Bartók: Divertimento for Strings; E Bernard: Divertissement; Ibert: Divertissement; Michael Ippolito: Divertimento
c/o chamber orchestra
BIS BIS-2499 (CD/SACD) 79:22 mins
The composer Michael Ippolito, as well as contributing the last of the four divertimentos on this disc, mentions in his liner notes the derivation of the word from the Latin divertere, to turn away. Each of these pieces turns away from an expected path (I almost wrote ‘the path of righteousness’) in order to explore the undergrowth on either side of it, whether chromatic and dissonant or merely impudently ‘other’. At the same time, the presence of scales in all of them, even if not always of the traditional make-up, do give the listener something to grab hold of.
The orchestra is alert to every surprise and vagary, with especially fine playing from the woodwind. The deliberate vulgarity of Ibert’s Divertissement is presented without apology (though I would have liked more from the woodblock at the start of the ‘Cortège’), and in Bartók’s Divertimento the sombre central piece is allotted its full value. He wrote this after the other two movements and only then, on 17 August 1939, looking for the first time in a fortnight at a newspaper, was glad to find war had not broken out. So it does make sense to suggest this movement may reflect his anxiety.
Ippolito’s own contribution is full of imaginative off-piste moments, but for me the great find is the work by Emile Bernard (1843-1902). Published in 1894, after its premiere in 1884 at Paul Taffanel’s Wind Instrument Chamber Music Society together with Gounod’s Petite Symphonie, it is an absolute gem.