Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

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]

Purchase from: Crotchet  Amazon UK

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 (Antar).

6. A brusque and clashing dance rife with the trumpets' imperious calls and rushing strings.

7. Reveries et Chant de Cabyle - solo violin - crab scuttling violin music carried over from the huskiest recordings of Shéherazade.

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.


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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