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Suites Francaises / Ensemble Pyramide


Release Date: 09/27/2011 
Label:  Divox   Catalog #: 21005   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Claude DebussyGabriel PiernéMaurice Ravel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Pyramide
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 1 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



RAVEL Le Tombeau de Couperin. DEBUSSY Petite Suite. 6 Épigraphes antiques. PIERNÉ Album pour mes petit amis Pyramide Ens DIVOX 21005 (60:58)


Ravel wrote his six-movement suite Le Tombeau de Couperin for solo piano between 1914 and 1917. Its title was intended to evoke the French Baroque suites common in the time Read more of Couperin, but the musical content of its individual movements, each dedicated to a fallen comrade in the war, was not meant necessarily to imitate or specifically recall the style of Couperin and his contemporaries.


In 1919, Ravel orchestrated four of the six movements—the Prélude, Forlane, Menuet, and Rigaudon—and, according to the program note, altered the order of movements, placing the Rigaudon first. If that’s so, the Pyramide Ensemble has chosen not to follow the revised order, for the Rigaudon still comes last, as it does in every other version of the piece I have. That point is not as worthy of comment, however, as is the fact that this rendition of Le Tombeau suddenly has five movements instead of the six in the original solo piano composition or the four in Ravel’s orchestral arrangement. Restored is the Fugue, the original piano score’s second movement, in an arrangement by the ensemble flutist and piccolo player, Markus Brönnimann.


But even that takes a back seat to the arrangements themselves, which are scored for a rather different complement of instruments than Ravel put together for his own orchestrations. Ravel called for two flutes (one doubling piccolo), two oboes (one doubling English horn), two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns, two trumpets, harp, and strings—in other words, a pretty good-sized chamber orchestra. Here, in contrast, we have the aforementioned Brönnimann on flute (doubling on piccolo), Barbara Tillmann on oboe (doubling on English horn), Ulrike Jacoby on violin, Muriel Schweizer on viola, Anita Jehli on cello, and Jaël Bertschinger on harp. Missing from the mix are the clarinets, bassoons, horns, trumpets, and a larger body of strings that lend not just considerable weight to the score but, more significantly, a good deal of color.


Execution by this sextet of players is nimble and adroit, and the soothing sounds produced are beguiling, but Ravel was one of music’s greatest orchestrators and Brönnimann is not quite in the same league. I find it curious, in fact, that Brönnimann himself states in his liner note, “When one has heard the enchanting colors of the orchestra in Le Tombeau de Couperin , it is difficult to forget them and obtain completely new results.” Yes, it is.


Debussy’s four-movement Petite Suite began as a work for piano four-hands and was subsequently scored for full orchestra by Henri Büsser. The Six Épigraphes antiques underwent a slightly more complicated evolution—or perhaps devolution would be a better choice of word, for it began as incidental music to accompany a single reading of 12 of Pierre Louÿs’s Chansons de Bilitis in 1901. For the occasion, it was scored for two flutes, two harps, and celesta.


Thirteen years later, the music underwent devolution when Debussy discarded about half of the original material and arranged what remained into a six-movement suite for piano four-hands. That’s when it took on its present title. Unlike Ravel, Debussy didn’t write much orchestral music of his own, and he never got around to orchestrating the Six Épigraphes antiques himself. In 1939, however, Ernest Ansermet transcribed the work for full orchestra. So I suppose you could call Brönnimann’s arrangement an expansion of Debussy’s piano duet version or a shrinking of Ansermet’s orchestral version.


A contemporary of Debussy and Ravel, Gabriel Pierné (1863–1937) is a composer who has long found himself in their shadow. No claim is made that he rivaled either of them, but he did write some very attractive music, of which his six-movement suite Album pour mes petit ami , can be counted. It too is a work originally written for piano, rather along the lines of Debussy’s Children’s Corner and Schumann’s Kinderszenen , but unlike those pieces, Pierné’s was in fact written for children’s hands. Its last movement, “March of the Little Tin Soldiers,” is apparently quite popular as there are several recordings of it in orchestral arrangements, though who orchestrated it I don’t know. Brönnimann’s modest arrangement of the entire suite works well and seems more fitting for these unpretentious, childlike romps and reveries than do his transcription of the Ravel and Debussy works.


