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Gabriel Pierne conducts



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Gabriel PIERNÉ Conducts
Emmanuel CHABRIER (1841-1894)
Gwendoline overture
Danse Villageois
Bourée Fantasque
Georges BIZET (1838-1875)
Edouard LALO (1823-1892)
Le Roi D'Ys Overture
Hector BERLIOZ (1803-1869)
Romeo and Juliet ; Romeo alone
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune
César FRANCK (1822-1890)
Gabriel PIERNÉ (1863-1937)
Cydalise et le Chèvre-pied
Ramuntcho - ouverture sur des thèmes populaires Basques
Sonata da camera
Orchestre des Concerts Colonne/Gabriel Pierné
 Gabriel Pierné (piano), Marcel Moyse (flute), H Lopes (cello) in the Sonata da camera
Recorded Paris 1928-34
 MALIBRAN CDRG 140 [2CDs: 143.43]


We know Pierné as a composer but less so as a conductor. In fact he did some house conducting for French Odeon and was invariably to be found in charge of the esteemed orchestra of the Concerts Colonne, which had a history of producing some inspired players from among its ranks. What Odeon didn't yet have, as is evident on this fascinating double CD set, was a reliable or particularly up-to-date recording set up. Many of these sides are somewhat cramped and boxy but Malibran does at least preserve the sound warts and all. I suspect Ward Marston would have massaged the acoustic and given it a slightly warming echo, as he's done to other French-made studio recordings from around this period. I quite like the grit and honesty of most of Malibran's work here, the more so as these are not exactly commonplace recordings even on historical labels.

They were made in Paris between 1928 and 1934, three years before his death, and are of exclusively native Franco-Belgian repertoire and are conducted with considerable dash and élan by Pierné. Despite the by now rather old-fashioned acoustic congestion we can appreciate his way with Chabrier, lilting, driving but also sensitive. If he proves somewhat more robust than is ideal it's a fault very much on the right side as his Danse Villageoise and Bourée Fantasque show. España however goes well it's finely characterised and life affirming. His Bizet is equally zestful there's a particularly catchy and delightful Adagietto. We can hear the still unsullied French wind tradition in the Debussy, as well as some succulently quick string portamenti albeit this is a slightly rough copy and there's a less than good side join. His Franck is very romantic and dramatic and there's real sweep in Eros et Psyché. As a composer-conductor it's fascinating to hear him conducting his own music. How superbly he animates those shuffling bass lines and releases the witty and very high winds in the March in Cydalise. Or how witty and charming is the offbeat fun of the Marche des élèves Nymphes, how chatty and chattering the winsome writing of the Suite de la leçon de danse. If you want to experience Pierné at his most loquacious try the wind badinage in Giration or the manner in which he brings out the beautiful tune there or the fascinating array of soloistic talent available to act out his music. There's something wrong with the copy used for Ramuntcho, the Basque popular tunes piece. It's breezy fun but something has gone awry with the transfer from around 3.20 this is just before the end of the first side of the 78 and Malibran's copy suffers from wow. We can also hear the composer in his role as pianist (he was a notable organist) in his Sonata da Camera. The most striking of the movements is the second, a slow sarabande on the name of Louis Fleury and a nobly concentrated tribute.

Malibran continues its admirable quest to capture some of the leading French musicians of that time. Pierné didn't record extensively and it's a delight to have his idiomatic performances once more available in this handy twofer.

Jonathan Woolf


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