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Paul PARAY (1886-1979)
Artémis Troublée - a ballet in five movements (1922) [34:53]
Symphonie d'Archets (Symphony for Strings) (1944) [29:14]
Hart Hollman (viola)
The Assumption Grotto Orchestra/Eduard Perrone
rec. Assumption Grotto Church, Detroit, 16 Feb 2003 (ballet); 2 Mar 2003 (symphony) DDD
world premiere recordings
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The presentation of these Grotto Productions CDs is uncompromisingly thorough. They evince passion rather than mere enthusiasm. Music examples, illustrations, bibliographies join, in the case of the Artémis score, extensive background on the plot, original dancers, choreographer, designer and director.

Artémis Troublée is represented here by an extensive five movement suite. Its danceability is clearly a concern of Fr Eduard Perrone who not for one moment loses touch with the work's choreographical and stage origins. Loosely speaking the style of Paray's beguiling music is along the lines of Florent Schmitt (Tragédie de Salomé), Stravinsky (Firebird) and Balakirev (Tamara) but textures are cleaner, less dense, less affluent. It as if the voluptuousness of these scores beloved of Diaghilev and Leon Bakst was transformed and lightened by a Ravel-like concern for clarity. It is all very attractive and there is clearly no reason why this score should have been so shamefully forgotten until now. While it may have become a vehicle for the sensuously inclined Ida Rubinstein it does not deserve the ephemeral reputation to which it has been treated until this recording appeared.

The plot is from Greek classical sources and has the mortal hunter Actaeon seeing the huntress goddess Artemis bathing and falls in love with her. Finally she submits to Actaeon's advances but Zeus and Artemis's immortal companions will have none of this. She is tricked into firing an arrow at what she takes to be a stag. It is Actaeon who pierced through the heart is killed. Artemis stands torn between absorption in her divinity and the pain of love lost.

The five movements are Les belles éconduite (jaunty yet sinuously lyrical), La rencontre (a lovingly insistent yet hesitant romance - Rimsky's Sheherazade and Balakirev's Thamar), Les flêches de carquois (part way between Ravel's Daphnis, Poulenc's Les Biches and Tchaikovsky Valse des fleurs), L'aveu dans le soir (magical bell effects from the woodwind and an increasingly ardent duet with the viola principal) and Les présents merveilleux (jaunty, catchy and Poulenc-like with less of the exotic and more of the flavour of rural France).

The Symphonie d'Archets is the composer's own orchestration of his string quartet. The quartet was written while Paray was a prisoner of war in Darmstadt in 1915 where he was confined until the end of the war in 1918. The quartet is recorded with other chamber works by Paray on another Grotto Productions disc.

All the signs are that by 1940 Paray had sloughed off his ambitions as a composer and devoted himself to conducting. His Second Symphony, written in 1939, was to be his last work. However in 1944 conducting became impossible under wartime conditions so he turned to his thirty year old quartet and orchestrated it as a Symphony for Strings. It was premiered in Monte Carlo, with Paray conducting, on 19 March 1944.

This four movement work bears the Franckian imprint. The music is superbly laid out for the string orchestra although the textures are not as translucent as those in Artémis Troublée. In the second movement the mood is elegiac, recalling somewhat Grieg's Last Spring and Holberg. The final two movements skip along happily with engaging antiphonal dialogue and airy zephyr effects as at (tr. 8 00.50). The last movement is more heavily shod, dignified and with a hint of the sort of pastoralism reflected in Poulenc's Suite Francaise.

Recorded with both sensitivity and attention to the varying weight of texture.

Not to be missed by lovers of French classical music who appreciate both a cooler classical approach as well as the sultry climes of Ballets Russes. The Symphony will be welcomed by anyone with an interest in the similar string works of Florent Schmitt (Janiana) and Jean Rivier.

Rob Barnett


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