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Jacques IBERT (1890-1962)
String Quartet (1937-1941) [24:09]
Jeux - Sonatine for violin and piano (1923) [6:07]
Ghirlarzana for solo cello (1950) [3:23]
Trio for violin, cello and harp (1944) [16:14]
Aria for viola and piano (1932) [4:24]
Caprilena for solo violin (1950) [3:02]
Entr’acte for violin and harp (1935) [3:29]
Souvenir for quartet and double bass* (1916) [6:34]
* Premiere recording
Bridge Quartet (Colin Twigg and Catherine Schofield (violin), Michael Schofield (viola), Lucy Wilding (cello)) with Michael Dussek (piano), Bryn Lewis (harp), Richard Alsop (double bass)
rec. All Saints Church, Childs Hill, London, 6-7 September 2011
SOMM SOMMCD 0122 [68:24]

Apart from the Entr’acte (tr. 13) I have to admit that I was unfamiliar with Ibert’s chamber music, though I knew some of his orchestral works, mostly light-hearted and entertaining, and also some of his film scores. He is at his most serious in his music for cinema, notably in masterpieces like Duvivier’s Golgotha, Orson Welles’ Macbeth and probably his most well-known score, Pabst’sDon Quichotte, where the eponymous anti-hero was sung and acted by Feodor Chaliapin, the legendary Russian bass. The four songs that Ibert wrote have been recorded a number of times - not least by Chaliapin himself - and are heard not infrequently at recitals.
The largest of his chamber works is the String Quartet and also the music on this disc that made the deepest impression. The opening movement is harmonically rather bold but constantly accessible, rhythmically very alive and entertaining - though there are darker streaks as well. These come more to the fore in the second movement which, at 9½ minutes is the longest and possibly the most personal. Played Allegro assai it expresses deep melancholy, caused I believe by the outbreak of the war. The quartet was composed between 1937 and 1941 and premiered in 1944 in Paris after the liberation. The Presto is a short scherzo played pizzicato and here he approaches his lighter style. It is a delightful piece that would be a suitable encore after a heavy-weight quartet evening. The concluding Allegro marcato is energetic and positive.
The Sonatine for violin and piano in two short movements has a lively and entertaining first movement and a second where the violin sings in long melodious phrases over a rather boisterous piano accompaniment. Originally it was written for flute and piano but with an indication in the published score that the flute part can just as well be played on violin.
What Ghirlarzana stands for is a well hidden secret. The word seems to be constructed by Ibert. It is a short meditation, written in 1950, commissioned by the Koussevitsky Foundation and dedicated to the memory of Natalie Koussevitsky, the second wife of conductor Serge Koussevitsky.
The Trio for violin, cello and harp was written in 1944 and the harpist Ibert had in mind was his daughter Jacqueline, who was a pupil of the famous Lily Laskine. The opening movement is rather thoughtful; in the Andante sostenuto the cello sings beautifully to begin with and is then joined by the violin in an extended dialogue. The finale is sprightly and joyous and here the harp is also more exposed than in the previous movements. All in all a delightful composition!
The Aria from 1931 was originally a vocalise for voice and piano, but Ibert’s fellow-student at the Conservatoire, Paul-Louis Neuberth, then arranged it for viola and piano the following year. Very beautiful.
Caprilena, also a word that doesn’t exist in any known language, is a telling title for the little piece for solo violin written the same year as Ghirlarzana. An entertaining miniature.
The Entr’acte, as mentioned before, was the one piece I knew. It belongs to incidental music Ibert wrote in 1935 for a production of Calderón’s El médico de su honra. This nice little bon-bon exists in several arrangements.
If Entr’acte is fairly well-known, the quintet for string quartet and double-bass is probably one of least known works - and also the earliest on this disc. It here gets its first recording It is melodious and beautiful but it is not known how much of the music that really is Ibert’s. It is based on a piece written by August Gay, a contemporary of Ibert. I have not been able to find any information about him.
All the works are expertly played by the Bridge Quartet and their associates. The recorded sound is first class and the annotations by Robert Matthew-Walker are informative and well written. The string quartet and the delectable trio are major works that should win new admirers for Ibert’s music. The other pieces are well written and highly attractive but rather light-weight.
Göran Forsling