French Music for Ballet

Estonian National Symphony Orchestra/Neeme Järvi (Chandos)

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

French Music for Ballet
Ibert: Les Amours de Jupiter; Massenet: Herodiade – Ballet Suite; Sauguet: Les Forains
Estonian National Symphony Orchestra/Neeme Järvi
Chandos CHAN 20132   68:19 mins

Paris in 1945 was still picking itself up after the German occupation, as is reflected in the ballets by Sauguet and Ibert given by Roland Petit’s dancers in that and the following year. Those not enamoured of Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time and Visions de l’Amen may well have been relieved to find the old French style was alive and well, albeit with a few twists here and there.

The scenario of Les Forains, dedicated ‘to the memory of Erik Satie’, looks back to that of Parade, as does Sauguet’s music to the earlier ballet’s lightness of heart and texture, and the tune of the ‘Entrée de Forains’, later recorded in its song version by Piaf, is by some way the best on the disc. Ibert’s orchestration of Les Amours de Jupiter is, perhaps necessarily, fuller and, to me, less appealing: we have to wait until the 11th of the 19 dances before coming to a wind solo. Choreographers have always liked symmetry (4×4=16 bars), but in bulk this becomes predictable and Ibert’s melodic invention is not as strong as elsewhere in his oeuvre.

The same sadly goes for the Hérodiade ballet suite. In 1881 the 39-year-old Massenet had still not found his true voice, though Manon was just round the corner. Järvi also fails to follow his text, omitting the three chords that should link the second and third dances and ignoring the triple accelerando at the end of the last one.

Roger Nichols