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Fanfare to La Péri,
La Péri
Symphony in C
The Sorcerer's Apprentice.

Jesús López-Cobos conducts the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
TELARC CD-80515 [72:02]

This CD is proof, as if there was ever need of any, that there is much more to Paul Dukas' music than The Sorcerer's Apprentice. It is just a pity that practically every album that is released of this composer's work must include, by default, this over-exposed piece. I will, therefore, quickly sweep it out of the way, after just saying that it receives an energetic and perhaps slightly over-emphatic performance, and move on to the more interesting items.

Dukas was born in Paris and began to compose at the age of thirteen. He entered the Conservatoire, and became friends with d'Indy and Debussy and took as idols, Beethoven and Wagner. He was much influenced by Shakespeare and the classical authors. His music blends Classicism with Romanticism and Impressionism.

Dukas' Symphony in C was first performed in Paris in 1897. The first movement is swift moving but begins in Franckian austerity with a feeling of striving after light from darkness. The major theme of the movement is indeed, very reminiscent of Cesar Franck. As the music asserts itself, a more muscular Beethovian influence is felt. Much of the music of this first movement is therefore correspondingly strong and confident sometimes martial and heroic - even a little chivalric. The Romantic Andante is the highlight of the Symphony. It begins quietly with an almost prayer-like theme before soft agitated strings, woodwinds and echoing horns transport us to some sensual Arcadian world that blends impressionistic styles with those of the Russian romantics - especially Borodin and Galzunov. The energetic finale recalls material from the first movement and in parts echoes the Romanticism of the Andante. The feeling of medieval chivalry is heightened.

The brief two-minute heraldic Fanfare to La Péri ushers in the work proper. La Péri was premiered in Paris, in 1912. According to Persian mythology, the péris are fairies and elves who are descended from fallen angels. They cannot regain paradise until penance has been done. Dukas' tale concerns a youth, Iskender, who has been roving the world looking for the lotus, the flower of immortality. At last, he finds it in the possession of a lovely péri. She is asleep. He steals it but cannot tear himself away from her for he has fallen in love. She awakens and dances to play upon his desire. Iskender, bewitched, returns the flower and both it and the péri melt into the golden light of sunset, leaving Iskender alone and desolate and recognising that he is doomed. Dukas fashions a vibrant, colourful, monumental impressionistic score that captures the gossamer lightness of the fairies and their quick dartings, the sultry atmosphere of the péri's bower, and Iskender's amorous longings. The voluptuous dance of the péri that is a whirling crescendo demanding virtuoso playing especially from the strings that have incredibly fast precision work in their highest register.



Ian Lace


Ian Lace

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