Prompted by the succes of Ossian’s poetry during the First Empire, the Opéra-Comique commissioned from Méhul a short and gripping work inspired by James Macpherson’s Celtic reveries. The composer had the brilliant idea of conjuring up the mists of this Scottish fantasy world in his music by using the ‘grisaille’ sonority of an orchestra without violins. The Gothic coloration of wind instruments with divided violas, the melancholy poetry of the harp and solo horn that frequently emerge from the tutti, contrast with the choruses of warriors and the belligerent strains of Larmor and Uthal. The Hymn to Sleep, an eminently Romantic bardic song, came to be seen as one of Méhul’s finest pieces, and was sung over his grave by the Conservatoire students at his funeral in 1817.
Contents of the book
Gérard Condé, Méhul’s Uthal
Hector Berlioz, Méhul in Les Soirées de l’orchestre
Étienne-Nicolas Méhul, Some reflections
Jacques Bins de Saint-Victor, Two operas for one novel
Journal de Paris, A review of the premiere
Arthur Pougin, A few remarks concerning Uthal