Pierne Timpani TEN C

Review by: David Hurwitz

Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 10

Masterpiece Alert!!! If you love French music, great ballet music, Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloë, music that’s modal, neo-classical, neo-baroque, warmly melodic, gorgeously scored, infinitely graceful and poetic, simple but never naïve, and just plain mesmerizing, then this is your lucky day. It’s a scandal that this work never has been recorded complete (and the two orchestral suites only once before in analog stereo on a very out-of-print EMI CD). Actually, the opening moonrise scene, complete with wordless chorus à la Daphnis (Cydalise dates from about two years later: 1914-15), might lead you to believe that this is nothing more than a Ravel rip-off, but after about a minute it becomes clear that Pierné’s no less masterful score has its own business to mind.

The story, as noted above, is sort of the ultimate in “neo”. In the gardens of Versailles, mythological creatures do their thing until a mischievous satyr sees a troop of dancers heading to the castle to perform a ballet in honor of the royal prince, and decides to follow along. At the performance, the young satyr (along with everyone else) lusts after Cydalise, the prima ballerina, and after her performance they fall in love and dance a lot. But of course, it’s not to be: the lure of the mythological garden proves too great, and the two part wistfully, Cydalise falling magically asleep as her lover (or dance partner–it’s the same thing in this medium) escapes through her bedroom window.

And isn’t the music just lovely! Unlike Ravel in Daphnis, Pierné sticks to closed forms and generally short numbers throughout this nearly 75-minute score, but this doesn’t preclude some very extended movements, such as the magnificent Dance Lesson in Act 1, and the two final numbers of Act 2. Nor does it prevent the composer from developing his themes and motives across the entire piece. Just about the only music that’s at all (marginally) familiar is track 4, Aegipans’ School, also known as “The March of the Fauns”. Its delightful simplicity gives some hint of the music’s charm and color but reveals nothing of its lyrical richness and passion, particularly in the Act 2 love music.

David Shallon and his Luxembourg forces clearly prepared this recording with both care and love. The playing offers warmth, focus, and just the right lightness of touch. Cydalise’s ballet intermezzo, complete with perfectly balanced harpsichord, has a particularly appealing gracefulness. The recorded sound is both utterly natural and ideally atmospheric. Make no mistake: this recording must be counted one of the major events of the year. Don’t miss it.



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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: None

GABRIEL PIERNÉ - Cydalise et le chèvre-pied

  • Catalog # - 1C1059
  • CD

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