Ibert: Persée et Andromède; The Ballad of Reading Gaol; Sarabande pour Dulcinée

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WORKS: Persée et Andromède; The Ballad of Reading Gaol; Sarabande pour Dulcinée
PERFORMER: Annick Massis, Yann Beuron, Philippe Rouillon; Strasbourg Conservatoire Women’s Vocal Ensemble, Strasbourg PO/Jan Latham-Koenig
Poor Jacques Ibert, condemned to the reputation of an elegantly Gallic joker on the strength of his hilarious Divertissement! This disc ideally demonstrates that he had a much wider range, by presenting two works that are as different from each other as both are from the Divertissement, although they were written in close conjunction. Persée et Andromède is a miniature two-act opera which balances on a knife-edge between comic and serious, between operetta and Baroque opéra-ballet. It is by turns flippant and tender, but beautiful throughout, with orchestral writing of Ravel-like subtlety and sumptuousness. The Ballad of Reading Gaol, in effect a symphony based on Oscar Wilde’s grim poem, has great beauty as well but also urgency, pathos and eloquence. It is at times rather like film music (Ibert wrote splendid film scores, for GW Pabst, Orson Welles and Gene Kelly among others) and it, too, whets a powerful appetite to hear Ibert’s other theatrical works: six more operas and six ballets, of which the Saraband for Dulcinea is a toothsome sample. Singing and orchestral playing are both distinguished. A highly enjoyable programme, but also an act of justice to a composer of greater substance than he’s given credit for.