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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Jacques Ibert - Orchestral Works (Neeme Järvi)


Composer: Jacques Ibert
  • (01-03) Escales...
  • (04) Sarabande pour Dulcinée
  • (05) Ouverture de fête
  • (06) Féerique
  • (07-12) Divertissement
  • (13) Hommage à Mozart
  • (14-19) Suite symphonique 'Paris'
  • (20) Bacchanale

Orchestre de la Suisse Romande
Neeme Järvi, conductor

Date: 2016
Label: Chandos



Ibert always claimed he followed no compositional schools or aesthetic movements, though his reputation is hampered by charges of eclecticism, and his work between his gravitation towards post-Impressionism (Ravel was a close friend) and a fondness for the jazz inflected modernism of Les Six (Milhaud and Honegger were fellow composition students).

Neeme Järvi examines the apparent contradictions by contextualising his two best-known works, the Debussian Escales… (1920), inspired by Mediterranean ports of call during Ibert’s First World War naval service, and the popular Divertissement of 1930, derived from his incidental music for a production of Eugène Labiche’s An Italian Straw Hat. Järvi gives us a darker Divertissement than usual. The humour is mordant rather than breezy, the tone at times acerbic. But the shimmering Nocturne, with its poised piano solo, transports us into a sensual world more fully explored in Escales…, and the latter gets one of its finest performances on disc, superbly nuanced, and quite exquisitely played.

It’s the rest of the CD, though, that makes it special. The Suite symphonique, ‘Paris’ swerves garishly between the mechanism of Pacific 231 and the classiest of foxtrots and waltzes in its depiction of a teeming metropolis. The sad, haunting Sarabande pour Dulcinée comes from the soundtrack for George Pabst’s 1933 film Don Quichotte, originally offered to Ravel, who was too ill to undertake it. Ibert was also a master of the pièce d’occasion, and Järvi includes the riotous Bacchanale, written to mark the 10th anniversary of the Third Programme – one wonders just what the BBC made of it – and the grandiose Ouverture de fête, commissioned in 1940, alongside Strauss’s Japanische Festmusik, for the 2600th anniversary of the founding of the Japanese imperial dynasty. Ibert emerges from it all as a fine composer, whose unity lies in his almost impudent diversity, and who is often far from frivolous as some have maintained. And the disc allows Järvi to show off his Swiss orchestra to perfection. Very fine.

-- Tim Ashley, Gramophone

More reviews:
BBC Music Magazine  PERFORMANCE: **** / RECORDING: *****


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.


Neeme Järvi (born June 7, 1937 in Tallinn) is an Estonian conductor. He studied at the Leningrad Conservatory under Yevgeny Mravinsky and Nikolai Rabinovich, among others. He made over 400 recordings for labels such as BIS, Chandos and Deutsche Grammophon and best known for his interpretations of Romantic and 20th century classical music. In 1982, he became the principal conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony, and held the post for 22 years, the longest-serving principal conductor in the orchestra's history.


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