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Gabriel PIERNÉ (1863-1937)
La Musique de Chambre (Vol. 1)
CD 1
Fantaisie-Impromptu for violin and piano, Op. 4 (c.1885) [5:45] 
Sonata for violin and piano, Op. 36 (1900) [22:40] 
Sérénade for violin and piano, Op. 7 (pre-1881) [2:26]  
Berceuse for violin and piano, Op. 8 (1880) [3:28]   
Andante for violin and piano (pre-1881) [2:35]
Quintet for piano and string quartet, Op. 41 (1916-17) [38:18]  
CD 2
Pastorale for woodwind quintet (flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, cor anglais) (c. 1886) [2:27]
Canzonetta for clarinet and piano, Op. 19 (c. 1887) [3:45]
Sonata da camera for flute, cello and piano, Op. 48 (1926) [13:53]
Prélude de concert sur un thème de Purcell for bassoon and piano, Op. 53 (1933) [5:21] 
Prelude and Fugue for woodwind septet (2 flutes, oboe, clarinet, 2 bassoons, cor anglais), Op. 40/1 (1903-04) [5:25]
Pièce in G minor for oboe and piano, Op. 5 (1884)
Pastorale variée for wind septet (flute, oboe, clarinet, trumpet, cor anglais, 2 bassoons), Op. 30 (1898) [6:44]
Solo de concert for bassoon and piano, Op. 35 (1898) [5:37]
La Danseuse espagnole for violin and piano (1925) [6:35]
Giration, ballet for piano and ten instruments (1933) [8:47]
Nuit divine for violin, harmonium and narrator (c. 1902 / Poème d'Albert Samain) [2:46]
Soloists of the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra (full list of performers in each work listed below) DDD
rec. 2005/06 Philharmonie, Luxembourg.
Full track-listing with individual performers at end of review.
TIMPANI 2C 1110 [75:44 + 64:58]  



The Timpani label continue to explore French music repertoire often from lesser-known figures such as Paul Le Flem, Germaine Tailleferre, Albert Roussel, Louis Vierne, Lili Boulanger, Gabriel Dupont, Joseph-Guy Ropartz, André Caplet and Maurice Delage. Timpani have been active in championing the music of Gabriel Pierné with several releases of his works.
  
Gabriel Pierné was a pupil of César Franck and Jules Massenet at the Paris Conservatory and succeeded Franck as organist at the famous Sainte Clotilde church in Paris (1890-98). He gained acclaim as a conductor and composer in a truly great period of French musical history that included his contemporaries Fauré, Saint-Saëns, Ravel, Debussy, Poulenc, Satie, Milhaud, D'Indy and Koechlin. His conducting career gained momentum when he secured a post at the Concerts Colonne in 1903, an association that continued for thirty years, becoming their principal conductor in 1910. Pierné was entrusted with the premiere performances of many scores including Debussy’s Ibéria; Jeux and Images, Ravel’s Tzigane and the first suite of Daphnis et Chloé, and the notorious Firebird of Stravinsky.   
 
Pierné wrote in many genres including ballet and opera with his scoring demonstrating a consistent technical assurance. Pierné’s music conveys a delicate palette of generally subdued and intimate emotions, high on grace, charm and style, mild mannered and displaying a subtle wit. It rarely expresses profound emotions. If one is looking for intense assertiveness, unbridled passion and powerful drama or vistas of spectacular mountain landscapes, scandalous Straussian eroticism and profoundly spiritual contemplation then look elsewhere.
 
The opening work on this release is the Fantaisie-Impromptu from around 1885. In this performance violinist Philippe Koch and pianist Christian Ivaldi are equal partners, providing a strutting and agitated quality to the score that never allows the listener to relax.
 
