My old colleague from “First Hearing,” conductor Richard Kapp, has assembled a musical grab-bag of sorts, a collection of overtures most of which remain concert rarities. The most ferocious piece is Rameau’s overture to his horror-opera Platee, one of those Restoration-style plays like Venice Preserved which delve into the darker areas of the human psyche. The piece had been a specialty of Kapp’s esteemed mentor, Hans Rosbaud. Its stark harmonies and stile brise (broken style) writing forecast trends much more current than 1750! On the other hand, we can hear audience titters during Smetana’s puppet-play Oldrich and Bozena, although there is no applause at its conclusion. Haydn’s Overture to an English Opera had been revived in the early 1950s by Mitropoulos. The Schubert Overture in the Italian Style has allusions to Rosamunde and the Ninth Symphony, and it has been a recorded staple Denis Vaughan and Yehudi Menuhin made it their very own. Handel’s Overture to Imeneo receives a buoyant, transparent realization which warrants mention.
The Locatelli Overture, a three-part sinfonia, has a prefabricated content, available for whatever play might require its tripartite content. If you told me it was by Vivaldi, I’d believe you. Nice work in the continuo, which comes at you from elsewhere in your sound system. Ferdinando Paer (1771-1839) maintains his renown for his treatment of Leonora, contemporary with Beethoven’s Fidelio. His overture sounds a bit melodramatic, with nice flute and tympani and snare work, some audience coughs, then the oboe and flute take us forward to a tripping, martial figure easily mistakable for young Beethoven cross-fertilized by Rossini. Offenbach’s Dr. Ox takes its cue from Jules Verne, romping through circus figures, cymbals, a Viennese waltz, and a wild saxophone part – a tango, that might have been penned by Kurt Weill or Elmer Bernstein. The final pages are Keystone Cops music. Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito Overture’s shining rocket figures first came to me via Serge Koussevitzky, and late great Mozart it is. The Fasch Suite wafts flavorful, the winds, trumpet, and continuo writing deft and limpid. Rameau’s Les Boreades is the product of his final year, 1764, and it still offers harmonic and sonorous resiliency. This entire album, excepting the well-heeled Beethoven overtures, provides a perfect alternative range of programming for otherwise uninspiring, rut-begone classical radio stations.