Pierne Cydalise et le chevre-pied
In 1922 lovers of traditional French ballet had weathered a particularly protracted season of the Ballets Russes at the Opera, including the premieres of Renard and Mavra. So Pierne’s resurrection of things French the following year was greeted in more conservative quarters with sighs of relief as being ‘simply served with a pinch of Gallic salt and white wine’.
Pierne’s score, though, is a good deal more than a blatant nostalgia trip. True, there is the occasional echo of Daphnis and perhaps, faced with the word stupeur in the scenario, Pierne reaches rather too readily for the whole-tone chord. But he handles the orchestra with all the deftness and resource of the experienced conductor he was.
The story, setting the natural world of nymphs and satyrs against the ‘unnatural’ one of court life, gives him plenty of scope for atmospheric strings and pastoral woodwind on the one hand, and pseudo 18th-century pomposity on the other. At first hearing, I thought his tunes were rather unmemorable; but, second time round, they began to take on greater character, and the end of Act 2 is unmistakably stirring.
The disc stands, alas, as a last tribute to the talent of David Shallon, who died last September shortly after making this recording. On this showing, his death is a great loss. Throughout, phrases are beautifully shaped, textures carefully balanced, and I’m sure he did all that was possible with the patently non-professional choir who, happily, only have to go ‘aah’ every now and then.
Altogether a recommendable disc, which I shall certainly play a third time and beyond