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Neeme Jarvi Conducts Chabrier

Chabrier / Orchestre De La Suisse Romande / Jarvi
Release Date: 05/28/2013 
Label:  Chandos   Catalog #: 5122   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Emmanuel Chabrier
Conductor:  Neeme Järvi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Mixed 
Length: 1 Hours 19 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

CHABRIER Joyeuse marche. Gwendoline: Overture. Habanera. España. Lamento. Bourée fantasque. 1 Suite Pastorale. L’Étoile: Overture; Two entr’actes. Le Roi malgré lui: Féte polonaise; Danse slave Neeme Järvi, cond; Suisse Romande O; 1 Alexandre Emard (eh) Read more CHANDOS 5122 (SACD: 78:12)

The orchestral works of Emmanuel Chabrier (1841-1894) have always made a neat program for an LP or CD. Most of us got to know this high-spirited music through the recordings of Ernest Ansermet; now Neeme Järvi returns to Ansermet territory with the same band, L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, although I daresay today’s orchestra contains none of the same personnel. (Ansermet’s final recording sessions took place in 1969.)

Järvi’s brisk, energetic style suits this music perfectly. He brings exuberance to the Joyeuse marche , which the composer himself described as “crazy,” finds all the myriad colors in the popular masterwork España , and paces the “Féte polonaise” from Le Roi malgré lui with such brio that it sounds like a freshly refurbished carousel.

As with several French composers of his generation, Chabrier was overwhelmed by the music of Wagner. He spent six years working on a Wagnerian opera, Gwendoline , and the overture clearly displays that influence. (The sleeve note likens it to Die Meistersinger but to my ears it is early Wagner, particularly Der fliegende Holländer , that informs this particular piece.) Järvi takes this work no more seriously than the rest of his program; he launches into it with exhilarating gusto and never lets up. It is an exciting performance that definitely surpasses Ansermet, whose rendition has always struck me as too sluggish.

Chabrier, a native of the Auvergne region, proved to be a strong influence on the French composers who followed him. His music was admired by Debussy, Poulenc and, especially, Ravel. The latter was devoted to Chabrier’s opera Le Roi malgré lui , a work full of marvelous set pieces, saddled with a virtually incoherent libretto. Ravel’s piano style was influenced by Chabrier’s Dix piéces pittoresques of 1880, and Chabrier himself orchestrated four of these piano pieces eight years later to create the Suite pastorale. In this work the composer’s sunny disposition encompasses an added vein of nostalgia—Chabrier looking back through rose-colored glasses at his Auvergne boyhood—and Järvi conveys the tender atmosphere sympathetically without romantic over-indulgence.

The late piano piece Bourée fantasque (1891) is played here in the usual orchestration, made by the composer’s conductor friend Felix Mottl in 1897. Mottl’s hand is heavier than Chabrier’s, though the scoring sounds less muddy in this performance than in some others, thanks to Järvi’s clarity. An interesting and much quirkier orchestration by Charles Koechlin recently appeared on a Hänssler disc (along with Koechlin’s orchestrations of Debussy’s Khamma and Fauré’s incidental music for Pelléas et Melisande ). In the Bourée fantasque , Mottl gives the opening motif quite sensibly to the cellos, whereas Koechlin gives it to the timpani! Needless to say I prefer Koechlin, and can recommend the Hänssler recording, which was reviewed in Fanfare 36:2 by Adrian Corleonis. About Koechlin’s scoring of Bourée fantasque , Corleonis commented: “Hearing this after the frequently performed rule-of-thumb orchestration by Felix Mottl is to grasp the distance between workmanlike utility and genius.” Extra works in Järvi’s program that are not usually included are the Overture and two brief interludes from the comic opera L’Étoile (1877), and the even earlier Lamento for orchestra. The latter piece is more conventional and less identifiable as Chabrier, but a pleasant interlude nonetheless.

