Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Pierné: Piaco Concerto, Etc

“[Bavouzet] plays with an enthralling virtuosity...he makes it difficult to imagine a more bright-eyed and eloquent soloist, and his partners work with him hand-in-glove. For all those who delight in a wholly French grace and magic, this disc is a winner, and it is superbly recorded.” -- Gramophone

“This attractive disc would make an ideal introduction to the charms of Pierné's music...The revelatory heart, though, is the music from Ramuntcho...Inspired by the Basque setting, there is plenty of colour and vigour.” -- BBC Music Magazine ****

This one's a keeper. Gabriel Pierné was the French Mahler, not stylistically perhaps, but in terms of his skill set. A superb conductor, he applied his podium experience to his compositions, writing immaculately finished, brilliantly scored pieces in a wide range of styles. Aesthetically he couldn't be further from his Czech/German/Jewish colleague, but the comparison is apt nonetheless. Like Mahler's, Pierné's idiom is hard to categorize in its inclusivity.

The Piano Concerto is a diverting romp in the spirit of Saint-Saëns' Second (it has no slow movement at all). The Divertissement is charm incarnate. The Ramuntcho suites incorporate Basque themes and stand in a long and illustrious line of French tributes to Spain. They are wholly wonderful. The March of the Little Lead Soldiers needs no introduction, and is not to be confused with Pierné's other "greatest hit", the March of the Super Cute Little Mythological Faun Critters from the ballet Cydalise et le chèvre-pied.

These performances are stunning. There is a similar coupling of Ramuntcho and the concerto on BIS, and it's very good. But Jean-Efflam Bavouzet is an unbeatable soloist, and the orchestral playing under Mena is irreproachable. Toss in the two couplings (the Divertissement is actually quite substantial), plus terrific sonics, and the result is simply irresistible. You'll love this music. --David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com

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