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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



Paul LADMIRAULT (1877-1944)
Poèmes Symphoniques

En Forêt (1932)
Valse Triste for piano and orchestra (1901,1933)
Brocéliande au Matin (prelude to Act II of the opera Myrrdhin) (1909)
La Brière (1926)
Colette Diard (piano)
Orchestre de Bretagne/Stefan Sanderling
rec Rennes, Sept 2000
PIERRE VERANY PV700021 [56.39]


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It was Ladmirault's double tragedy that he was to die before he could see the Liberation of France and that in his last years his right hand was stricken so that he was unable to write. This French poetic Delius or lyrical Bax (if I may simplify) was a great friend of Peter Warlock.

His soft-contoured music lilts sweetly along speaking of a composer empathetic with the same art-stream as Delius. He worshipped Ravel and this shows in the gem-like orchestration and the nicely judged open textures. Much interest lies in the instrumental 'effet'. The music is lithe and airy. It is also modest and dreamy without aspiring to climactic address. Dance and enveloping warmth are what you come to expect alongside sentimentality. The latter quality is exemplified by Idyll dans le soir - the 4th movement of La Brière. Do not look for Brahmsian upheaval, or Baxian sturm und drang. Instead you will find the folk voice of Canteloube; the dances of the place du village from Bizet - the farandole, the gigue, the rhythmic but superior equivalent of the English Morris dance.

Vaughan Williams and Moeran are, I suppose, kin to Ladmirault as shows in the dawn horn-call from the Aurore movement of En Foret. Here is the French equivalent of Moeran's In the Mountain Country and Rhapsodies 1 and 2 and of VW's In the Fen Country and Norfolk Rhapsodies. If you are expecting abandon in the Les Amants movement you will listen in vain for the lovers are portrayed in pastel and through a filter. Woodwind call gently comparable with Brigg Fair and In a Summer Garden. The Valse Triste lilts along like Fauré's Ballade indeed it is more 'Ballade' than 'Valse' and more 'Gai' than 'Triste'. Brocéliande au Matin is from the opera Myrrdhin on which he worked for much of his life. It still lies unperformed and I am not at all sure that the performing materials exist (it would be good to hear from L'Association des Paul Ladmirault on this). The Prelude to Act II (which is what the piece is) is dreamy - a sort of enchanted awakening. La Brière is in five movements taken from a 1926 film of Alphonse de Chateaubriand's novel of the same name. There is some drama in this music but it is of the robust stomp of the danse villageoise rustique. In this music he certainly proclaims his way with Ravel; of his other idol (Stravinsky) I hear nothing at all.

The recording is lucid and strong. The performances lack sublime confidence and that is really the only criticism - that hint of tentativeness hangs especially about the brass playing. Now having recently heard Fricsay's version of the Kodaly Galanta Dances I know what Ladmirault ideally needs in interpretative qualities. That sense of abandon and commitment would have made this music go with complete conviction. As it is this is colourfully recorded and representative of the gentle voice of one of France's most unassuming 20th century minstrels. A valued addition to the catalogue.

Rob Barnett

see also review by Ray Walker


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