GMCD 7135 – French Romanticism I – Music by Léon Boëllmann

Oliver Gledhill – Cello, Jeremy Filsell – Piano

To the CD in our Shop

Essex Chronicle 14-07-2006

Guild of good musical variety
Not for the first time, have I focused upon one of the smaller classical Labels available to collectors of CDs in this country.
Guild Records (GmbH) is based in Switzerland.
Having had a long association with their releases, I am more than happy to recommend them, both for their variety and general interest.
For example, one of the series that the company has released is The Golden Age of Light Music.
Admittedly, Guild is not the only company that has explored the treasury of 78rpms, and reissued them on CD.
There are plenty of “nostalgia” editions, but for sheer breadth, the16 volumes is to be admired.
From an introductory volume (Guild GLCD 5101), the series explores each decade, and then some of the big bands and orchestras such as Mantovani (Guild GLCD 5113).
So let me introduce two of the volumes in more detail.
British Cinema and Theatre Orchestras (Guild GLCD 5108) looks back to the times when the big city cinemas had their own pit orchestras that would play during the intermissions (previously during the “silents”).
In this album, the 19 tracks feature pit bands such as the Coventry New Hippodrome, London Hippodrome and London Palladium in some of the easy-on-the-ear numbers including a selection from Jerome Kern’s
Showboat and the very familiar Grasshoppers ‘dance.
I can remember going to a dancing class as a toddler and made to dance to this number – oh, the indignity of it all.
The Golden Age of the 1930s has two volumes linked to it.
The second-(Guild GLCD 5116) introduces some of the same orchestras and other big names of the time (now forgotten) like Edith Lorand and her Viennese Orchestra, Harry Engleman’s Quintet and Barnabas von Geczy and his orchestra.
He probably came from Peckham.
There is an experimental stereo track as a bonus recorded in 1934 with Ray Noble and his New Mayfair Orchestra.
This was the time when popular music was fitted an to the 3 minutes average side of a 78rpm.
But Guild is not just about nostalgia.
Among its latest releases is a winning combination of Dvorak’s celebrated Cello Goncerto, and another shorter work by the same composer, as well as the Cello Concerto in E minor by Victor Herbert Guild GMCD 7235.
American Cellist, James Kreger, makes a passionate case for this wonderful music, ably partnered by the Philharmonia conducted by Djong Victorin Ya.
Croydon’s Fairfield Hall provides a warm ambience, and however many times you have heard the Dvorak Concerto, listen to that by Irish-born Victor Herbert and find something really dramatic about it.
Chris Green

Gramophone February 1998

Boëllmann is best remembered as an organist, and especially for the Suite Gothique (two movements of which appear in effective arrangements here). But he was also, in the words of Felix Aprahamian in Grove, “a dedicated teacher, trenchant critic, gifted composer and successful performer”. Comparisons with César Franck are seldom avoided, and there is some reason for this in the handling of the thematic material in the fine Symphonic Variations. These were originally written with orchestral accompaniment, and though the version recorded here was made by the composer himself, it is difficult not to feel the piano straining to make itself into an orchestra. Jeremy Filsell’s experience as an organist of distinction is in a way a help here, but paradoxically his very gift for keyboard colour serves to draw attention to the problem. However, he supports Oliver Gledhill admirably in what is a splendidly eloquent performance of a fine and enjoyable work.

The Sonata is rather heavier going, also Franckian in manner; and indeed the shadow of the Pater Seraphicus can fall a little obscuringly over it. It is nevertheless, excellently written, and Boëllmann’s individual lyricism shows itself to finest advantage in the beautiful Andante. Gledhill and Filsell respond warmly to this, and their careful understanding of the music’s structure gives the whole work a clarity and strength of direction which show it to its best advantage. The recording deals well with some considerable problems of texture and balance.

BBC Music Magazine October 1997

Not surprisingly, the centenary of Léon Boëllmann (1862-97) has been overshadowed by more illustrious musical anniversaries. But this conservative French organist has left behind him a cluster of glorious works for the instrument he loved next, the cello. All are attractive and highly playable; Boëllmann’s own transcription of his famous Prière à Notre Dame, given its recording premiere here (along with the Suite, Op. 6), will surely take off as an encore piece.

Oliver Gledhill adds to a rising reputation with his ardent, expressive playing. He gives shape to every phrase and plays with a rich, chestnut tone.

Guild provides detailed notes on works and performers, and good quality sound, though the piano, (played with great panache throughout by Filsell) is sometimes allowed to drown the cello.
Janet Banks



Classic CD – September 1997

1997 sees various centenaries including that of the death of Léon Boëllmann (born just a month after Debussy in 1862).

Cellist Oliver Gledhill and pianist Jeremy Filsell give serviceable, understated accounts of these unfamiliar works.

Boëllmann’s sonata does not rank besides Franck’s or Debussy’s; this account doesn’t do it too many favours, lacking the elan and electricity that Lidström and Forsberg find on their magnificent Hyperion disc. Gledhill’s reading of the Op. 23 Variations Symphoniques is a worthy attempt, but doesn’t begin to compare with Tortelier’s EMI account of the original version with orchestral accompaniment.
Michael Jameson