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ClassicsOnline Home » IBERT: Petite Suite / Histoires / Les rencontres
Jacques Ibert (1890-1962)
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
Les trilles ׀ Dans
un flot de brume
Des cloches ׀
D'une nuit sans lune
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'
In a wave of mist
Of the bells ׀
Of a moonless night
Dances ׀ End
(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.
Féerique, originally an orchestral work, was written in
1924, the piano transcription appearing a year later. It is an evocative piece,
very much in the spirit of Debussy. Three years later Ibert contributed to the
composite ballet L'éventail de Jeanne, with the collaboration of Ravel,
Ferroud, Roland-Manuel, Delannoy, Roussel, Milhaud, Poulenc, Auric and Florent
Schmitt. For this he wrote a waltz. The inspiration for the work came from Mme.
Jeanne Dubost, who gave the ten leaves of her fan to ten different composers,
asking them for a dance each. The first private performance took place at Mme.
Dubost's salon in June 1928, and this proved so successful that it was staged
in March 1929 at the opéra with the petits rats (children) of the Opéra ballet
scholl, including the remarkable child prodigy Tamara Toumanova, born in a
train near Shanghai in 1919 and now making her debut as a dancer. Ibert's
association with ballet was more considerable than this. In 1925 he had written
the score for Nijinska's Les rencontres and went on to provide music for a
number of distinguished dancers and choreographers, including Fokin, Roland
Petit and, in the cinema, Gene Kelly. The Ballad of Reading Gaol was
choreographed in 1945 by Sergey Lifar.
Chang Hae Won was born in Korea in the city of Seoul and
started to play the piano at the age of six, completing her professional
studies at Ewha University in Seoul in 1963. From 1964 until 1968 she studied
at the Frankfurt Musikhochschule with Professor Leopolder on a German
government scholarship and was awarded her diploma as a concert pianist. On her
return to Korea she was appointed professor of piano at her old university.
In Korea Hae-won Chang won various prizes, including first
prize in the 1960 Korean National Piano Competition. Her career as a concert
pianist began three years earlier, in 1957, when she played Beethoven's C minor
Piano Concerto with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra. Since then she has
enjoyed a busy career as a teacher and as a performer in Korea, in other Asian
countries, in America and in Europe, with annual concert tours and engagements
at home and abroad. She has appeared as a soloist with major orchestras and in
recitals with Ruggiero Ricci, Christian Ferras, Renata Tebaldi, Franco Corelli,
Aaron Rosand, André Navarra and others. She has performed as a soloist at
numerous music festivals, including the Paris Chateau de Breteuil Festival, the
National Music Festival in Korea and the festival for the opening of the Sejong
Cultural Centre and of the Goethe-Institute in Seoul. She has served on the
Vianna da Motta Competition jury in Lisbon. In 1985 she was acclaimed by the
Music Critics' Circle of Korea as Musician of the Year, and won high praise in
the German press for her technical accomplishment and musicianship. Her
recordings for Naxos and Marco Polo included piano works by Pierné, Scarlatti's
sonatas, concertos by Hummel and J.S. Bach and other piano music.
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IBERT: Petite Suite / Histoires / Les rencontres