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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


Jacques IBERT (1890-1962)
Persée et Andromède - or Le Plus Heureux des Trois - an opera in two acts by Nino adapted from Moralités Légendaires by Jules Laforgue (1921) [40.34]
La Ballade de la Géole de Reading (1920) [25.36]
Sarabande pour Dulcinée () [4.02]
Annick Massis (sop) - Andromède
Philippe Rouillon (bass-bar) - Cathos
Yann Beuron (ten) - Persée
Melanie Moussay (mz) - Thétis
Marie Basson, Karen Perret, Armela Fortuna, Jing Li, Melanie Moussay, Sophie Ottenwelter (Les Néréides)
Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg/Jan Latham-Koenig
rec. 8-9 Oct 2001 (Ballade, Sarabande); 19-20 June 2002 (Persée) DDD
AVIE AV0008 [70.31]

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And so the process continues ... dusty cupboards are ransacked for novelties. Warehouses we did not even know existed are laid bare and orchestras and chamber groups get to grips with works last performed decades ago or never performed. Avie, after a start which made me wonder whether they were only interested in the more accustomed ‘tracks’, now strike out in new directions. They do this extremely successfully in the case of this Ibert album and also in their provocative 'Trails of Creativity' set.

Ibert is by no means the purveyor of light triviality we may have expected from his less neglected orchestral works.

The plot of Persée involves Andromeda imprisoned on an island by the Olympian Gods with the gaoler, the monster Cathos. Andromeda is a great beauty and her Gaoler falls in love with her. Perseus appears from the skies borne by the winged horse Pegasus. Perseus kills Cathos leaving Andromeda distraught. She shuns the vain and shallow Perseus who leaves. Finally all is well, for a handsome prince - the loving essence of Cathos - emerges from the slaughtered corpse. All ends in a love duet. The music is like a meeting between Ravel's Daphnis et Chloe (in the first and last five minutes) without the density of equatorial foliage and with the lighter-handed orchestral works of Poulenc. Massis sounds believably young. The lovelorn Cathos (Rouillon) is peat-toned and stentorian. Both sound well in the exotically and languidly-blooming love duet which rounds out this episode from halcyon antiquity. This is a forty minute opera - half an evening in the theatre. It might pair rather well with Holst's The Perfect Fool, Havergal Brian's savagely Straussian Agamemnon, Szymanowski's Hagith, Vaughan Williams' Synge opera Riders to the Sea or Barber's touchingly intimate A Hand of Bridge. All would offer contrast rather than kinship.

After the opera comes a storm of passions and injustice in La Ballade de la Géole de Reading. It was written in the Villa Medici in 1920, a couple of years before his brilliant suite Escales of which Munch and Stokowski made superb recordings. This is a most touching piece in three ‘panels’ originally intended for a symphony. The music rises to passion summed up in the 'wistful eye' with which the prisoner gazes upwards towards freedom and 'that little tent of blue which prisoners call the sky'. The music touches on the Daphnis style in Persée but is less impressionistic and more tartly melodic. There are no jagged edges in this music but still it subtly probes the pain and guilt both of the prisoner and of the world bent on retribution but tormented by promptings of mercy. The music has the most flourishing driven romantic passion - listen to 10.11 in tr. 14 - the first movement of three in what amounts to a glowingly filmic tone poem from which you will not be able to extract a single tawdry moment. I wonder if Miklós Rózsa, or for that matter Messiaen, knew this piece. It would not surprise me. Listen to Ben Hur or the Turangalila Symphony with a new perspective next time you hear them. Wilde's poem, as adapted and rearranged by Ibert, is printed in the booklet.

Next we come to a graceful character-picture of Don Quixote's Dulcinea in which Ibert imbues the music with the glowing passion of the unrequited. This is a lovingly rounded Sarabande which would pair nicely with Ravel's Pavane. I hope that Avie will record the complete ballet in due course. Peaceful music avoiding the slough of blandness.

While I have had the odd criticism of Avie CDs in the past (their Errolyn Wallen booklet had several pages printed with indistinct contrast between ground and letters) this production is nothing short of exemplary. The disc case and the separate booklet are there in a stylish card slipcase. The libretto and translations are complete. The notes are helpful and well written. The print size is sensible.

Can we also hope now for Avie to record the other Ibert operas: Angelique (1926), Le Roi d'Yvetot (1928), Gonzague (1931), L'Aiglon (1937) and the operetta Les Petites Cardinales (1938)? Alternatively let me invoke a few other Gallic projects. We need a complete anthology of the orchestral works of the French composer Witkowski. How about the grand opera Le Mas by Canteloube? Better yet, given the Strasbourg connection, let me implore Simon Foster to record the Fourth and Fifth symphonies of Guy-Ropartz; both sea-spattered, passionate canvases that deserve to live beyond their half-life on battered ancient broadcast tapes.

Ibert does not get much recorded attention on the world stage. This recording and the Naxos disc made a couple of years ago by Takuo Yuasa begin to redress the imbalance. That this Avie record evinces such style and care for detail, and just as crucial, for passion, is to the credit of all involved in this excellent production.
Rob Barnett

see also review by Colin Clarke

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FREE SOUND SAMPLES
(minimum 30 secs)

Introduction

Voici l'aube

Cathos, ecoute moi...

Andromede rassuree se rendort

Ah!

Il etait une fois fois

Que le diable t'emporte

Ah! Cette toison rausse...

Oh! La-bas dans le ciel

Je t'attendais

Adieu, noble Andromede...

Pauvre, pauvre, o pauvre monstre

Andromede! Merci!

La Ballade de la Geole de Reading

Il n'avait plus tunique ecarlate

Cette nuit la...

Le vent frais du matin commenca a gemir

Sarabande pour Dulcinee





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