Roussel: Bacchus & Ariane, Debussy: Six Épigraphes Antiques, Poulenc: Les Biches - Yamada
PentaTone Classics PTC 5186558
Classical - Orchestral
Roussel: Bacchus & Ariane
Debussy: Six Épigraphes Antiques
Poulenc: Les Biches
Orchestre de la Suisse Romande
Kazuki Yamada (conductor)
Vibrant, striking colours, sensuous harmonies and coruscating wit abound in this irresistible collection played by the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande (OSR) under the baton of the young rising star Kazuki Yamada. Hailed by Gramophone magazine as a “gifted, budding maestro” with “interpretative nous, strength of personality and scrupulous attention to detail”, this is Yamada’s fourth outing for PENTATONE following his three critically acclaimed releases of dance music.
The three works featured are firmly rooted in the past, whether in the sources for inspiration or the sometimes neo-classical style. But the musical language is unmistakeably from the 20th century and, above all, quintessentially French.
Featuring incisive rhythms, expressive melodies and daring harmonies realised with a sumptuous orchestral palette, Albert Roussel’s exotic suites for the ballet Ariane et Bacchus are popular showpieces with orchestras and audiences alike, especially the famous Bacchanale ¬– an uninhibited romp which closes the work. Debussy’s nod to classical Greece in his beguiling Six épigraphes antiques, sometimes described as a conspectus of his compositional technique, is heard here in luxuriant detail in a rarely performed orchestration by Ernest Ansermet, the founder of the OSR. And Poulenc has never been in more high spirits than in Les Biches, a heady, infectious concoction which bristles with sophistication, charm and irrepressible Gallic wit.
“The BBC SO have found a star in the making,” wrote The Telegraph of Kazuki Yamada “let’s hope we hear more of him.” Winner of the prestigious 51st International Besançon Competition for Young Conductors in 2009, Yamada’s rise on the international stage has been rapid. With his busy schedule, he is one of today’s most sought after conductors and in September 2016, he takes over as principal conductor and artistic director of the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo.
“Sometimes in my head, I try to imagine how I would like the ideal orchestra to sound,” mused Yamada in an interview from 2014. “The same idea always comes to me … perfect cohesion in a single timbre, uniform and scalable, fantastically expressive … that of the human voice.”
Following his sensational debut in 2010 with the OSR, their recording for PENTATONE of Bizet, Fauré and Gounod ballet music was praised for playing which was “both exquisite and passionate … grace abounds” (BBC Music Magazine) and “tastefully refined” (Gramophone). No wonder that the Thüringer Landeszeitung wrote of Yamada that “the young man is full of music from head to toe”.
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Review by Graham Williams - August 23, 2016
The charismatic young Japanese conductor Kazuki Yamada has already made an impressive series of recordings for PENTATONE with L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande of music associated with the dance. Though this latest release is not designated as being part of that series it could well have been, since two of the works – Albert Roussel's 'Bacchus et Ariane' and Poulenc's 'Les Biches' are ballets, while the third offering – Debussy's 'Six épigraphes antiques' in its orchestral version was used by choreographer Jerome Robbins for his 1984 ballet 'Antique epigraphes'. All three works on this disc are appearing in the SACD format for the first time making this an especially welcome issue.
Roussel's ballet 'Bacchus et Ariane' appeared in 1931. Roussel conceived the music symphonically, so the two Suites heard here actually comprise the complete ballet, though strangely it is only in the Second Suite that separate cue points are given to indicate the action. Yamada directs an incisive and thrilling account of the score, revelling in both Roussel's stamping motor rhythms as well as the sumptuously romantic passages. The OSR players respond with playing of tremendous vitality and enthusiasm, as if their very lives depended on it.
Debussy's 'Six épigraphes antiques' that follow make perfect foil to the raw energy of the Roussel ballet. Originally written as part of the incidental music to accompany a recitation of 12 of Pierre Louÿs' 'Chansons de Bilitis' in 1901, Debussy intended to orchestrate them himself, but that never happened and the task fell to the conductor Ernest Ansermet who skilfully carried out the task in the 1930s. The titles of the six short pieces are are:
Pour invoquer Pan, dieu du vent d'été
Pour un tombeau sans nom
Pour que la nuit soit propice
Pour la danseuse aux crotales
Pour remercier la pluie au matin
and each possess a fragile beauty that evokes a world of classical antiquity often found elsewhere in Debussy's music. Yamada and his orchestra, aided by a recording of crystalline clarity and exquisite refinement of tone, perform these atmospheric miniatures with fastidious musicianship that conveys the delicacy of the score to perfection.
Finally in lighter vein, we have the delicious five-movement Suite from Poulenc's ballet 'Les Biches' written for Diaghilev's Ballet Russes and premiered in 1924. Yamada's exuberant performance enhanced by witty and pointed playing from the OSR does not disappoint.
The Polyhymnia engineering team working in the fine acoustic of Victoria Hall, Geneva in October 2015 have achieved an outstanding DSD recording with a beautifully judged balance between detail and generous hall ambience.
This outstanding release is enthusiastically recommended.
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