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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 21 November 2007
Gretry, a contemporary of Mozart (though he lived a lot longer), is one of a handful of famous Belgian composers (you can't really count the Flemish ones from long before Belgium was a country - especially as it looks as though poor old Belgium is falling apart again, now) and he has a stature in his honour in his home town of Lieges. This is a delightful piece; charming, tuneful and not inclined to take itself too seriously. If you are a French speaker you will enjoy the spoken interludes, performed with admirably clear diction, which link the musical numbers, but I could understand some listeners finding them somewhat missable. There are two or three still quite famous tunes, especially "O Richard, O mon roi", which I first heard sung by Sherrill Milnes (rather better than it is here, I'm afraid) years ago on a recital disc, and the doleful, nostalgic ditty sung by the old Countess in Tchaikovsky's "Pique Dame" ("Queen of Spades") just before she collapses and dies. The cast is wholly in genre and although Trempont's baritone is a bit grainy and strained up top, he sings very characterfully and with tremendous verve and gusto. It's really enjoyable - which is just as well, because the companion piece by Rousseau (who, on this evidence should have stuck to philosophising - though I sometimes doubt that, too...) is wholly negligible and, in truth, despite the promising looking cast, not really all that well sung. No; buy this at a bargain price, for the Gretry; it's a lovely period piece, lovingly performed by musicians who have this music in their blood.
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