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Jacques IBERT (1890-1962)
Française (1926) [2:49]
Le vent dans les ruines (1915) [3:18]
Les Histoires (1922) [21:30]
Toccata sur le nom d'Albert Roussel (1929) [1:05]
Valse (1927) [3:54]
L'espiègle au village de Lilliput (1937) [1:02]
La Petite Suite (1943) [18:19]
Les Rencontres (1923) [15:17]
Jean-Yves Sebillotte (piano)
rec. 2000, Eglise Evangélique Luthérienne Saint-Pierre, Paris
SKARBO DSK1057 [68:39]

The collective title of this release reminds us that Jacques Ibert was often regarded as a miniaturist. This has more than a grain of truth but also tends to ignore some facets of his musical personality for, alongside short, compact works such as the ones recorded here, he also composed some considerably more serious works such as La Ballade de la Geôle de Reading (1921), Chant de Folie (1924 for chorus and orchestra) and his scores for Orson Welles' Macbeth (1948) and for Marcel L'Herbier's Golgotha (1935). Indeed, his supreme masterpiece, his string quartet (1937/42), has received little attention so far – I think that there has been one recording of it that is now probably unavailable.

Anyway, things being what they are, Ibert remains highly regarded as a gifted tune-smith whose elegantly crafted music-making may not be as innocent as it might seem at first. Moreover, there is quite often more than a pinch of salt in what may seem lightweight or superficial at a first hearing. Pieces often begin innocuously until the harmony gets spiced with tongue in cheek dissonance, so that things are never to be taken at face value. A fine example of Ibert's ways is perfectly summed up in the first piece in this recital, Française, subtitled “guitare”, which exhibits a good deal of mild dissonance and rhythmic displacements, a constant in Ibert's music.

The earliest work here, Le vent dans les ruines (1915), is still reasonably traditional both as far as musical content and piano technique are concerned. Les Histoires of 1922 are much better-known because the second movement, Le petit âne blanc (The Little White Donkey), has become ubiquitous in piano literature. The other movements paint or evoke various places and moods. Most of the other works were composed as parts of some collective works. So the Toccata sur le nom d'Albert Roussel was composed for a collective homage to Roussel and reflects Roussel's rhythmic verve, whereas Valse was written for another collection, L'Eventail de Jeanne, and L'espiègle au village de Lilliput was part of the collective album A l'exposition (for Marguerite Long).

At the time of WW II, when things were far from easy for everyone concerned, Ibert chose to let his fingers wander on the keyboard almost aimlessly and to compose the Petite Suite (in fifteen images), consisting of short, self-explanatory movements. One should nevertheless bear in mind that at about the same time he was still working on his strongly personal string quartet.

Les Rencontres was composed in 1923. The composer described as a little suite in the form of a ballet and it was orchestrated and choreographed in 1925. The set as a whole is somewhat more developed and more serious, although Ibert's fingerprints are all there.

Many years ago, during the LP era, I purchased a disc of Ibert's output for the piano with the same programme, one or two shorter pieces excepted. I do not know if such a collection has been committed to CD since that time but I do not think so – though I may be proved wrong. In any case it is always nice to be able to relish Jacques Ibert's superbly crafted and attractive music in such fine readings as these.

Anyone who knows and loves Ibert's music should not ignore this beautifully produced disc. In the present unhappy times this disc could prove a formidable remedy. So, sit down, have a drink, listen and relax.

Hubert Culot

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