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8.223409 - IBERT: Petite Suite / Histoires / Les rencontres (Hae Won Chang)
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Jacques Ibert (1890–1962)
Piano Music


The French composer Jacques Ibert spent much of his career as director of the Académie de France in Rome. His earlier education was at the Collége Rollin and he taught in Paul Mounet’s Conservatoire classes for dramatic declamation before becoming a student of harmony there under Ravel’s harmony teacher, Emile Pessard. His studies at the Paris Conservatoire were interrupted for war service in 1914, but on his return in 1919 he won the Prix de Rome for his cantata Le poète et la fée.

His compositions in Rome included an orchestral work based on Oscar Wilde’s Ballad of Reading Gaol, performed at the Colonne concerts in 1922, and the symphonic suite Escales, later arranged for solo piano, the result of travel not only in Italy, but also to Spain and Tunis. His envois from Rome included also an opera, Persée et Andromède, based on Jules Laforgue.

On his return to Paris Ibert enjoyed an active career as a composer, writing music for the theatre and cinema, chamber music and orchestral compositions, some of the last adapted for concert performance from earlier incidental music. In 1937 he returned to Rome to take charge of the Académie de France, retaining the same position until 1960. A versatile and prolific composer, he combined technical assurance with a certain elegance and precision and profilic versatility.

Noël en Picardie was written in December 1914, during military service. The piece is described as a symphonic sketch for piano, its musical argument provided by the army doctor Charles Teissier. It is dedicated to De Lagoanère, director of music at the Théâtre Lyrique de la Gafté in Paris. The Argument Musical is printed at the head of the score.

Ce n’est point un Noël ouaté de neige, au ciel pur, glacé, étincelant d’étoiles, mais un Noél brumeux dans une nuit noire.

Clodochent De clowns déhauchés
Les trilles Dans un flot de brume
Des cloches D’une nuit sans lune
Quadrilles S’éteignent … glacés

Petit soldat qui dans la tranchée entend le son lointain des cloches, ne sois pas triste!
…Un Noël carillonera une nuit à toute volée la gloire de la Victoire et la joie du retour au foyer!
(It is not a Christmas of fleecy snow, with a clear sky, icy, shining with stars, but a misty Christmas on a dark night.)

There hobble The limping clowns’
Trills In a wave of mist
Of the bells Of a moonless night
Dances End … frozen.

(Little soldier, hearing in your trench the distant sound of the bells, do not be sad! A Christmas will sound out one night with all the bells, proclaiming the glory of Victory and the joy of returning home!) The music mingles the ringing of bells with fragments of a traditional Christmas carol, leading to a final peal of joy.

Matin sur l’eau belongs to a slightly later period, a gentle Barcarolle, while the Scherzetto is similarly restrained in its texture and form, both originally written for harp as part of a sequence of six pieces.

Escales, first performed in its original orchestral form in Palermo in 1922, was published in 1924 in a piano arrangement. The first of the three sketches, Palermo, moves from the tranquility of its opening to a more energetic dance rhythm. The second sketch, Tunis Nefta, makes use of Arab inflexions in its mysterious oriental textures, while the third, Valencia, uses the rhythms and melodic phrases associated with Spain.

Keith Anderson

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