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Grétry and Gossec were among her favourite composers, and it is their music the orchestra of Les Agrémens plays with such virtuosity and style. We have not heard much of them in this country since the death of Beecham, who spent many hours as a young man copying such scores in the Paris libraries where they had been attracting only dust. Guy van Wass is far too young ever to have watched the incomparable Beecham. It is perhaps not unkind to say he could with advantage have his left hand strapped to his side till he learn how to use it to the encouragement of his players and instruction of the audience.

Guy van Wass and members of Les Agrémens. © 2006 Vox lucida
Guy van Wass and members of Les Agrémens. © 2006 Vox lucida

Both were opera composers, but there is a nice mixture on this Armide DVD of arias and instrumental interludes. Gossec can be both ceremonial and brisk, as in this excerpt from an F major symphony [listen -- chapter 1, 3:30-4:35]. Céphale et Procris was Grétry's offering for a royal marriage, and the work was first performed at Versailles. It celebrates conjugal love, but the gods are often jealous in such matters. On this occasion it is Aurora, the rosy-fingered goddess of the dawn, impersonated by Sophie Karthäuser with supreme vocal skill and a presence that would exhaust all adjectives left over from my admiration of her royal mistress [listen -- chapter 2, 5:03-6:38].

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Copyright © 11 October 2006 Robert Anderson, London UK


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