Jacques Offenbach was a master of entertaining music and the inventor of the operetta. His 200th birthday is being celebrated in 2019, and nowhere more than in the city of his birth, Cologne, Germany.
This hour, we have selections from an Offenbach festival in Cologne. A brilliant composer of musical satire with a delightful gift for melody, he was also a famous cellist — and he wrote sacred and romantic music as well. We'll sample all of those sides of this versatile composer.
If Jacques Offenbach had lived today, he wouldn't have to work at all: The royalties from the Can Can from the operetta "Orpheus in the Underworld" and the Barcarole from "Tales of Hoffmann" would have more than held him above water. These melodies are familiar everywhere, as they were in his own time.
Offenbach lived in Paris and died there in 1880, but it was in Cologne where he was born on June 20, 1819 as Jakob Offenbach. His father was a music teacher and Jewish cantor who sent Jakob and his brother to Paris for their musical education. Jakob dropped out of the National Conservatory after one year but as Jacques, he skyrocketed to fame as a cellist.
Offenbach's Grand concerto for cello and orchestra, nicknamed the Military Concerto, is difficult enough to make any musician dizzy. Offenbach was skilled at short pieces, but there's plenty in this big work to grab our attention and retain it.
Andante for cello and piano
Raphaela Gromes, cello
Julian Riem, piano
Recorded by West German Radio (WDR) in the Little Broadcast Hall, Cologne on June 16, 2019
Grand Concerto for cello and orchestra
Bruno Philippe, cello
Youth Orchestra of North Rhine-Westphalia
Sebastian Tewinkel, conductor
Recorded by West German Radio (WDR) in the Large Broadcast Hall, Cologne on June 16, 2019