The new disc is certainly recommendable on its own terms, but how does it stand up to the competition? Järvi maintains the authority of Ansermet in this repertoire, and it must be admitted that the latter’s recordings are sounding a little elderly these days. For a still great sounding old disc and vital performances, Paul Paray is one to hear (recently reissued in the Mercury Collection Vol. 2), though his program does not include the selections from L’Étoile, Lamento , or the Habanera . (Paray’s performance of the Gwendoline Overture is even brisker than Järvi’s: 8:44 as opposed to 9:23!) A 1996 DG disc from John Eliot Gardiner and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra is also competitive: it has been reissued recently in a cheap series, and includes a beautifully played Larghetto for French Horn and Orchestra that does not appear in other collections. Gardiner’s program is more cleanly recorded than the new Chandos disc, which, despite its spectacular range and Super Audio sound, places the Suisse Romande orchestra in a somewhat reverberant acoustic. Michel Plasson’s Chabrier recordings with L’Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse have been reissued many times by EMI, but how often we will see them in future is in doubt. EMI’s extensive catalog has been purchased by Warner Music, whose classical reissue policy has been inconsistent and piecemeal in the past. Plasson’s performances are authentically French and vibrant, and his program uniquely contains Chabrier’s vocal works with orchestra. The big EMI box of his recordings of French orchestral music (including his Chabrier) is highly recommended: see my review in Fanfare ’s Hall of Fame (34:6). However, if it’s just one disc you require, then the new Järvi program is worth the outlay, and you definitely won’t find yourself straining to hear the bass drum.

FANFARE: Phillip Scott
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Works on This Recording

1. Joyeuse marche "Marche française" by Emmanuel Chabrier
Conductor:  Neeme Järvi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Venue:  Victoria Hall, Geneva, Switzerland 
Length: 3 Minutes 46 Secs. 
2. Gwendoline: Overture by Emmanuel Chabrier
Conductor:  Neeme Järvi
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1885; France 
Venue:  Victoria Hall, Geneva, Switzerland 
Length: 9 Minutes 31 Secs. 
3. Habañera by Emmanuel Chabrier
Conductor:  Neeme Järvi
Period: Romantic 
Venue:  Victoria Hall, Geneva, Switzerland 
Length: 4 Minutes 17 Secs. 
4. España by Emmanuel Chabrier
Conductor:  Neeme Järvi
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1883; France 
Venue:  Victoria Hall, Geneva, Switzerland 
Length: 6 Minutes 20 Secs. 
5. Lamento by Emmanuel Chabrier
Conductor:  Neeme Järvi
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1874; France 
Venue:  Victoria Hall, Geneva, Switzerland 
Length: 7 Minutes 50 Secs. 
6. Bourrée fantasque by Emmanuel Chabrier
Conductor:  Neeme Järvi
Period: Romantic 
Venue:  Victoria Hall, Geneva, Switzerland 
Length: 6 Minutes 51 Secs. 
7. Suite pastorale by Emmanuel Chabrier
Conductor:  Neeme Järvi
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1888; France 
Venue:  Victoria Hall, Geneva, Switzerland 
Length: 19 Minutes 12 Secs. 
8. L'étoile: Ouverture by Emmanuel Chabrier
Conductor:  Neeme Järvi
Venue:  Victoria Hall, Geneva, Switzerland 
Length: 5 Minutes 5 Secs. 
9. L'étoile: Act 2 Entr'acte by Emmanuel Chabrier
Conductor:  Neeme Järvi
Venue:  Victoria Hall, Geneva, Switzerland 
Length: 1 Minutes 20 Secs. 
10. L'étoile: Act 3 Entr'acte by Emmanuel Chabrier
Conductor:  Neeme Järvi
Venue:  Victoria Hall, Geneva, Switzerland 
Length: 1 Minutes 51 Secs. 
11. Le roi malgré lui: Fête polonaise by Emmanuel Chabrier
Conductor:  Neeme Järvi
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1887; France 
Venue:  Victoria Hall, Geneva, Switzerland 
Length: 6 Minutes 59 Secs. 
12. Le roi malgré lui: Danse slave by Emmanuel Chabrier
Conductor:  Neeme Järvi
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1887; France 
Venue:  Victoria Hall, Geneva, Switzerland 
Length: 5 Minutes 29 Secs. 

Sound Samples

Joyeuse marche
Gwendoline: Overture
Habanera (version for orchestra)
Espana
Lamento
Bourree fantasque (version for orchestra)
Suite pastorale: I. Idylle
Suite pastorale: II. Danse villageoise
Suite pastorale: III. Sous-bois
Suite pastorale: IV. Scherzo-valse
L'etoile: Overture
L'etoile: Act II: Entr'acte
L'etoile: Act III: Entr'acte
Le roi malgre lui (The King in Spite of Himself): Fete polonaise
Le roi malgre lui (The King in Spite of Himself): Danse slave

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