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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Jacques Ibert - Ballet Music (Jacques Mercier)


Composer: Jacques Ibert
  • (01-04) Le Chevalier errant, version symphonique de concert
  • (05-22) Les Amours de Jupiter, ballet

Orchestre National de Lorraine
Jacques Mercier, conductor

Date: 2015
Label: Timpani



This is without a doubt a “must have” if you care about great 20th century ballet music–in other words, the kind that you can listen to just for itself. Le Chevalier errant was composed in 1935 for the inimitable Ida Rubinstein (of Boléro fame). It’s based on the Don Quixote story, but Ibert tends to avoid obvious “Spanishisms” until after the entry of the guitar in the third part, where the music’s general gorgeousness rises to a truly impressive peak of lyrical memorability. Originally scored for speaker and chorus (Rubinstein was quite into multi-media productions), Ibert later arranged the piece for large orchestra minus the vocal bits, and it is this four-movement suite lasting about half an hour that we have here, splendidly played and recorded.

Les Amours de Jupiter followed in 1945, and here we get the work complete. The title says it all as regards the plot. Unlike the more long-breathed Chevalier errant, this piece consists of a series of short numbers, mostly lasting only a couple of minutes. Ibert joins them together to create larger structures, however, and the general feel of the work comes close to the ballets of Constant Lambert–think Tiresias or Pomona–only the inspiration is more lyrical. As with its companion piece, the music is unfailingly engaging and often quite beautiful. Its neglect is simply unaccountable, and the performance here is just as fine. The sonics, too, are excellent.

Ibert is a difficult composer to pigeonhole. His reputation rests largely on the neoclassical Flute Concerto, and on the madcap Divertissement. Even the colorful Escales (Ports of Call) seems to have fallen out of favor. Yet, as these discs reveal, there’s much more than this to his output, and it’s well worth getting to know. You’re going to love this release.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday

More reviews:


Jacques Ibert (15 August 1890 – 5 February 1962) was a French composer. He studied at the Paris Conservatoire and won its top prize, the Prix de Rome at his first attempt, despite studies interrupted by his service in World War I. Ibert pursued a successful composing career, writing seven operas, five ballets, incidental music for plays and films, songs, choral works, and chamber music. He is probably best remembered for his orchestral works. Ibert did not attach himself to any of the prevalent genres of music of his time, and has been described as an eclectic.


Jacques Mercier (born in Metz in 1945) is a French conductor. He studied at the Conservatoire de Paris and won first prize in 1972. Between 1982 and 2002, Mercier was artistic director and permanent conductor of the Orchestre National d’Île-de-France. He has also served as Resident Conductor of the Turku Philharmonic in Finland for seven years. he was appointed permanent conductor and musical director of the Orchestre National de Lorraine in 2002. He also appears in the films "L'effrontée" (1985) and "La femme de ma vie" (1986).


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