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What links Benjamin Godard (1849-1895) to Louis-Claude Daquin, Henry Litolff, Christian Sinding and Richard Addinsell? Just this: though all prolific composers, they are each known these days by just one work (Le coucou, the Scherzo from Concerto Symphonique No 4, Rustle of Spring and the Warsaw Concerto, respectively – and in Godard’s case, the Berceuse from the opera Jocelyn). Better regarded in his lifetime than now, Godard was awarded the Légion d’Honneur at the age of 40. This new Hyperion CD lets us see why.

The main influence is Saint-Saëns, and through him, Mendelssohn and Schumann, though the solo part approaches those of Liszt and Rachmaninov in technique. Like Saint-Saëns, Godard had an ear for lightness, wit and sparkling orchestration (his discreet percussion is a delight), though possibly less skill in devising memorable tunes with which to hold his works together. The First Concerto’s main theme hovers around the mediant, like that of the Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony, but being a less good tune cannot quite sustain the full Dream of Olwen treatment.

Both concerto scherzos are Classic FM delights in waiting. The first concerto’s quickfire solo/orchestral interplay will have you laughing out loud. So might the uninhibited oompahs that launch the Op 49 Allegro of 1880: I wonder if Chausson ever heard its Introduction, whose quite unusual opening chords match those of his own symphonic poem Vivaine – composed two years later, and in the same key too. Solo and orchestral playing are utterly delightful. Another Hyperion triumph.

MICHAEL ROUND Read the full review on Agora Classica

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