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Massenet: Orchestral Suites Nos. 4-7

4.6 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Audio CD, July 18, 1995
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Frequently Bought Together

  • Massenet: Orchestral Suites Nos. 4-7
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  • Orchestral Suites 1-3 / Herodiade
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  • Massenet: Ballet Music - Bacchus; Heriodade; Thais; Le Cid
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Product Description

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra - Jean-Yves Ossonce, direction

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During the late 19th century in France, composers either wrote for the theater (opera or ballet) or they wrote nothing at all. Chamber music and music for orchestra was comparatively rare right up until the turn of the century. Only in the 1880s did Auguste Franck and Camille Saint-Saëns write symphonies that gave later French composers a model for the form, and such lively early works as Georges Bizet's single Symphony had to wait more than 80 years for a first performance. That makes these colorful, lively suites by Jules Massenet all the more unusual, and they deserve a much wider exposure in today's concert halls. As you can hear for yourself, they are charming, tuneful, and not a minute too long. --David Hurwitz
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Product Details

  • Orchestra: New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
  • Conductor: Jean-Yves Ossonce
  • Composer: Jules Massenet
  • Audio CD (July 18, 1995)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Naxos
  • ASIN: B00000144Q
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #108,097 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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By Joshua Grasso on June 15, 2007
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
It's rare that so-called "light" music has strong lyricism, careful construction, and impeccable orchestration; but this is certainly the case in Massenet's 7 Orchestral Suites. Each one is a delight, extremely memorable even on a first hearing, but offering up fresh delights with each subsequent airing. Ossonce breaks them up over two discs, filling out the first with the ballet music to Herodiade. He is the perfect conductor for this music, which demands to be played colorfully, assertively, and without any false pretenses. He makes you believe in this music, and though I have heard another recording of Suites 4 and 7, this is definitely the one to buy.

This disc covers suites 4-7, which are slightly more mature and concise than the previous ones, though they are all cut from the same cloth. These are all character sketches, somewhat picture postcard, and highly theatrical. This is certainly the case in the Scenes napolitanies, Suite No.5, which captures the vivacity and exoticism of Naples as viewed by a foreign student (I believed Massenet traveled there in his youth). Suite No.6, Scenes de feerie, sounds a lot like his Suite No.3, Scenes Dramatiques (on Disc 1), which was drawn from incidental music from productions of Shakespeare's plays. Here, though the only explicit content is "fairyland," he conjures a bold, magical world that could complement A Midsummer Night's Dream, A Winter's Tale, or The Tempest. Particularly interesting is the movement "Apparition," which shows his mastery of orchestral color.

The two mastepieces are Suites 4 and 7, Scenes pittoresques and Scenes alsaciennes respecitvely. In Suite No.4, Massenet offers us his most original melodies, clothed in orchestration that, like Tchaikovsky or Ravel, makes every note "sound.
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By elo on November 18, 2014
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Hubby and I were on a longish drive, this came on the radio, and we were both enthralled. Got home, did some research, and bought the album.

There were many comments about Massenet's time - if one didn't write for opera or ballet, one didn't get heard, and he was overlooked in his day as well as ours. Well, I am on a mission to change that - if you like classical music, you really do need to listen to this album! Each track is aptly named, the orchestra and conductor are excellent.

There is an intricacy and inventiveness that I find delightful. I like the combinations of instruments and tempos - I can easily imagine the scene Massenet was trying to capture. I'm no music critic - I only know what I like, and often cannot find words to describe that, but I do think this album is definitely worth the price, and will be buying the other suites, soon!
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Jules Massenet (1842-1912) came from a provincial bourgeoisie background, and was the youngest of his father's 12 children. When his family moved to Paris, he entered the Conservatoire when he was only 9 years old, while continuing his schooling. Early on, he showed great interest in composition, and was very prolific. His work covered several genres: both comic and serious operas, church music, orchestral music, songs, etc. He accumulated prizes and honors, and became professor of composition at the Conservatoire at age 36.
This CD contains 4 of his Orchestral Suites (from 4 to 6), to which he gave different names as "Scenes": Picturesque; Napolitan; Fairyland; and Alsatian.
As many of his work, these suites are light and merry, in rather fast movements, with an atmosphere of ballets, dances, marches, feasts, etc. The suites are well performed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.
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I've never understood the point of making a distinction between serious and light music;there may be a difference, but often too much is made of it.If music has the capacity to transport us,then the distinction becomes meaningless.In any case,I think it's vital to our experience of music to distinguish between our subjective impressions of music and it's ability to move us in the deepest way possible.As for this CD(and it's companion CD on naxos)the music is beautifully crafted,performance and enginering are first-rate,and the price is low
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