PIERNÉ Orchestral Works Vol 2
At the heart of this disc lie three works that Gabriel Pierné (1863-1937) composed for piano and orchestra: the Scherzo-Caprice (1890), the Poème symphonique (1901) and the Fantaisie-Ballet (1886). Pierné was one of those composers whose importance in his own day was far greater than his posthumous reputation might suggest. He was a Prix de Rome winner, and in his youth he was more highly regarded even than his near-exact contemporary, Debussy. None of his works, however, has achieved anything like core repertoire status. Even these three piano and orchestra works, which are all short (eight, 11 and 13 minutes) and would work well in concert as foils to either of the Ravel concertos, have made no lasting impact.
Pierné was a piano virtuoso himself, a factor that colours the spirited writing of all three works. At the same time, his creative pedigree comes clearly to the fore. A little way into the Poème symphonique there is a particular hue to the harmony in a chorale-like passage that instantly conjures up images of César Franck, one of Pierné’s teachers and an inescapable influence on all younger French composers other than those who studiously avoided him. With that Franck connection in mind, the Scherzo-Caprice begins to recall the Symphonic Variations. Nor was Pierné oblivious to the music of Liszt, as is evident in the inflated pomp at the start of the Fantaisie-Ballet.
They all repay hearing, especially in these dynamic performances by Jean Efflam Bavouzet and the BBC Philharmonic, but perhaps even more interesting is the way Pierné’s creative stance shifted from gifted though fairly anonymous works towards more personal Impressionist tendencies in Paysages franciscains of 1919, a work that merits much wider attention.