Still, the disc offers an hour’s worth of very pleasant, mostly relaxing music, stylishly played. The album is titled Suites Françaises , and that’s exactly what you get. Recommended for polished playing and excellent recording, but not exactly a necessary expenditure if you’re watching your discretionary dollars these days.


FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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Works on This Recording

1.
Petite suite for Piano 4 hands by Claude Debussy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Pyramide
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1886-1889; France 
Venue:  Kirche Marthalen, Schweiz 
Length: 12 Minutes 11 Secs. 
2.
Epigraphes antiques (6) by Claude Debussy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Pyramide
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1914; France 
Venue:  Kirche Marthalen, Schweiz 
Length: 13 Minutes 44 Secs. 
3.
Album pour mes petits amis, Nos 1-6, Op. 14 by Gabriel Pierné
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Pyramide
Period: Post-Romantic 
Venue:  Kirche Marthalen, Schweiz 
Length: 13 Minutes 5 Secs. 
4.
Le tombeau de Couperin: no 1, Prélude by Maurice Ravel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Pyramide
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1914-1917; France 
Venue:  Kirche Marthalen, Schweiz 
Length: 3 Minutes 11 Secs. 
5.
Le tombeau de Couperin: no 2, Fugue by Maurice Ravel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Pyramide
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1914-1917; France 
Venue:  Kirche Marthalen, Schweiz 
Length: 3 Minutes 39 Secs. 
6.
Le tombeau de Couperin: no 3, Forlane by Maurice Ravel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Pyramide
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1914-1917; France 
Venue:  Kirche Marthalen, Schweiz 
Length: 5 Minutes 8 Secs. 
7.
Le tombeau de Couperin: no 5, Menuet by Maurice Ravel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Pyramide
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1914-1917; France 
Venue:  Kirche Marthalen, Schweiz 
Length: 4 Minutes 3 Secs. 
8.
Le tombeau de Couperin: no 4, Rigaudon by Maurice Ravel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Pyramide
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1914-1917; France 
Venue:  Kirche Marthalen, Schweiz 
Length: 3 Minutes 5 Secs. 

Sound Samples

Le tombeau de Couperin (arr. M. Bronnimann): No. 1. Prelude
Le tombeau de Couperin (arr. M. Bronnimann): No. 2. Fugue
Le tombeau de Couperin (arr. M. Bronnimann): No. 3. Forlane
Le tombeau de Couperin (arr. M. Bronnimann): No. 5. Menuet
Le tombeau de Couperin (arr. M. Bronnimann): No. 4. Rigaudon
Petite suite (arr. M. Bronnimann): I. En bateau
Petite suite (arr. M. Bronnimann): II. Cortege
Petite suite (arr. M. Bronnimann): III. Menuet
Petite suite (arr. M. Bronnimann): IV. Ballet
6 Epigraphes antiques (arr. M. Bronnimann): No. 1. Pour invoquer Pan
6 Epigraphes antiques (arr. M. Bronnimann): No. 2. Pour un tombeau sans nom
6 Epigraphes antiques (arr. M. Bronnimann): No. 3. Pour que la nuit soit propice
6 Epigraphes antiques (arr. M. Bronnimann): No. 4. Pour la danseuse aux crotales
6 Epigraphes antiques (arr. M. Bronnimann): No. 5. Pour l'egyptienne
6 Epigraphes antiques (arr. M. Bronnimann): No. 6. Pour remercier la pluie au matin
Album pour mes petits amis, Op. 14 (arr. M. Bronnimann): No. 1. Pastorale
Album pour mes petits amis, Op. 14 (arr. M. Bronnimann): No. 2. Farandole
Album pour mes petits amis, Op. 14 (arr. M. Bronnimann): No. 3. La veillee de l'ange gardien
Album pour mes petits amis, Op. 14 (arr. M. Bronnimann): No. 4. Petite gavotte
Album pour mes petits amis, Op. 14 (arr. M. Bronnimann): No. 5. Chanson d'autrefois
Album pour mes petits amis, Op. 14 (arr. M. Bronnimann): No. 6. Marche des petits soldats de plomb

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