Hérold war einer der erfolgreichsten französischen Opernkomponisten Anfang des 19. Jahrhunderts. Warum, zeigen die zwei funkelnden Ouvertüren zu seinen Opern „Zampa“ und „Le pré aux clercs“ in dieser Einspielung mit ihrer brillanten Orchestrierung, eingängiger Melodik und ausgeprägter Dynamik. Dagegen wirken seine frühen Symphonien Nrn. 1 und 2 doch eher blass und akademisch, einfach noch etwas unbeholfen. Doch seine Opern sind heute (leider) zu Unrecht so gut wie vergessen.
Louis Ferdinand Hérold was born to write for the theatre. This much is obvious not only from his biography - where he appears as one of the most successful early 19th-century French opera composers - but also from comparing the two sparkling overtures to the operas Zampa and Le pré aux clercs with his two rather stiff Symphonies, the early date of composition of which cannot quite excuse their rigorously academic writing.
Hérold’s many theatrical works these days are very rarely performed, but the overtures to Zampa and Près aux clercs are both firmly part of the so-called ”light-classical” repertoire. The triumphal fanfare opening Zampa’s overture is one of those brilliant pieces of music that are hard to forget; but also the rest of the overture, with its joie de vivre, its Rossinian final crescendo and splendid melodic invention, amply justifies its long-lasting popularity.
Also the fresh and joyful overture to Le pré aux clercs is a fine example Of Rossinian main course served in French sauce: brilliant orchestration, easy-to-remember motives, great use of crescendo and a touch of amiable exoticism are the main ingredients that make of this overture a ”classic” of early 19th-century French instrumental music. In the finale, the appearance of the main theme after a spectacular crescendo is of great effect, a clear testimony to the composer’s theatrical talent.
The Symphony No. 1 in C Major (1813) is traditionally structured in four movements, opening with a solemn Allegro maestoso where Hérold shows his ability of contrapuntist (as, indeed, was expected of a recent winner of the Prix de Rome). The second movement is an unproblematic Andante, while the Minuet shows a certain affinity with similar symphonic pages by the late Haydn. The most original movement is certainly the lively Rondo, Vivace that concludes the symphony, where one can already catch a glimpse of the future author of the famous aforementioned overtures.
The Symphony No. 2 in D Major (1814) consists instead of only three movements. The first one opens with a vigorous slow introduction, Largo, flowing into a broad sonata-like movement (Allegro molto) of traditional cut. The very short Andante betrays, like in the Symphony No. 1, a weak penchant for lyricism, so that once again it is the concluding Rondo that offers the work’s most interesting and personal moments.