BENJAMIN GODARD (1849-1895): Symphonie Orientale, Op. 84, Piano Concerto No. 1 in A Minor, Op. 31, Introduction et Allegro for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 49.
Catalogue Number: 09N001
Label: Dutton Epoch
Reference: CDLX 7274
Description: One of five symphonies with descriptive titles, the Orientale of 1884 came at the height of France's infatuation with things "Oriental" but, unlike works by such composers as Félicien David and Ernest Reyer, Godard's doesn't use cheap imitations of muezzin-calls, hoochie-koochie dances or swaying camels. He gives us snapshots of five countries (Arabia, China, Greece, Persia and Turkey) and prefaces each with a poem (the last two by himself). So, in order, we have an elephant caravan appearing and disappearing across the dunes (like Ippolitov-Ivanov would do in another ten or so years), a generalized Chinoiserie, a waltz-like Sara la baigneuse (a Hugo poem depicting a woman bathing in the river which flows through Athens), the scented dream of a young Persian girl, and the finale, a martial Turkish march. Apparently, elements of original folk music are used but the notes do not identify them. Back to Europe, Godard's first piano concerto (1875) is in four-movement form with a powerfully active, minatory first movement, a light Mendelssohnian scherzo, a lyrical Andante quasi adagio and a powerful finale. Like the 1880 Introduction and Allegro, the concerto makes much use of comparatively brief melodic phrases tossed back and forth between soloist and orchestra. Victor Sangiorgio (piano), Royal Scottish National Orchestra; Martin Yates.