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Ibert: Persee Et Andromede, Etc / Latham-koenig, Massis

Release Date: 03/11/2003 
Label:  Avie   Catalog #: 8   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Jacques Ibert
Performer:  Annick MassisPhilippe RouillonMelaine MoussayYann Beuron
Conductor:  Jan Latham-Koenig
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Strasbourg Philharmonic OrchestraStrasbourg Conservatory Women's Vocal Ensemble
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 11 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Yes, it's only January, but I wouldn't be a bit surprised if this disc turns out to be one of the great events of 2003. It simply drips wonderfulness. Imagine Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande having a one-night stand with Ravel's Daphnis et Chloé and giving birth to a bouncing baby opera called Persée et Andromède, a 40-minute-long work in two acts containing the best qualities of both parents, and of French music in general. Ibert revels in melodies of unashamed sensual beauty and shimmering textures that never descend into banality, thanks in large part to his so very French brevity, gently ironic detachment, exquisitely polished surface sheen, and piquant harmonic
Read more coloring. Where has this delicious gem been hiding all these years?

The story couldn't be simpler. By order of the gods, Andromeda is held captive on an island guarded by the hideous monster Cathos, who in true "Beauty and the Beast" fashion really is quite a gentleman and loves her dearly. They enjoy playing chess together. Enter Perseus on his winged steed intent on rescuing her. Andromeda finds his heroic blustering and oversized ego more monstrous than Cathos, and when he kills the monster (rather gratuitously, just to prove he can), she rejects him in horror and tells him to get lost. He obliges, rather annoyed that he wasted his time trying to rescue her in the first place. No sooner does Andromeda lament the loss of Cathos than a handsome prince pops out of his dead carcass, and in a delightful reversal of operatic convention the baritone gets the girl.

Happily, with one exception, the performance does this extraordinary bon-bon full justice, the exception being Mélany Moussay's Thétis, a (thankfully) tiny role whose slight demands tax her all-too-modest vocal endowment to its very limits. Everyone else, including conductor and orchestra, sounds terrific. Annick Massis makes a fresh-voiced Adromeda; Philippe Rouillon certainly comes across as the nicest and most aristocratic monster on this particular block; and tenor Yann Beuron as Perseus hits all the notes while still managing to sound suitably obnoxious. So the casting isn't quite perfect, but such is the importance and attractiveness of the work itself that not even an aborted Thétis can detract from the experience in any signifcant way.

But wait! That's not all!

In addition to the opera, Jan Latham-Koenig treats us to another Ibert rarity, the three-movement symphonic poem La Ballade de la Geôle de Reading, a major work inspired by Oscar Wilde's poem about the execution of a convicted murderer housed in a nearby cell during the poet's incarceration on morals charges. It's a full-fledged masterpiece of the French musical macabre, standing squarely in the tradition of such works as Caplet's Edgar Allan Poe-inspired Conte fantastique for harp and strings, or Florent Schmitt's The Tragedy of Salomé (and better than either, when all is said and done).

Finally, the tiny Sarabande pour Dulcinée, taken from a Don Quixote ballet commissioned by Ida Rubenstein (of Boléro fame), offers four minutes of the most purely gorgeous music ever written. Radio stations looking to fill a few minutes take note: this is prime pledge drive material. As with the opera, the performers play the music for all it's worth: they are magnificent, and so is the sound, with a particularly rich, deep bass. It just doesn't get better than this. [2/7/2003]
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

Persee et Andromede by Jacques Ibert
Performer:  Annick Massis (Soprano), Philippe Rouillon (Bass Baritone), Melaine Moussay (Mezzo Soprano),
Yann Beuron (Tenor)
Conductor:  Jan Latham-Koenig
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra,  Strasbourg Conservatory Women's Vocal Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1921; Paris, France 
Date of Recording: 06/2002 
Venue:  Erasmus Hall, Palace, Strasbourg, France 
Length: 40 Minutes 34 Secs. 
Language: French 
La ballade de la geôle de Reading by Jacques Ibert
Conductor:  Jan Latham-Koenig
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1920; France 
Date of Recording: 10/2001 
Venue:  Erasmus Hall, Palace, Strasbourg, France 
Length: 25 Minutes 36 Secs. 
Le chevalier errant: La Sarabande pour Dulcinée by Jacques Ibert
Conductor:  Jan Latham-Koenig
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1935; France 
Date of Recording: 10/2001 
Venue:  Erasmus Hall, Palace, Strasbourg, France 
Length: 4 Minutes 2 Secs. 

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