Edouard Lalo is described as”one of the reformers of French instrumental music” inthe booklet of this release, and it’s true to say thatalong with Franck and Saint-Saens he helped themusical public to appreciate another facet of France,rather than just the operatic one. Success for Lalowas not easily come by however, and only at the age of50 did he win the respect of the concert goingaudiences with the Symphonie Espagnole. This workpredates Bizet‘s Carmen by a month, and can claim tohave started the tradition of Spanish-inspired Frenchworks, continued by the likes of Chabrier, Debussy andRavel.
The dramatic opening to theIntermezzo of this piece leads to a habanera notdissimilar to that used by Bizet. Realised byPierre Amoyal on this thirty year old Eratorecording, the sound is not always top notch – a bitdry in places – but the performance is fullycommitted, often darkly passionate. The rich coloursof the Andante’s dark beginning are powerfullyportrayed by the Monte Carlo Orchestra under thedirection of celebrated conductor Paul Paray,and the atmospheric opening to the finale gives way toa light, bouncy theme from Amoyal – one of those tunesthat sparks an immediate deja-vu!
Also included on this disc isthe Rapsodie Norvegienne, performed by the sameforces. This much less substantial concertante workcomes closer to Grieg in musical language but is stillenjoyable, despite the dry sound once again. Making upthe trio of Lalo works is a 1981 recording of theCello Concerto, a work well-loved by cellists for itswarm romanticism but which still struggles to get theexposure it deserves. Frederic Lodeon startsfrom the depths after an expansive unison from theorchestra, and from there he never looks back. AnIntermezzo, a favourite central movement form ofLalo’s, leads to a rumbustuous finale, with Lodeon’svirtuosity amply supported by the Philharmonia underCharles Dutoit.
All of which completes atriptych of works that serve as a useful introductionto the work of this underperformed Frenchman. As acomplement to this I would recommend another disc ofLalo orchestral works on the Chandos label underYan Pascal Tortelier.