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Musique & Art Nouveau
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
La Plus que lente (1910)
Rêverie (1890)
Clair de Lune (from: Suite Bergamasque -1890)
Erik SATIE (1866-1925)
Gymnopédie No. 1 (1888)
Le Piccadilly (1904)
Gnossienne No. 3 (1890)
Lili BOULANGER (1893-1918)
D'un vieux jardin (1914)
D'un jardin clair (1914)
Cortège (1914)
Darius MILHAUD (1892-1974)
Trois Rag-Caprices (1922)
Maurice RAVEL
Pavane pour une infante défunte (1899)
Germaine TALLEFERRE (1892-1983)
Pastorale in Ré (1919)
Romance (1913)
Hommage à Debussy (1920)
Francis POULENC (1899-1963)
Mouvements perpétuels (1918)
Jacques IBERT
From Histoires: No. 2
Le petit âne blanc
A giddy girl
Cristina Ariagno (piano)
Recorded Camponogara,
Venice, June 2001
ARTS 47672-2


This is a very attractively produced disc. It sports a scene close to the hearts of antiquarian collectors – a youth holding out a Phonotipia 78 at an inviting angle – and its brief is to mix established French masters of the period with younger colleagues. Thus Clair de Lune is here and so are Milhaud’s Trois Rag-Caprices and Gymnopédie No. 1 nestles close to Boulanger’s Cortège. The ostensible peg then is Art Nouveau but one should more properly, I suppose, see this as an enthusiastic recital of French music from the last decade or so of the nineteenth century up to approximately the end of the first quarter of the twentieth.

The most entertaining – and useful – of the selection centres around the lesser-known pieces. As well as canonical Satie we have Le Piccadilly, an eyebrow-raising example of early metropolitan ragtime against which we can measure Milhaud’s examples which are more than somewhat saturated in Brazilian sunshine; the first is tumultuous, the second shares something of Gershwin’s sensibility and the third gets lusty. Though the Debussy and Ravel are pleasingly done there is more mileage in uncovering Boulanger. At twenty-one her harmonic sense was palpably advanced though it’s equally attractive to hear how she could unclutter that density in Cortège which is freer and less impressionistically brooding than it may sound.  

It’s good to find Tailleferre here – routinely mocked these days I find – and her Romance, written at the same time as Boulanger’s works, ploughs a different field altogether; clean and lyric. We end with more Heirs of the traditions – Poulenc and Ibert – and though her Poulenc is not stellar I like the way Cristina Ariagno draws out Ibert’s lively Le petit âne blanc. Notes are brief but attractively laid out and the recording level is only a touch plummy – otherwise all is well.

Jonathan Woolf



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