Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Pierre MAURICE (1868-1936)
La nuit tous les chats sont gris overture Op. 35 (1924) [4.51]
Pêcheur d'Islande - impressions musicales d'après Pierre Lôti Op. 8 (1895) [23.14]
Francesca da Rimini - poème symphonique d'après Dante Op. 6 (1899) [14.21]
Daphné prélude pour orchestre Op. 2 bis (1894-97) (ed. Adriano) [3.15]
Perséphone suite pour orchestre Op. 38 (1930) [27.12]
Fugue pour instruments à cordes Op. 20 (1901) [5.00]
Moscow Symphony Orchestra/Adriano
rec. Jan 2003, Mosfilm Studios, Moscow DDD
STERLING CDS-1053-2 [78.17]

Maurice was born on the shores of Lake Geneva. He studied music in Stuttgart with Percy Goetschius and settled in Munich for twenty years from 1899. During the Great War he was in charge of music at various POW camps. In 1919 he returned to Switzerland. There are operettas, oratorios, song cycles with orchestra, ballets, overtures and operas in the Maurice worklist.

The overture to the 1932 operetta La Nuit tous les chats sont gris is at first a restive playfully flickering reflection of John Foulds' overture Le Cabaret with brilliant work for brass and woodwind. Later it yields to ecclesiastical and then impressionistic musing on the French folksong Au clair de la lune. A cock-crow summons the Berliozian brilliance of the opening - a Roman Carnival or Benvenuto Cellini indeed.

Both Guy-Ropartz and Maurice were drawn to write music inspired by Pierre Lôti's Pêcheur d'Islande. Maurice's four episodes make an early impressionistic suite. The introspection of Sur La Mer d'Islande is reminiscent of the Bachian devotions of Saint-Saëns' prelude to La Déluge with an insistent figure that might well have stuck in the memory of Mario Nascimbene when he wrote the main theme for the film, The Vikings. After grim intimations come bucolic themes with much cheery work for the woodwind. I am not sure that such stark contrasts work well. The mellow slow wash of Propos d'amour is much more successful with its sustained sunset glow. L'attente sur la falaise (keeping watch from the coast) glows and glowers rather than howls. If this atmospheric suite has a weakness it is its emphasis on mood over drama. It does however go to show that Maurice was a composer of sensitive integrity.

Almost a quarter of a century after Tchaikovsky's overwhelming Francesca da Rimini, Pierre Maurice wrote his own 'symphonic poem after Dante'. This is a work potently eloquent in its depiction of mood. It has some well-spun love music which has Tchaikovskian resonance (6.34) and, as Adriano's notes suggest, it is also a burnished invocation to darkness. It is of a type that we find in the gloomy prelude to Bernard Herrmann's music for Citizen Kane as the camera tracks through the ruined dreams of Xanadu.

After the Daphné Prelude, with its Hansonian theme and faintly impressionistic treatment, comes the latest work in this collection; another piece inspired by Greek legend. Perséphone is strangely Straussian in its writing for the horns but then reverts to type with smoothly undulating themes carrying a suggestion of George Butterworth when animated and of Delius or Bantock (Pierrot of the Minute - a work to receive a new recording from Hyperion later this year, 2003) when reflective. Perhaps early Roussel (Dans la forêt) and D'Indy (Jour d'été) would be closer parallels. This is a work of instinctive meandering, rhapsodic temperament and perhaps occasionally loses the plot. To compensate there are some revelatory moments such as the murmuring strings at 7.21. The second movement of Perséphone takes us back into Herrmann territory. Who knows, Bernard Herrmann might have given Maurice an outing or two during his incredibly varied NBC studio broadcasts in the 1930s. This is also the sort of music that would have appealed to Constant Lambert and still more to Sir Thomas Beecham. Relief from the gloom of Perséphone's enforced exile to Hades comes at 5.43 in the second of the two movements.

The Fugue for strings is well-rounded, almost voluptuous, and certainly defies the academic dust that normally settles on such creations.

Not desperately compelling music but surely there is room in the world for such sincere romantic-impressionist creativity.

Rob Barnett

see also review by Michael Cookson

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