ADOLPHE BIARENT (1871-1916)
Poème Héroïque (1907-11) 10.34
Rapsodie Wallonne (1910) 26.11
Contes d'Orient (1909) 36.23
Diane Andersen (piano) Orchestre Philharmonique de Liège et de la
Communauté Française/Pierre Bartholomée
rec 15 16 Jan; 8 19 July 1998 CYPRES CYP7605 [74.20]
I owe my introduction to this disc, and to Biarent, to my friend Ian Lace
(editor of Film Music on the Web). By now Ian's review of this disc will
have been published in Fanfare. Ian saw strong parallels between the 'art
nouveau' decorative rhapsodies of Granville Bantock and the music of Biarent.
Being a strong advocate of Bantock's music (how long will we have to wait
for a recording of Bantock's outright masterpiece Omar Khayyam?) Ian
knew that I would be sympathetic to Biarent's muse.
The Poème Héroïque has all the makings of a concert
favourite: the Byronic dynamism of Elgar's In the South and Berlioz's
Le Corsair, a touch of Rimskian enchantment and something of the headiness
of Szymanowski's Concert Overture but drained of the Pole's over-draped
collapsing textures. Franck's Psyché is deliciously recalled
in the central section which is as sweetly romantic as the best Bantock and
which is projected with wondrous recording delicacy (7.49) and a luxuriance
recalled from Strauss's Don Juan and Korngold's Violanta.
The Rapsodie Wallonne is in three movements torn into with gusto by
orchestra and soloist. The big and bold sound helps considerably in a work
having stylistic parallels with Tchaikovsky (first piano concerto), Saint-Saens
(No. 2) and Stanford (No. 2). The second movement's starry peace is won quickly
but almost lost to banality by a theme which shadows Baa Baa Black
Sheep. Fortunately that dangerous corner is turned in music which has
a firm hold on emotional credibility. In the finale a breathless light cannonade
from the piano, a joyous sprint and a winking urbanity bring this entertaining
quasi-concerto to a close.
The heritage of Francophone imperialism stamped its mark deep into French
and Belgian culture. The strange and the Oriental cast a deep enchantment
from 1850 through to the 1930s. Biarent's Contes d'Orient is struck
from this 'fin du siècle' cloth by a composer much taken with Rimsky's
Shéherazade and Antar. Contes is best
viewed as a counterpart to these two works.
The impressions created by each of the work's twelve 'contes' are best given
in note form:
1. A violin chant over a wheezy impressionistic 'bed'. Tziganerie rising
to a Dervish dance - whirling amid a star-filled sky.
2 The Emir's Dance: traces of: Delius's Beggars of Baghdad
(Hassan), Elgar (Pomp and Circumstance No. 1), L'Apprenti
Sorcier and Herrmann 's Baghdad music for Sinbad.
3. A pattering balletic Moorish dance.
4. A dizzy oriental dance exotically swaying in a narcotic heat haze.
5 Ekhidna - a gracious magical weave recalling the earlier movements
but adding Holst's Beni Mora (In the Street of Oulëd
Naïls), vintage Tchaikovsky, Bizet (Carmen) and Rimsky
6. A brusque and clashing dance rife with the trumpets' imperious calls and
7. Reveries et Chant de Cabyle - solo violin - crab scuttling violin
music carried over from the huskiest recordings of
8. A dance straight out of the lucid effervescence of Massenet El Cid
suite (remember Louis Frémaux's superb EMI Studio 4 recording
with the City of Birmingham SO - never bettered).
9 Ukraine Song - Slavonic wanderings and a sway predictive of Alan
Hovhaness. The Straussian caprices of the solo violin.
10. Chant d'Hervor - ponderous calls usher in a swirling wild dance.
11. Effet de Lune - The moon floats over some inland sea. Debussian.
La Mer and Sirènes. A sustained Delian swoon with
recollections of music from the earlier movements.
12. The final section rhapsodises around previous themes with a touch of
the introduction to Russian Easter Festival. The music box delicacy
of the celesta. The Baghdad of Flecker. The lusty exoticism of Richard Burton's
'Thousand and One Nights'.
Both this and the other Biarent Cypres disc are superbly documented and designed.
Enthusiastically recommended. Neither Biarent disc is to be missed.