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Honegger: Les Aventures Du Roi Paus Import

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Import, May 18, 2010
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (May 18, 2010)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Import
  • Label: Imports
  • ASIN: B0036J02H8
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #860,712 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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"The Adventures of King Pausole" (1929-30) was Swiss composer Arthur Honneger's first (& very successful) venture into the tempting waters of commercial operetta, & this fine world premiere recording (dating from 1992) will delight those who enjoy the "classical tradition" of French light opera. (Susan Graham has recently included one number from it on her excellent "French Operetta Arias" CD on Erato.) Musically, its catchy and sophisticated score pays homage first & foremost to Offenbach and Chabrier, altho' Honegger finds plenty of room for more "modern" sounds. The music sparkles in the fast numbers, & grows properly wistful in the slower ones.
Albert Willemetz's text - based on a novel by Pierre Louys (of Debussy's "Chansons de Bilitis") - however goes where none of Honegger's distinguished 19th century century predecessors would have dared to tread! The fantasy kingdom where the title character has 365 wives, one for each night of the year, might just barely have been acceptable. Not so a trio in which the innocent young heroine does a bit of "comparison shopping," - kiss-wise - between two suitors, one a lesbian prima ballerina in male clothing, the other a randy male page dressed (for the moment) as a milkmaid... & all set to the most literally ravishing music in the score. If the piece never - well, hardly ever - threatens to topple over into tastelessness, it's due in part to the satirical verve of the text & above all to the high spirits & inventiveness of the score.
This is by & large a fine performance, & everyone seems to be enjoying rediscovering the piece. The dialogue has been trimmed, altho' there's still a lot of it; the score is given complete.
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The style of Les Aventures du Roi Pausole is not exactly what most people would associate with Honegger, I guess, and truth to be told it struggles at little to find a unified musical language (insofar as it even tries). Les Aventures is an operetta, and to achieve the apparently required lightness Honegger attempts, it seems, to mesh the most warmly neo-romantic elements of his usual style with Stravinskian neo-classicism and vaudeville-style music theatre. The result is certainly not a failure - the music is spirited, often witty and engaging, even (occasionally) memorable - though it seems to be at some unease in trying to fit into operetta format (I have not heard his later operettas; Les Aventures was his first). It was a success at its premiere, but the operetta form went out of fashion after World War II and Les Aventures went down with it; it was revived and recorded in 1990 (I have not heard that one) before this 2008 recording.

The story is thin but rather complicated, but - as mentioned - the music is often delightful. Honegger evidently had a knack for faux pomposity and witty effects (after all, he was a superb orchestrator, which certainly shines through) and not the least for energetic, blistering, fluttering brilliance, but he was, perhaps more surprisingly, a master of tenderness as well, and the score is nothing if not variegated, inventive and imaginative. Among the highlights one should mention the flurrying excitement of Septuor Des Sept Avis Différents and the wonderful lullaby Air D'Aline. In short, while it is hard to pin down any unified musical theme or structure, the level of invention is high enough to guarantee that one's interest and enjoyment is sustained throughout.
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