> Pablo Picasso; Music of his Time [JW]: Classical CD Reviews- Sept 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Pablo Picasso; Music of his Time
Isaac ALBENIZ (1860-1909)

Asturias from Suite Espanola No 1
Malaga from Iberia Book 4
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)

Erik SATIE (1866-1925)

Choral, Prelude du rideau rouge, Prestigitateur chinois
Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946)

The Three-Cornered Hat Suite No 2
Francis POULENC (1899-1963)

Tel jour telle nuit
Norbert Kraft, guitar (Asturias)
Guillermo Gonzalez, piano (Malaga)
BRT Philharmonic, Brussels conducted by Alexander Rahbari (Pulcinella)
Orchestre Symphonique et Lyrique de Nancy conducted by Jerome Kaltenbach (Satie)
Slovak RSO conducted by Kenneth Jean (de Falla)
Bournemouth Sinfonietta conducted by Stefan Sanderling (Pulcinella)
Michel Piquemal, baritone and Christine Lajarigge, piano (Poulenc)
No recording dates or locations provided; all previously issued
NAXOS 8.558059 [76’44]


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Naxos is currently recycling its back catalogue. Part of an Arts and Music series – other discs include Monet and Leonardo – this disc gathers together composers whose music supposedly illuminates elements of Picasso’s creative life and sets it in some – dread word – perspective. Hugh Griffith’s erudite sleeve note gives a précis of Picasso’s life and its contextual associations with the composers whose works comprise the disc. These are variously personal, creative and tangential. Stravinsky was Picasso’s exact contemporary and the bonds of creative and private friendship between the two have been long explored; Picasso’s were the designs for Petrushka. Albeniz’s evocation of Andalusia, Picasso’s native region, fuses well with the frequent representation of the guitar in Picasso’s work. Satie’s dilettantish presence is more questionable – and quixotic at best – whereas de Falla’s Three Cornered Hat saw a creative collaboration between composer, Picasso and Diaghilev (spelt Dyagilev in the notes by the way; I’m all for whimsical transliteration but that’s plain silly). Poulenc’s presence is justified – tangentially – as a member of the Cocteau demi-monde. Is it true, as Hugh Griffith avers in his notes with a condescension tinged with mockery, that Germaine Tailleferre, of Les Six, "went on to achieve unparalleled and worldwide obscurity"? I didn’t think so.

As for the performances they are all serviceable and one considerably more. Norbert Kraft’s is an evocative and fluent performance of a guitar arrangement of Asturias (Albeniz never wrote for the guitar). I’m rather less taken by Gonzalez’s Malaga – unhelpful acoustic, unconvincing playing. Rahbari’s is a perfectly adequate Petrushka; Jean’s Three-Cornered Hat Suite is involved, Sanderling’s Pulcinella bracing and crisp but the best performances here are the Poulenc songs. Michel Piquemal and Christine Lajarigge are exciting exponents of both cycles. He has a wide range of colouration in Chanson d’Orkenise from Banalités, the Apollinaire settings, and exhibits a well-rounded, well-sustained high baritone throughout. He is also equipped with some actorly devices necessary to communicate the songs to optimum effect. His conversational lassitude in Hotel has a delightful plasticity of phrasing and he employs his head voice as well as a boisterous profile to winning effect in Voyage a Paris. In the greater challenge of the last of the cycle, Sanglots, he fuses and shades his voice with impressive characterisation. The darkening downward extension to the voice in Bonne journee, the first of the Paul Eluard cycle, Tel jour telle nuit, is impressively matched by Christine Lajarigge’s playing. There’s seriousness, understanding and achievement in these two musician’s performances. A bit of a ragbag collection then but it might make a change to listen to the CD at this summer’s (July 2002) Matisse Picasso exhibition at Tate Modern rather than listen to those acoustic guides so beloved of contemporary galleries which instruct you with such knowledgeable insistence just what to think.

Jonathan Woolf

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