Ropartz: Pêcheur d’Islande; Rhapsody for Cello & Orchestra; Oedipe à Colone

COMPOSERS: Ropartz
LABELS: Timpani
ALBUM TITLE: Ropartz
WORKS: Pêcheur d’Islande; Rhapsody for Cello & Orchestra; Oedipe à Colone
PERFORMER: Henri Demarquette (cello); Orchestre de Bretagne/Kirill Karabits
CATALOGUE NO: 1C 1095
Timpani’s ongoing series of music by Cesar Franck’s gifted Breton pupil, the composer and conductor Joseph-Guy Ropartz, here presents three orchestral works from widely separated periods in his life. They might be by three different composers, though all of them French. A suite from the 1893 incidental music to Pecheur d’Islande, a play by Pierre Loti about the hard life of the Iceland fishermen, is heavily Franckian in orientation, the first movement bringing to mind that master’s D minor Symphony, though the final dance-movement has more individuality. Another theatre suite, from music to the Oedipus at Colonus of Sophocles (1914), instead demonstrates kinship with the statuesque Hellenistic style of Fauré. Within its circumscribed bounds this is a noble piece, the pastoral second act Prelude a lyrical high-point on the disc.

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But it’s the late Rhapsodie for cello and orchestra on Breton folk themes (1928) that sounds thoroughly unconstrained – its modal colouring and melodic directness suggest almost a Breton Vaughan Williams. Henri Demarquette throws off the bravura cello part in fine style, but I sensed, throughout the disc, a tentative quality to Kirill Karabits’ direction of the Orchestre de Bretagne in what must be, even for them, unfamiliar music. In the great scheme of things these are not tremendously important scores, but I felt they deserved more. Recommended, nonetheless, to connoisseurs of a fascinating period in French music.

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Calum MacDonald