3 : Piccinni—Gluck
A sidelight on Contemporary Musical
Arranged and presented by A. Brent-Smith
May Blyth (soprano)
The BBC Midland Orchestra
Leader, Alfred Cave
Conducted by Leslie Heward
This evening, A. Brent-Smith will tell of the heated conflict between the contemporary critics of Piccinni and Gluck. Incredible as it seems today, Piccinni was reckoned in his lifetime as Gluck's equal, and, by a few, as a superior. The rivalry became so intense that people met each other for the first time with a challenging: 'Are you a Gluckist or Piccinnist?' Before the first performance of Piccinni's French opera Roland-which, incidentally, was a great success-his friends actually became anxious about his personal safety.
The situation became no easier when Gluck and Piccinni both produced an opera at the same time with Iphigenia as a subject. Gluck's work was performed first and rapturously acclaimed ; Piccinni's effort had a cooler reception-at one performance the prima donna was so plainly in her cups as to give rise to witticisms such as: ' C'est Iphigenie en Champagne '.
Clash of Attitudes
The cause of the feud was obvious -on the one hand, Gluck, the innovator, the man who freed French serious opera from stifling conventionalities ; on the other hand, Piccinni, the hater of new ideas.
Is Piccinni Underrated?
How far Piccinni's subsequent neglect is justified can be gauged by listeners to this programme when they hear representative extracts from the works of both composers played by the BBC Midland Orchestra.