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.
see also review by Ray