.
We also heard the enchanting Gwendoline Overture, indebted - but by no means slavishly - to Wagner and, with the mezzo Ann Taylor-Morley and the ladies of the Opera North Chorus, the sumptuous cantata La Sulamite, precursor of Debussy's early choral pieces. Much of this music must have been unfamiliar to the performers yet Paul Daniel drew singing and playing of infectious enthusiasm. Taylor-Morley sang two groups of songs with the pianist Roy Laughlin, and Roy Howat and Roger Nichols provided four hands at the piano for the droll Souvenirs de Munich - quadrilles on themes from Wagner's Tristan und Isolde.
The many-sidedness of Chabrier's creative genius has often been overlooked in Britain, especially as exemplified in his operatic music, both comic and serious, and it was enterprising to present Opera North's production of L'Etoile on the following evening. Semi-staged by Phyllida Lloyd under Valentin Reymond's musical direction, it made a hilarious impression. Infinitely more subtle orchestrally than most French operetta and more distinguished on most other levels, the work raises laughs through musical as much as verbal means, and therein lies its special quality. Paul Nilon, Jonathan Best and Alan Oke scored comic points, as did Kate Flowers, Mary Hegarty and Pamela Helen Stephen.
TV reviewBroadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair
Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere
TVThe Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 2 The confessions of men who ordered mail-order brides
- 3 UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
- 4 Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
- 5 'Isis' schoolgirls: Missing British teenager tweets picture of her Syrian takeaway
Poldark, series 1 finale, review: How a costume drama became a Sunday night swoon-fest
Al Pacino admits he was nearly fired from The Godfather and it's still his most 'difficult role'
Warner Music owner Len Blavatnik tops Sunday Times Rich List
Game of Thrones season 5 episode 3, review: Sansa and manhood-lopping torturer Ramsay Bolton - really?
The day I starred in Only Fools and Horses
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove