IBERT (1890–1962) CD 1 Divertissement (1930)a [14:25] Symphonie marine (1931)a [13:56] Bacchanale (1956)a [8:20] Louisville Concerto (1953)a [11:18] Bostoniana (1962)a [6:53]
Flute Concerto (1934)b [20:04] CD 2 Ouverture de fête (1940)c [15:33] Escales (1922)c [15:27] Tropismes pour des amours imaginaires (1957)c [24:32] Quatre Chansons de Don Quichotte (1932)d [12:25]
Birmingham Symphony Orchestra/Louis Frémauxa;
Emmanuel Pahud (flute), Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich/David
Zinmanb; Orchestre National de l’ORTF/Jean Martinonc; José Van
Dam (baritone), Orchestre de l’Opéra de Lyon/Kent Naganod
rec. Great Hall, Birmingham University, 30-31 August 1973
(Divertissement) and 20-21 August 1975 (Symphonie
marine, Bacchanale, Louisville Concerto, Bostoniana);
Grosser Saal, Tonhalle, Zürich, 7-9 October 2002 (Flute Concerto);
Salle Wagram, Paris, 28-30 October and 7 November 1974 (Ouverture
de fête, Escales, Tropismes) and Auditorium
Maurice Ravel, Lyon, 31 October and 3 November 1990 (Quatre
Chansons) EMI CLASSICS
GEMINI 5176392 [75:32 + 68:17]
can be seen from the above details, all these recordings
have been available before, some of them dating back to the
LP era. Some have already been re-issued in CD format several
years ago and have since disappeared from the catalogue so
this compilation at bargain price is most welcome.
was a most distinguished craftsman whose music has great
melodic and instrumental charm, although it rarely plumbs
any great depths. The celebrated and ubiquitous Flute
Concerto is now a classic avidly seized upon by flautists
all over the world. It perfectly exemplifies both Ibert’s
strengths and weaknesses. The music is superbly crafted,
gratefully written for the instrument and overflows with
sparkling orchestration and memorable melodic material. On
the other hand, Ibert’s musical ideas are most of the time
rather short-winded and do not lend themselves to any significant
development, although the composer always uses his limited
material most resourcefully. One of the finest examples of
Ibert’s ability to work-out satisfying musical structures
from tiny material is to be found in his Trois piècesbrèves for
wind quintet (1930), now another classic of the repertoire
for wind quintet.
Frémaux must have been one of the first conductors to investigate
further into Ibert’s output. His recordings made in Birmingham,
as far back as 1973 and 1975, provided a welcome opportunity
to hear other works besides the best-known and much loved Divertissement.
The scoring for small orchestra, actually a sort of pit orchestra,
betrays the origin of the piece as incidental music for a
revival of Labiche’s comedy Un chapeau de pailled’Italie.
The music is light-hearted, often gently ironic as in the
light parody of Mendelssohn’s Wedding March in the second
movement, full of dance rhythms and some ‘surprises’ such
as the modern-sounding “wrong-note” music of the short piano
cadenza opening the otherwise riotous Finale. In this delightful
piece, Ibert proves himself another non-official member of Les
Six, and the heir to Poulenc and Milhaud. The somewhat
earlier Escales, too, is fairly well-known.
This colourful travelogue around the Mediterranean Sea has
been repeatedly recorded, by Stokowski amongst many others.
It, too, is a good example of Ibert’s music-making: colourful,
superbly scored, never outstaying its welcome, although it
is not completely free of clichés and quickly forgotten ideas.
It nevertheless remains a very attractive and enjoyable piece.
Ibert forbade performances of his Symphonie marine during
his lifetime. It is not clear why he did so, neither do we
know exactly what the music is about. As the present annotator
rightly remarks, Ibert’s “view of the sea has nothing of
the flashing colours of Debussy’s LaMer”.
Indeed, the music of this fairly concise work is sustained
throughout its duration by a tugging rhythm rather suggesting The
Toilers of the Sea than the great seascapes of Debussy’s
work or of Frank Bridge’s The Sea or the much
later Sea Interludes of Britten. The explanation
lies in the fact that this work might either be the score
written for a short film S.O.S. Foch or based on that
music. I have never seen that film and cannot tell you anything
about it that might shed interesting light on this rather
neglected score. Here, however, the serious side of Ibert’s
music-making can be better appreciated. Louisville
Concerto (1953) and Bacchanale (1956)
were written on commission, the former as part of the Louisville
Orchestra’s courageous scheme of commissioning works from
living composers from quite different geographical and musical
horizons. The latter was commissioned by the BBC to celebrate
the tenth anniversary of the Third Programme. The music of
the Louisville Concerto sometimes has echoes
of Americana and may bring Copland and Roy Harris to mind. Bacchanale,
on the other hand, is a short nervous, brilliantly scored
Scherzo with a calmer central section. Both may be occasional
works but they are nevertheless well worth hearing. Bostoniana,
actually Ibert’s last work, is the only surviving movement
of a symphony commissioned by Munch and the Boston Symphony
Orchestra but left incomplete. This short symphonic movement
may be the real surprise in this compilation of Ibert’s orchestral
output, for it has a muscular and forceful energy reminiscent
of the composer’s great friend Arthur Honegger. It amply
shows that Ibert was also capable of great things.
little is known about Tropismes pour les amours imaginaires,
incidentally the longest work here. It may have been conceived
as a ballet score but was never performed during the composer’s
lifetime. What comes clearly through is the dance-like character
of much of the music, sometimes nodding towards Gershwin.
It may be a bit too long and repetitive, but again it is
well worth more than the occasional hearing. Ouverture
de fête, first performed by Charles Munch in 1942,
is another curiosity. It was composed to mark the 2500th anniversary
of the Mikado’s dynasty in Japan, as was Britten’s Sinfonia
da Requiem. Ibert’s overture is completely different
from Britten’s work, both in form and content. Ibert composed
a fairly substantial celebratory piece closer to Walton’s
coronation marches, but with considerably less panache. The
piece, however, perfectly suited the occasion.
final work in this release is one of the finest. It is less
well-known than Ravel’s Don Quichotte à Dulcinée,
incidentally composed for and not used in the same film by
Pabst starring Chaliapin himself in the title role. Ibert’s Quatre
Chansons may be less sophisticated than the Ravel
but these songs are nevertheless really very fine, effective
and at times deeply moving for all their utter simplicity.
Ibert is often regarded as un petit maître, but his
music is always refreshingly unpretentious, often attractive
and rewarding for all its strengths and weaknesses. It certainly
possesses a direct appeal that is hard to resist. This re-issue
is perfectly justified and most welcome especially when the
music is played with taste and loving care as it is here.
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