Recorded in June 2015 by Les Talens Lyriques under the direction of Christophe Rousset, Uthal is at last unveiled on disc, allowing us to hear its orchestration without violins, discussed by both Grétry and Berlioz.
Choeur de Chambre de Namur
Les Talens Lyriques
Christophe Rousset conductor
with Yann Beuron, Karine Deshayes, Jean-Sébastien Bou, Sébastien Droy, Philippe-Nicolas Martin
PALAZZETTO BRU ZANE COLLANA «OPÉRA FRANÇAIS»
Release date: February 2017
HOMAGE TO MÉHUL
In 2017 we will celebrate the bicentenary of the death of Étienne-Nicolas Méhul (1763-1817), an avant-garde composer who introduced the notion of musical
Romanticism to France.
Born in Givet, Méhul received a basic grounding in music from the German organist, Hanser. He arrived in Paris in 1779 with a letter of recommendation for Gluck, and continued his training with the Alsatian harpsichordist, Jean-Frédéric Edelmann, who probably introduced him to the music of Mozart and Carl Philip Emanuel Bach. It was under this teacher’s influence that he composed his first two sets of keyboard sonatas. Because the Académie Royale de Musique took so long to stage his first opera, Cora, Méhul turned to the Opéra-Comique, in 1789, which was to be the scene of his greatest successes. Euphrosine was the first example of a new type of opéra comique characterised by the heroic style, a “music of steel” which was perfectly in keeping with the new expectations of audiences during the French Revolution. Stratonice, Mélidore and Ariodant were all works which broke out of the narrow confines of the former comédie mêlée d’ariettes (comedy mixed with short arias) and transformed the opéra comique into the crucible that spawned the French Romantic opera. Méhul’s quest for ever-greater dramatic expressivity made an orchestral virtuoso of him, as can be seen from Uthal, an Ossianic opera composed without violins during the French Empire. It was during this period, between 1808 and 1810, that he also composed his five symphonies. However, it was his biblical opera, Joseph, which was to establish his reputation in Europe in the 19th century. Like the painter David, the development of Méhul’s style reflected the political upheavals in France; during the Restoration, he composed La Journée aux aventures, an opéra comique with an “Ancien Régime” flavour, which could have been written by a composer such as Beaumarchais. Méhul died of tuberculosis in 1817.