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Georges AURIC (18991-1983)
Phèdre – ballet (1950) [41.19]
Le Peintre et son modèle (1949) [13.18]
Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra/Arturo Tamayo
rec. Conservatoire, Luxembourg, February 2005
TIMPANI 1C1090 [54.50]

Auric’s ballet music for Phèdre is much tougher than his film music. The theme drew from him considerable resource, a wide if grim concentration and a clever use of such influences as Stravinsky and Ravel. He wrote the ballet music in 1950 and there are fifteen scenes including the Prelude, in which we immediately hear a strong if accommodated Stravinskian influence. Auric knows just how densely to argue his case, how portent can be suggestive and his use of brass and percussion in this respect is exceptional. In the first Danse those glowering winds and adamantine brass are answered by the relieving string curve – like wind rippling through gauze in a hothouse. Romantic longing emerges in Phèdre’s Dance though the portent of the lower winds snakes through the tenderness. Auric characterises with great tact; when Phèdre confesses her love for Hippolyte the string and wind writing reach a height of longing but, equally, the tensile brass, cello and bass marshalling and frantic drive alert us to the tragedy about to be enacted.

The lissom moments do recall Auric’s impressionist inheritance, whilst the daemonic energy and rhythmic charge owe much to Stravinsky, not least in the context of the work as a ballet. There are also moments in scene ten, the Dance of Joy, that distinctly shadow Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast – fleetingly, but the influence is there. The death and processional are rivettingly done and it’s a tribute to Auric’s music that one wants to see the ballet, that one projects it in one’s mind’s eye as one listens.

Coupled with Phèdre is a much less oppressive work, Le Peintre et son modèle, dating from 1949. This only lasts thirteen minutes and is in seven scenes. Though we start with accustomed and tempestuous drive we soon arrive at the quixotic and the odd – a hallucinatory waltz, some Pigalle Music Hall in the fifth scene and more dream-landscape writing for piano and orchestra in the finale, with warm consoling writing to end.

Very fine performances indeed and lovely, decadent cover art work – all diaphanous, shimmering and decidedly coital.

Jonathan Woolf

see also review by Rob Barnett




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