The three movement Sonata for violin and piano was composed in 1900 for the violinist Jacques Thibaud who gave the first performance in the Salle Pleyel in Paris accompanied by Lucien Wurmser. Philippe Koch and Christian Ivaldi provide a brooding character to the opening movement Allegretto that alternates episodes of dreaminess with buoyancy. In the soothing and sunny, if largely uneventful, Allegretto tranqillo the violin of Philippe Koch sings a heartfelt love-song. With the final movement Allegro un poco agitato the duo communicate weightier more forthright playing that contrasts with episodes of calm and restfulness. I especially enjoyed the vigorous and exultantly played coda.        
 
The three short scores for violin and piano the Sérénade; Berceuse and Andante were composed by Pierné around 1880-81. In the skilled hands of Philippe Koch and Christian Ivaldi the Sérénade is puckish and bright. The very attractive Berceuse is reflective and highly lyrical and they interpret the Andante as an entrancing musical love letter.

Composed in 1916-17 the three movement Quintet for piano and string quartet is a clear descendant of César Franck’s celebrated Piano Quintet. Ivaldi and the Quatuor Louvigny interpret the opening movement with a yearning quality, emphasising an increasing force and agitation to the writing. The movement ends placid and untroubled. There is little in the way of tension in the optimistic and mild-mannered central movement. The ensemble starkly alter the mood in the final movement with restless apprehension throughout. Here it is not difficult to imagine Pierné attempting to express his inner feelings over the harrowing events of the Great War.   

From around 1886 the brief Pastorale is scored for woodwind quintet of flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and cor anglais, and proves to be a rather run-of-the-mill offering. However, the Canzonetta, composed around 1887 for clarinet and piano, is an appealing and highly melodic waltz. In this gem of a score Dartevelle and Ivaldi are the perfect pairing performing effortlessly and with considerable expression.     
 
Cast in three movements the Sonata da camera composed in 1926 is scored for flute, cello and piano and was written at the behest of the influential American music patron Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge. The trio of flautist Étienne Plasman; cellist Aleksandr Khramouchin and pianist Ivaldi are brisk and extrovert in the Prélude and in the central movement Sarabande they communicate a rather mournful quality. The players interpret the final movement as a rhythmic and often frenzied dance episode. From 1933 the neo-Classical Prélude de concert sur un thème de Purcell is given a lively reading by bassoonist David Sattler but this is a largely unmemorable score.

Pierné composed his Prelude and Fugue in 1903-04 scored for a woodwind septet of 2 flutes, oboe, clarinet, 2 bassoons and cor anglais for the Modern Wind Instrument Society in Paris. This is seductively rhythmic and inventive writing given an infectious and scampering character in this performance. Scored for oboe and piano the short Pièce in G minor was written in 1884. With Pierné’s delightful and optimistic writing for the oboe, soloist Philippe Gonzales’s performance raises the spirits.    
 
The wind septet version of the Pastorale variée, scored by Pierné for the combination of flute, oboe, clarinet, trumpet, cor anglais and 2 bassoons, was first performed in 1898 for the influential ‘La Trompette’ chamber music society. Designed in several upbeat episodes the Pastorale variée proves to be a satisfying score with additional colour provided by the trumpet of Adam Rixer augmenting the woodwind.
  
The Solo de concert for bassoon and piano was commission by the Paris Conservatoire for their 1898 bassoon competition. The rich earthiness of David Sattler’s bassoon contrasts superbly with the stylish piano writing in this captivating score. Composed in 1925 La Danseuse espagnole for violin and piano is an unpublished work that Pierné seems to have intended as a preliminary sketch for his score Impressions de music-hall. As its title suggests this highly beguiling composition is suffused with a rich Spanish flavour in which the impressive partnership of Philippe Koch and Christian Ivaldi perform briskly and vivaciously.
 
In 1933 at the request of the gramophone manufacturing company Thomson-Houston for a work to fit on two sides of a 78 rpm record Pierné wrote his Giration, a ballet for piano and ten instruments. Subtitled ‘divertissement chorégraphique’ the score is based on a scenario by Jean Barreyre and the poet René Bizet. It was premiered in 1934 with the composer conducting the soloists of the Orchestre des Concerts Colonne at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris.
 
