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Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Len Mullenger:

JACQUES IBERT (1890-1962)
Bacchanale (1956) [8.20]
Divertissement (1928) [16.47]
Ouverture de Fete (1940) [15.57]
Symphonie Marine (1931) [14.25]
Escales (1922) [15.45]

  Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureux/Yutaka Sado
(recorded live and in studio at Salle Pleyel, Paris, 29-30 April 1996)
 NAXOS 8.554222 [71.20]
 Amazon UK  

The vertiginous headlong flight of Bacchanale has a machine age propulsion under its steely wings owing much to Honegger, Prokofiev, Khachaturyan and Mossolov. It relaxes in Monagesque elegance amid the nodding potplants in the moderato assai. The work was written for the tenth anniversary of the BBC Third Programme.

The Ouverture has a strong fugal element which casts a dryish academic pall over the first 3 minutes, giving place to an overblown soaring section for brass and strings before returning to the fugal japes.

The Symphonie Marine combines a pounding energy with impressionistic delicacy. It is dramatic pictorial stuff fitted out with some attractive saxophone solos. This is as befits the symphony's cinematic origins: Jean Arroy's short film 'SOS Foch' - a tale of shipwreck and disaster.

Escales envisions the sultry hothouse of Mediterranean 'ports of call'. The Rome-Palermo section is heavily indebted to Ravel especially Rapsodie Espagnole. The Tunisian heat of the central panel sways in sinuous self-absoprtion - a Gallic Beni Mora. If Valencia lacks the babbling excitement and intoxocation of Munch's classic recording it is only by a shade. It remains highy enjoyable in a way typical of Massenet and Chabrier.

Divertissement is hectically flighty, as scatty as Satie's Parade in the Rossinian valse, reclusive as Ravel's Malaguena, sombre and expressionistic in the ghoulish Nocturne, 'grand guignol' and then jaunty à la Sousa in the March and clammily discordant in the absurdly loony finale.

Escales, Bacchanale and the Symphony are well very worth hearing. At the price this is the place to start your discovery of Ibert. If the playing does not have the total impact and discipline of the Dutoit, Martinon, Bernstein versions the recording and performances are much better than good and no one will feel cheated by such artistry, generosity and economy.

Rob Barnett


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