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Adolphe Adam: Orfa
Kalina Hristova (concertmaster, violin solo), Vesela Trichkova (harp), Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra, Dario Salvi (conductor)
Recording: Bulgaria Hall, Sofia, Bulgaria (April 15‑16, 2022) – 88’57
Naxos 8.574478 (Distributed by Naxos of America) – Booklet in English

I loved music, but I didn’t want to learn it. I would sit quiet for hours, listening to my father play the piano, and as soon as I was alone I tapped on the instrument without knowing my notes. I knew without realising it how to find the harmonies. I didn’t want to do scales or read music; I always improvised.
Adolphe Charles Adam

Shying away from rigours of piano theory at an early age could explain, in part, Adolphe Adam’s own avenue of success in developing France’s opéra-comique and ballet. Influenced by his teacher, Adrien Boieldieu and contemporary Daniel Auber, Adolphe Adam’s compositions can be associated with freshness, lightness and finesse during the 19th century French Romantic period. His first opéra-comique, Le Mal du pays (1827), was soon followed by the achievement of his ebullient Le Chalet in 1834. Shaping his portfolio was his balletic output, beginning with La Chatte blanche in 1830 and the beloved 1841 Giselle. While his anthology closed with the staging of the swashbuckling Le Corsaire, it was his penultimate sleeper, Orfa, that gets overlooked repetitively...until now. It is Scottish-Italian conductor/musicologist Dario Salvi who dusts off the pages and gives amiable resuscitation to a story anchored in Nordic mythology. Paralleling the axiomatic “abduction of the damsel” overtones, magic plays its cards with the eponymous heroine being rescued from the malevolent Loki by her betrothed (Lodbrog)...a frequent thematic thread in opera and ballet. In this case, the 1852 opening at the Salle Le Peletier was a lavish spectacle, featuring the finest in visuals with the promotion of Fanny Cerrito’s élan in the leading role.

Adolphe Adam was adept at designing Orfa that permitted the highlighting of several musical instruments in strategically positioned passages. Such examples are Kalina Hristova’s illustrious violin conversations (in n° s 6‑8) and the sparkling investitures of Vesela Trichkova’s harp (n° s 1, 5, 7 and 8) which play meaningful significance to the plotline.

Naxos’ recording is squeaky clean and tightly managed. Revealing a moody canonic framework the music quickly transforms itself into an amiable “Rendez‑vous” featuring buoyant flute/piccolo enclaves (4’40), a firm Adam‑esque foundation. Delights of woodwinds continue to shine during “The Scandinavians”, filled with Adam purity, fashionable finesse and occasional remarks turning back to Rossini.

An oboe/flute enclave politely introduces the two protagonists (“Les Fiancés”). Anchored by militaristic textures from snare drums give the ensuing “Mazurka” splendid anticipations of Auber’s 1857 balletic vision of Marco Spada with the cornet occasionally stepping into the limelight. Nearing the conclusion of Act I spurts of testiness (5’29) revisit Si j’étais roi (1852). But Mlle Trichkova’s benevolences, highlighted by solo cornet, spottily draw tension away from Loki’s treacherous reaches (7’05).

Dario Salvi’s power is through his baton, extracting ample amounts of musical desirability to cleanly encapsulate Orfa’s beauty (5’50) through the bowstrings of concertmaster Kalina Hristova. Loki’s descent into his underground crater and carryovers of temptations strongly parallel August Bournonville’s 1842 Napoli during the underwater grotto of Act II. Rushing strings found inside n° 7 once again reveal the indelible impressions that Daniel Auber made upon Adolphe Adam. Closing out the track (9’56) the solo cello plays with effusive and melodic suavity. Lovely.

Returning to open the “Apothéose”, Kalina Hristova’s performance is an emotional and blistering delight, restrained but polite. Her meticulously executed conversational remarks, set against tutti orchestra, are stellar. This is where Adam excels in ethereal delights and amiable flourishes. M. Salvi holds back the tempo a bit, allowing the utmost in effective control and theatricality. In a sort of musical sortie, the earlier host of instruments are given a short summary of Orfa. Piccolo (6’55) is refreshing and dynamic. The Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra epitomizes excellence to the realm of the Romantic era of the 19th century.

Why Orfa has been overshadowed by some of Adam’s more prominent charmers is a mystery. Dario Salvi treats us to the World Premiere Recording featuring manuscripts that originated inside the Bibliothèque de France. This collection of Adolphe Adam’s music is enthralling from beginning to end. Superlative on all fronts.

Christie Grimstad




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