Pierné: Piano Concerto

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COMPOSERS: Pierne
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Piano Concerto; Ramuntcho Suites Nos 1 & 2; Divertissements sur un Thème Pastoral; Marche des petits soldats de plomb
PERFORMER: Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (piano); BBC Philharmonic/Juanjo Mena
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 10633

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This attractive disc would make an ideal introduction to the charms of Pierné’s music. While he may not be in the front rank of composers, the general neglect of a figure central to French music-making for more than 50 years is puzzling. His works span the period from Saint-Saëns, Franck and Massenet, to Poulenc, Milhaud and Honegger, via Debussy, Ravel and Roussel, taking in elements of each within his affable style.

The early Piano Concerto, played with typical bravura by Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, may owe a debt to Saint-Saëns, but it is also prophetic of Rachmaninov. The much later Divertissements sur un Thème Pastoral, by contrast, incorporates popular elements into a sparkling orchestral showpiece, despatched with aplomb by the BBC Philharmonic.

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The revelatory heart of this disc, though, is the music from Ramuntcho, written to accompany a dramatisation of the novel by Loti. Inspired by the Basque setting, there is plenty of colour and vigour, with various dances. However, the intimate moments serve as a reminder that Pierné was no lightweight. The convent music has a numinous beauty, while the bleak solo viola in the midst of the dark hues of ‘La chambre de Franchita’ is both moving and unsettling. Christopher Dingle