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Gaubert: Orchestral Works Vol 3 / Graffin, Demarquette, Soustrot

Gaubert / Graffin / Demarquette / Soustrot
Release Date: 11/15/2011 
Label:  Timpani   Catalog #: 1186  
Composer:  Philippe Gaubert
Performer:  Philippe GraffinHenri Demarquette
Conductor:  Marc Soustrot
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

GAUBERT Au pays basque. Violin Concerto. Poème Romanesque for cello and orchestra. Le Cortège d’Amphitrite Marc Soustrot, cond; Philippe Graffin (vn); Henri Demarquette (vc); Luxembourg PO TIMPANI 1C1186 (64:53)

To this day, Philippe Gaubert (1879–1936) is remembered as a beloved professor at the Paris Conservatory, and a celebrated flute soloist and composer. He was Read more also principal conductor of the Paris Conservatory Orchestra for almost 20 years, and made several recordings on the podium that reveal him as an expressive and disciplined musician. His orchestral compositions sank from public view, however, until Timpani began a series devoted to them in 2009. I reviewed the first, containing his Symphony in F, the Concerto in F, and Les Chants de la mer ( Fanfare 32:5), and somehow missed the second containing his ballet Le Chevalier et la demoiselle . Now we have a third devoted to a mix of lighter and more substantial works. Although in Gaubert’s case, a certain insouciance can be expected nearly all the time, regardless of the degree of learning that lurks beneath the surface.

The Violin Concerto of 1928 is more of concerto-idyll, three succinct movements taking a quarter of an hour in this performance. There’s a lazy, summer contentment about its opening allegretto tranquillo , while the songful slow movement (with a truly memorable main theme) recalls Fauré and Debussy. The finale scampers into the proceedings with a French folklike theme, though it falls short of creating either enough momentum or interest to truly cap an otherwise distinctive work.

The Poème Romanesque is a cello concerto in all but name. At roughly the same length as the Violin Concerto, it was composed three years later. The opening movement is more lively and impassioned than in the earlier piece, although it starts from a similar expressive viewpoint. The central movement, nearly twice as long, is the heart of the work. After rejecting a calmly mysterious orchestral opening, the soloist evolves a sinuous melody of grave beauty; soloist and orchestra are reconciled in its conclusion. A cadenza leads into the sprightly finale, with recollections of the first movement’s ardent second theme—abruptly terminated mid-argument by final chords. The liner notes speculate that the “strangely abbreviated ending” might be due to the Poème Romanesque having been composed as a competition piece, and therefore faced length restrictions. If so, it’s surprising that Gaubert didn’t think to fill the movement out after the competition, and that the work’s dedicatee, the great Maurice Maréchal, became so enamored of it. Could there have been another edition available at one point?

Au pays basque is a tribute to Basque country, where the composer spent his summers after World War I. It uses a folk-rhapsody structure seen in a number of other turn-of-the-century works, with a first section of often subtly presented and developed material followed by a fast movement notable for its energy, textural variety, and multiplicity of themes. Much of the Basque-inspired content is striking: the cantilening, oboe-based melody of the first part’s central section, floating over distant bells; the opening dance of the second part, its alternating 3/4 and 2/4 meter surmounted by a cheerful line of vocal character; the Danse des épées later in the same movement presented as a stately brass chorale, before the strings enter in double time and turn it into prime national anthem material. There’s also much to enjoy in Gaubert’s dexterous handling of material, at least until the amusingly vulgar jota argonesa concludes the work with a large dose of Tchaikovsky.

Finally, there’s Le Cortège d’Amphitrite , dedicated to André Messager, and first performed in 1911. The tone poem about the sea goddess who is all too sadly forgotten alongside her more boisterous husband, Poseidon, owes much in its language and technique to Dukas, Chausson, and Debussy. It is a finely wrought work, harmonically and orchestrally, deserving a better fate than it has received over the years after a different set of gods, those that govern fashion, passed it by.

The performances are reminiscent of Marc Soustrot’s conducting on his first Gaubert release. Plenty of attention is paid to color, not as much to phrasing or rhythmic focus. Tempos are pleasingly varied, although I feel the first movement of the Poème Romanesque , labeled allegro moderato, agitato , puts too much emphasis on moderato , and little on either allegro or agitato . A more impetuous conductor would have made more of such material, yet Soustrot achieves a fine degree of clarity in Au pays basque , and benefits from two excellent soloists in the concertos. The sound is a little too recessed for my taste, in such vividly textured music that takes full advantage of the orchestra. Still, there’s no competition out there, and there’s much to enjoy from this release. Timpani has once again done a service to another of its nation’s unjustly forgotten 20th-century composers.

FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
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Works on This Recording

Au pays basque by Philippe Gaubert
Conductor:  Marc Soustrot
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra
Concerto for Violin by Philippe Gaubert
Performer:  Philippe Graffin (Violin)
Conductor:  Marc Soustrot
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra
Poème romanesque for Cello and Orchestra by Philippe Gaubert
Performer:  Henri Demarquette (Cello)
Conductor:  Marc Soustrot
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra
Le cortège d'Amphitrite by Philippe Gaubert
Conductor:  Marc Soustrot
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra

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