Massenet: Ballet Music

Massenet: Ballet Music

by Patrick GalloisPatrick Gallois


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Best remembered for his operas "Manon" and "Werther," as well as the ubiquitous Meditation for violin and orchestra from "Thaïs," Jules Massenet was a prolific French composer whose immense popularity in the 19th century was followed by dramatically decreased interest in the 20th. Yet attempts to revive his music in the 21st century tend to focus on his ballets, which are immediately appealing and easy to present in concert. This 2013 Naxos release by Patrick Gallois and the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra offers the four ballets that have received the most attention: "Bacchus," based on the Dionysian myth; "Hérodiade," a retelling of the Biblical account of Salome and John the Baptist; "Thaïs," a tale of sacred and profane love; "Le Cid," taken from the play by Corneille about the Spanish warrior who fought the Moors. As is evident from the subject matter, all these ballets offer exotic music with colorful scene painting, so they are attractive to modern listeners who may not be ready to commit to the long operas from which they are drawn. Gallois and his musicians infuse these scores with high Romantic drama and passionate expression, and the evocative music is surprisingly seductive and compelling, quite apart from the action it depicts. This is a great introduction to some of Massenet's most beautiful music, and it is well-suited to fans of ballet and 19th century orchestral music.

Product Details

Release Date: 11/19/2013
Label: Naxos
UPC: 0747313312375
catalogNumber: 8573123
Rank: 140878


  1. Bacchus, opera in 4 acts: Bacchanale: Allegro
  2. Bacchus, opera in 4 acts: Le Baptême par le vin: Allegro moderato - Allegro
  3. Bacchus, opera in 4 acts: Initiations. 4: Allegro
  4. Bacchus, opera in 4 acts: Initiations. 3: Allegro
  5. Bacchus, opera in 4 acts: Initiations. 2: Lento sostenuto - Andantino con mo
  6. Bacchus, opera in 4 acts: Initiations. 1: Allegro moderato
  7. Bacchus, opera in 4 acts: Chasseresses et Bacchantes
  8. Bacchus, opera in 4 acts: La Procession des offrandes: Andante lento sostenu
  9. Bacchus, opera in 4 acts: Faunes et Satyres
  10. Bacchus, opera in 4 acts: Allegro moderato - Nocturne: Lento sostenuto

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Massenet: Ballet Music 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
RGraves321 More than 1 year ago
This release presents four ballet suites compiled from Massent operas. The most famous of these is "Thais," the origin of Massenet's greatest hit. The ballet music proves to be of similar quality, conveying the drama and the sensual nature of the title role, interspersed with moments of pious religiosity (there's an extended sequence for solo organ, for example). The suite from "Herodiade" is in a similar vein, and no wonder -- the opera concerns Herod, Salome, and the death of John the Baptist. A good portion of this suite uses Jewish melodic turns to set the stage. Lesser known are Massenet's operas "Bacchus" and "Le Cid." The former is based on Greek myth, and its ballet sequences are the most straight-forward of Massenet's works on this recording. By contrast, "Le Cid" is all about evoking the flavor of Spain (albeit filtered through a French sensibility). Overall, this is fine orchestral music that provides a pleasant listening experience. Patrick Gallois conducts the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra in a straight-forward fashion, letting the inherently dramatic nature of the music come through on its own. Perhaps, given the location of the orchestra, it's not surprising that the suite to "Le Cid" seems to sound a little more engaging.