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Years before he took Paris by storm as a brilliantly witty composer of operettas, Offenbach was celebrated across Europe as a virtuoso cellist. It is this lesser-known aspect of his creative personality that is explored by Giovanni Sollima and Andrea Noferini, who have spent years immersing themselves in the technically intricate but always lyrical and extrovert pieces which Offenbach wrote for his instrument. Having learned the violin and cello as a child, Offenbach studied at the Paris Conservatoire, and soon secured a position in the orchestra of the Opéra-Comique. He spent much of the 1840s as a virtuoso cellist touring Europe, including appearances in London and at Windsor where he entertained during the Ascot week banquet. The greater part of this collection, which includes many world-premiere recordings, is taken up with Offenbach's Cours Méthodique de duos pour deux violoncelles: a 'progressive' course of musical instruction for pupil and teacher to play together, arranged in order of increasing difficulty. However, these studies are far from dryly didactic in character. They include imitations of hymns, choruses, funeral marches and the sound of other instruments, such as a tuba or a French horn. Following up the success of a 2CD selection (94475) from this little-known box of delights, Giovanni Sollima and Andrea Noferini present Offenbach's entire output, which ventures far beyond the course of studies to include fantasias and transcriptions based on the most popular operas and operettas of his day. The full character of the composer is captured by Sollima and Noferini: his delight in life, his observation of all it's passing pleasures and frustrations; his irrepressible sense of humour. Cellists and lovers of 19th-century rarities alike will want to investigate this ambitious survey, and discover for themselves the hidden side of Jacques Offenbach.