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Pierre MAURICE (1868-1936)
La nuit tous les chats sont gris (All Cats Look the Same in the Dark): overture to the comic opera Op. 35 (1924) [04:51]
Pêcheur d’Islande (Icelandic fisherman): musical impressions after Pierre Loti, Op.8 (1895) [23:14]: 1. On the Icelandic sea; 2. The marriage procession; 3. Declaration of love; 4. The waiting on the coastline
Francesca da Rimini: symphonic poem after Dante, Op.6 (1899) [14:21]
Daphne, prelude for orchestra, Op. 2 (c.1894-97) ms ed. Ariano [03:15]
Perséphone : two movement suite for orchestra, Op.38 (1901) [27:12]
Fugue pour instruments à cordes (Fugue for string instruments), in B minor, Op.20 (1901) [05:00]
Moscow Symphony Orchestra/Adriano
Recorded at Mosfilm Studios, Moscow, in January 2003. DDD
Six World Premier Recordings:
STERLING CDS-1053-2 [78:17]


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Maestro Adriano has pulled more gems out of his Mary Poppins bag of scores. On the Swedish-based Sterling label the ever enterprising Adriano has again delved into the world of rare composers to record six world premiere works from the pen of Swiss composer Pierre Maurice. I have been unable to unearth any significant information on Maurice or trace any recordings of his works in the catalogue. Thankfully the comprehensive booklet notes written by the conductor proved exceptionally informative.

The first work is the overture to the comic opera La nuit tous chats sont gris (All Cats Look the Same in the Dark). Maurice has crafted a brief work, light and lyrical in style which quotes from the French song ‘Au clair de la lune’.

Pecheur d’Islande (Icelandic Fisherman) are four musical impressions, based upon the celebrated book of the same name by author Pierre Lôti, which would grace any concert programme. A most attractive and dreamily atmospheric work with prominent and effective use of the woodwind. This is a score that could easily be mistaken for a work by a French composer.

Maurice’s symphonic poem Francesca da Rimini uses a programme based on Dante’s poem La Divina Commedia. The score is brooding and romantic not unlike works by late-romantic Russian composers of thirty years earlier.

The attractive and atmospheric yet brief orchestral prelude Daphne was Maurice’s first completed orchestral work. Adriano’s researches have revealed little information other than the composer has prefaced an episode after Ovid’s Metamorphoses on the score by way of a programme.

Perséphone Maurice’s two movement orchestral suite, is a substantial score at almost thirty minutes duration. The programmatic nature-suite is particularly colourful and extremely finely orchestrated. Shortly following its composition several Swiss and German orchestras took up the work which was also used successfully as a ballet. Adriano holds the view that the Perséphone ’s constantly changing episodes makes it more suitable for the stage than the concert hall.

The final work on the disc is the Fugue for string instruments which is a real jewel and it is amazing that this work has not been recorded previously. Although short in duration the work is beautiful and expressive, in a style not unlike those that several English composers, such as Elgar and Parry et al were composing at the time.

It is a travesty that these six scores have waited up to one hundred years for their first recordings when far less worthy works have been recorded in multiple. Clearly Maurice broke no new ground with his compositions and quickly became a victim of the new fashion as he was still composing music in the manner of the earlier generation of Balakirev and Debussy whose influence can be felt. Consequently his music swiftly moved into almost complete obscurity. After eighty or so years we should now be able to reassess Maurice’s music for its innate quality rather than for the dynamic of the era in which it was written.

The Moscow Symphony Orchestra impress me more each time I hear them on disc and when blended together with the passion and expertise of their conductor Adriano they form a wonderful partnership. Maestro Adriano is clearly at one with this rare repertoire which he specialises in, adopting a consistently warm and lyrical approach that aptly suits Maurice’s gift for colour and lyrical expression. On the minus side the acoustics are not perfect as the rather warm sound quality noticeably blurs at the edges in the forte passages.

This release of expertly performed world premier recordings of Pierre Maurice is thoroughly enjoyable and well worth investigating.

Michael Cookson

 



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Sheva
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