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CD: AmazonUK

Louis AUBERT (1877-1968)
Piano Works: Sillages (I. Sur le rivage; II. Socorry; III. Dans la nuit) (1908-12) [24:53]; Deux Pièces en Forme de Mazurke, Op. 12 (I. Lent; II Animé) [8:48]; Romance, Op. 2 [3:03]; Trois Esquisses, Op. 7 (I. Prélude; II. Nocturne; III. Valse) [6:49]; Valse-Caprice, Op. 10 [3:14]; Lutins, Op. 11 [5:52]; Esquisse sur le Nom de Fauré (1922))
Cristina Ariagno (piano)
rec. 2005

Experience Classicsonline

Louis Aubert was one of a host of the French composers whose music fell into the blind oblivion created by the dazzling talents of Debussy and Ravel. It wasn’t anyone's fault but the effect was the same as if it had been. Imaginative music of some depth and reach has failed to register with more than a few people ‘in the know’. We knew something was up when Marco Polo issued a truly outstanding CD of his orchestral music. This included Le Tombeau de Chateaubriand (1948) - a tremendously imaginative, salt-spray and sun-dazzle Breton marine picture. Aubert was born in Brittany and as Sillages proves the sea flowed through his creative veins. The Chateaubriand picture picks up on the artist's seascapes rather than being the sort of neo-classical anonymity you might have feared from the title. Try catching up with that Marco Polo; it’s 8.223531 (66:19). You can compare Aubert’s Cinéma (1956) with the Koechlin’s ‘silver screen’ pieces and especially his Seven Stars Symphony (1932). Cinéma has the following movements: Douglas Fairbanks et Mary Pickford; Rudolph Valentino; Chaplin et les Nymphes Hollywoodiennes; Charlie amoureux; Walt Disney; Valse Finale. Also on that essential Marco Polo are Offrande (1952), Dryade (1924) and Feuille d'images (1932). The Rhineland-Pfalz State Philharmonic Orchestra are conducted by Leif Segerstam.

Sillages is another sea-piece to set alongside Le Tombeau - a sequence of three powerfully atmospheric movements. Christina Ariagno has a commanding grip on these deeply serious tone poems. Their language is very much of the early-mid-20th century. The idiom is close to that of Arnold Bax in his Third Sonata yet with more air in the texture. This is awkward, elbows-out music – saturated in natural grandeur. The habanera woven into Socorry - the middle movement - suggests that although Sur Le Rivage could well have the crashing combers of Ouessant as a locale, the coastal images of Socorry are Iberian. The swirling expressionist textures of Dans la Nuit are similarly refracted, fractured and troubled. Ricardo Vines was one of the pianists who championed Sillages.

The Deux Pieces en Forme de Mazurke take us back from the language of Sillages to salon-Chopin – that’s probably too harsh. It’s pleasing and undemanding. The Romance (1897) is a simple Chopin-like creation: sentimental and plumbing no great depths. The Three Esquisses of 1900 inhabit much the same floral Macdowell-salon world with only Nocturne looking forward to Sillages. The Valse-Caprice is from the same sentimental lode as is the sweetly scurrying Lutins. The Fauré Esquisse - his last published piece - is more complex and dates from 1922. It is closer to the subtleties, mirror-shatter and intimations of magnificence we find in the masterly Sillages.

A wishlist of Aubert's music begging recording includes Poème Arabe (1917) for voice and orchestra, the opera La Forêt Bleu (with certain characters overlapping those from with Ravel 's Ma Mère l’Oye), the violin sonata and the Habanera (1919). I also wonder if Aubert ever orchestrated Sillages.

The liner-note for Brilliant is anonymous but very useful and detailed.

Ariagno delivers fine interpretations yielding only the last degree of muscularity of vision to Marie-Catherine Girod's long gone Opès 3d disc (3D 8005). I have no heard the version of Sillages recorded by David Korevar for Koch International.

Rob Barnett


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