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Courbet: les musiques

Frédéric Chopin (1810 - 1849)

Prélude in E-flat Minor Op. 28 No. 14 [0:43] 1

Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)

Overture to Tannhäuser (extract) [9:55] 2
Hector BERLIOZ (1803-1869)

Symphonie fantastique (Songe d’une Nuit de Sabbat) [9:43] 3

Claude Debussy (1862-1918)

Syrinx [2:35] 4

Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

Sonata for Piano in B minor, S 178 (extract) 5

Claude Debussy (1862-1918)

La mer (Jeux des vagues) 6

Georges Bizet (1838-1875)

‘L’amour est un oiseau rebel’ (Carmen) [4:09] 7

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

Hungarian Dance, No.1 [2:46] 8

Gustav Mahler (1860-1911)

Symphony no 5 in C sharp minor (Trauermarsch. Im Gemessenem Schritt. Streng. Wie Ein Kondukt) [14:11] 9

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

Sonata for Cello and Piano no 1 in E minor, Op. 38 (Allegro non troppo) 10

Frédéric Chopin (1810 - 1849)

Prelude op.28 no.4 [2:23] 1

Henri Duparc (1848-1937)

L'invitation au voyage [4:14] 11

Hector BERLIOZ (1803-1869)
Symphonie fantastique (Reveries-Passions) [15:18] 12

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

German Requiem, Op. 45 (Selig Sind, die da Leid Tragen) 13

Ernest Chausson (1833-1899)

L'Albatros [3:21] 14

Robert Schumann (1810-1856)

Nachtstücke Op. 23 (Ad Libitum, Einfach) [4:15] 15

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1817)

Sonata for Piano no 29 in B flat major: “Hammerklavier” (Allegro) [10:43] 16

Grosse Fuge for String Quartet in B flat major Op. 133 (extract) [4:53] 17

Claude Debussy (1862-1918)

Pelléas et Mélisande (Act III, Scene 1) [6:17] 18

Ernest Chausson (1833-1899)

Apaisement [1:58] 19

Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

Les Années de pèlerinage, première année, "La Suisse (Au bord d’une source)" 20


Le temps des cerises [2:26] 21

1 Grigory Sokolov (piano); 2 Slovac Philharmonic/Michael Halász; 3 Roland Daugareil (violin), Orchestre de Paris/Christoph Eschenbach; 4 Juliette Hurel (Flute); 5 Huseyin Sermet (Piano); 6 Orchestre national de France/Evgeny Svetlanov; 7 Béatrice Uria-Monzon (soprano), Orchestre national de Bordeaux Aquitaine/Alain Lombard; 8 Marie-Josèphe Jude, Jean-François Heisser (pianos); 9 Orchestre national de France/Bernard Haitink; 10 Anne Gastinel (cello), François-Frederic Guy (piano); 11 Bernard Kruysen (baritone), Noël Lee (piano); 12 Orchestre de Paris/Christoph Eschenbach; 13 Brigitte Engerer, Boris Berezovsky (pianos), Accentus/Laurence Equilbey; 14 Marie-Nicole Lemieux (alto), Daniel Blumenthal (piano); 15 Laurent Cabasso (piano); 16 François-Frederic Guy (piano); 17 Végh String Quartet; 18 Anne Sofie von Otter (mezzo), Wolfgang Holzmair (baritone), Laurent Naouri (bass), Orchestre national de France/Bernard Haitink; 19 Marie-Nicole Lemieux (alto), Daniel Blumenthal (piano); 20 Jenö Jando (piano); 21 Albert Thierry; Grigory Sokolov (piano)

Various recording dates and locations

NAÏVE V5118 [77:00 + 70:18]


Experience Classicsonline

Naïve have issued some wonderful recordings in recent years. I would go so far as to say that they are one of my favourite labels; musically the standard is generally very high, the documentation, sound and the design often striking.

This, however, is an oddly pointless, scrappy sort of compilation. It takes as its ‘hook’ the great painter Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) and seems to promise – from its title – a treatment of Courbet’s connections with or, perhaps, his interest in, music. There are painters with whom such an approach might work well and interestingly – Titian, say, or Braque or, more specialised, a painter of musical still lifes such as Evaristo Baschenis. But, as Pierre Korzilius admits in the very first sentence of his booklet essay, “Music is not an art that Courbet practised or which directly influenced his painting”. And as Korzilius later admits “Courbet did not frequent the musical milieux”. He did, of course, paint an impressive portrait of Berlioz, which offers some justification for the extracts from the Symphonie fantastique. But elsewhere the arguments for the musical inclusions have more than a slight air of desperation about them.

Because some of Courbet’s work is characterised by its sensuality – as in paintings such as ‘Sleep’ (Paris, Petit Palais) – then, we are told, the sensuality of Bizet’s Carmen which is “not at all comparable to the sultriness evoked by Debussy in his Syrinx, the delicacy of Chausson’s Apaisement, or the ecstatic declarations of Pelléas et Mélisande” are all of them “to be found in Courbet’s œuvre”. The claim misunderstands the nature of Courbet’s realism – and it is the strong sense of realism in Courbet’s painting which, surely, makes him largely unrelated to the developments which characterise music in the years before, during and after his lifetime. Praising the monumental Burial at Ornans (Paris, Musée d’Orsay) – almost nine metres long and a quasi-polemical demonstration of his realistic principles – as an example of “social realism”, Korzulis then somewhat mysteriously seeks to relate the painting to Brahms’s German Requiem and Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. They are hardly examples of any kind of ‘social realism’ and perhaps have little in common with Courbet’s painting save their sheer scale (especially the Mahler). Except that here – since we get to hear only extracts – they are robbed of that very sense of scale.

Because one of Courbet’s many self-portraits shows him holding a cello with broken strings, the compilers of the CD are, to quote the booklet again, “led to include one of the finest pieces in the cello repertoire, the First Sonata of Brahms”!

The truth is that Courbet’s paintings and, indeed, the sensibility that lies behind them, are only very minimally illuminated by the implied musical comparisons set up here. Nor is one’s understanding of any of this music much enhanced by thinking of Courbet and his visual world. Since the project fails in both these regards, all that we are left with is a pretty miscellaneous assemblage of (largely) nineteenth century bits and pieces in no very coherent order. So far as I can see, the performances are taken either from Naïve’s own backlist or from the Naxos catalogue. Most of the performances are perfectly acceptable; some are more than that. But all of them, more or less, are robbed of meaning and point; long works are excerpted, individual movements are isolated from their neighbours. And, above all, we finish up very little wiser about Courbet or how his work might usefully be related to the music of his life and times.

Glyn Pursglove


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