OP1309. MESSIDOR (Bruneau) – Excerpts, recorded 1948, w.Wolff Cond. Jane Roland, Louis Rialland, Charles Cambon, Yvonne Corcke, Lucien Lovano, etc. (France) 2-Malibran 639. - 37600003776391
“A Parisian, Alfred Bruneau entered the Paris Conservatoire when he was 16. His instrument was the cello who studied composition with Massenet, and such was his merit that in his thirties he secured the Légion d’honneur. Widely travelled, on a variety of music missions, he was also a combative music critic. As a composer he was notable, among other things, for favouring realism in his operas. He was a close and sympathetic friend of Émile Zola and the two of them worked closely on Bruneau's ‘drame lyrique’ L’ATTAQUE DU MOULIN.
The music here dates from the 1890s and is both sumptuous and concentrated in the unwaveringly romantic way it has of holding a mood. The warmly bathed oozing and slow regal climax of the Act IV Prélude to MESSIDOR immediately asserts this. MESSIDOR was a four-act operatic ‘drame lyrique’ for which Zola wrote the libretto. MESSIDOR was premiered in 1897 and enjoyed initial success. This was not sustained, although its decline in popularity is linked with the composer and Zola being active supporters of Alfred Dreyfus during his famous trial. It was taken as the vanguard for a French approach to the 'verismo' pioneered in Italy by Puccini, Mascagni, Leoncavallo, Giordano and Cilea. The Prelude ends in an unhurried sunset.
‘La Légende de l'Or’ from MESSIDOR is a ballet. It originally served as a rather over-balanced (it is 30 minutes long) prelude to MESSIDOR. Then moved to precede Act III, it was later restored to its starting-gate position. A continuous sequence, it shows all the usual and attractive Bruneau trademarks: a brief revelling in sovereign brass-bench apocalyptics, and extensive writing for softly beckoning strings and woodwind. There are some eldritch elements too, as befits a plot which incorporates magic, joy, beauty, guilt and confession. There is even a Rimsky-like oriental passage. The string writing has the composer's characteristic sheen and calorific value. Indulgently garrulous pieces like this permit the mind to drift. That said, the listener is always drawn back by Bruneau's carefully calculated and comforting embrace with sentimentality.”
- Rob Barnett, MusicWebInternational