In this splendid performance of Giration from the Luxemburg soloists I experienced the ballet score as pleasing and positively uplifting. On the other hand it did not provide a great deal of dramatic contrast or excitement. Still, a highly attractive score. The sensitive playing, delightful timbre and balance of pianist Julia Knowles is especially impressive, never threatening to dominate the other instruments. 

The final work on the set is the Nuit divine an extremely brief melodrama performed with accomplishment by violinist Philippe Koch with Julia Knowles on harmonium and narrated by Rémy Franck. The text is based on a poem by Albert Samain that evokes ‘Christmas Night’; unfortunately no text is provided in the booklet.
 
The sound quality from the Timpani engineers and the annotation from Cyril Bongers and Jacques Tchamkerten are of a generally high standard.
 
Superbly performed scores with a high security of ensemble by the talented soloists of the Luxemburg Philharmonic Orchestra. But how one cries out for more variety and drama in these Pierné chamber works. Certainly a disc for dipping into rather than listening to at one sitting. 
 
Michael Cookson
 

Performer Details 
Fantaisie-Impromptu for violin and piano, Op. 4
Sonata for violin and piano, Op. 36
Sérénade for violin and piano, Op. 7
Berceuse for violin and piano, Op. 8
Andante for violin and piano

Philippe Koch, violin; Christian Ivaldi, piano

Quintet for piano and strings, Op. 41 
Christian Ivaldi, piano; Quatuor Louvigny: Philippe Koch violin; Fabian Perdichizzi, violin; Ilan Schneider, viola; Aleksandr Khramouchin, cello

Pastorale for woodwind quintet (flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, cor anglais)
Étienne Plasman, flute; Philippe Gonzales, oboe; Jean-Philippe Vivier, clarinet; David Sattler, bassoon; Miklos Nagy, cor anglais

Canzonetta for clarinet and piano, Op. 19
Olivier Dartevelle, clarinet; Christian Ivaldi, piano

Sonata da camera for flute, cello and piano, Op. 48
É tienne Plasman, flute; Aleksandr Khramouchin, cello; Christian Ivaldi, piano

Prélude de concert sur un thème de Purcell for bassoon and piano, Op. 53
David Sattler, bassoon; Christian Ivaldi, piano

Prelude and Fugue for woodwind septet (2 flutes, oboe, clarinet, 2 bassoons, cor anglais), Op. 40
Étienne Plasman, flute; Markus Brönnimann, flute; Philippe Gonzales, oboe; Jean-Philippe Vivier, clarinet; David Sattler, bassoon; François Baptiste, bassoon; Miklos Nagy, cor anglais

Pièce in G minor for oboe and piano, Op. 5
Philippe Gonzales, oboe; Christian Ivaldi, piano
 
Pastorale variée for wind septet (flute, oboe, clarinet, trumpet, cor anglais, 2 bassoons), Op. 30
É tienne Plasman, flute; Philippe Gonzales, oboe; Jean-Philippe Vivier, clarinet; David Sattler, bassoon; François Baptiste, bassoon; Miklos Nagy, cor anglais; Adam Rixer, trumpet

Solo de concert for bassoon and piano, Op. 35
David Sattler, bassoon; Christian Ivaldi, piano

La Danseuse espagnole for violin and piano 
Philippe Koch, violin; Christian Ivaldi, piano

Giration, ballet
Philippe Koch, violin; Fabian Perdichizzi, violin; Ilan Schneider, viola; Vincent Gérin, cello;
Thierry Gavard, double bass; Étienne Plasman, flute; Olivier Dartevelle, clarinet; David Sattler, bassoon; Adam Rixer, trumpet; Gilles Héritier, trombone; Julia Knowles, piano
 
Nuit divine for violin, harmonium and narrator
Philippe Koch, violin; Julia Knowles, harmonium; Rémy Franck, narrator

 

 


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