IBERT: Macbeth / Golgotha / Don Quichotte
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Jacques Ibert (1890-1962)
Don Quichotte 1933
Like his friend and contemporary Arthur Honegger,Jacques Ibert enjoyed in his lifetime a considerablereputation. There is, however, something relativelydisproportionate when we examine the discographyand bibliography of the two composers. Generallylbert's music sounds less \modern" than Honegger'sand his brilliant use of orchestral colour makes himrather a companion of Ravel than of Roussel, althoughthis judgement may apply only to the works of Ibert incontemporary repertoire, the Divertissement, Escalesand the Flute Concerto. The rediscovery of the score forMacbeth shows a facet of Ibert that allies him almostwith the avant-garde, contradicting the standard opinionof his style, expressed by some writers, as neverdeveloping throughout his career.
Before he devoted himself definitively to music,lbert wanted to become an actor and might havebecome a very talented one, if we may judge fromearlier photographs of the composer. It is clear that acertain dramatic gift found expression in his music, asevinced particularly by the music he wrote for thetheatre. In addition to orchestral and chamber music, hewrote six operas (two serious and four comic), sevenballets, a dramatic cantata, incidental music for sixstage works and four radio scores. His name appears inthe credits of some thirty films and somedocumentaries, but, as in the case of Honegger, thesecontributions are not all full-length scores. Circus is agood example of Ibert's abilities as a composer for bothfilm and ballet, a score commissioned for Gene Kellyin MGM's 1956 production of Invitation to the Dance.
This music was his only film score on record since theearly issue of the Quatre chansons de Don Quichotte.
For two years Ibert had earned a living for himself byplaying the piano for silent films and by writing, underthe pseudonym of William Berty, popular songs anddance music. Among the French directors whocommissioned film scores from him were MauriceTourneur, Raymond Bernard, Jacques de Baroncelli,Marcel L'Herbier, and Pierre Chenal, for whomHonegger also worked. Curiously, although lbert andHonegger collaborated on two operas, L'Aiglon andLes petites Cardinal, they never worked together on afilm score, while Honegger collaborated with othercomposers. In common with other European filmcomposers of the time, both men insisted onundertaking their own orchestrations.Don Quichotte
G. M. Pabst, one of the greatest directors of silent filmsand early talkies, created Don Quichotte for FeodorChaliapin, the famous Russian bass, who had alsocreated the title r??1e in Massenet's opera on the samesubject in 1910. Pabst's 1933 film was to become oneof the classics of the cinema through the director'shighly original and poetic vision, which did much morethan simply transfer to film the great novel of MiguelCervantes. The same work was to play an importantpart in Ibert's later career: in 1935 he composed thechoreographic poem Le chevalier errant, for soloists,chorus and orchestra, and a lovely Sarabande pourDulcinee for orchestra, with some incidental music in1942 for a Swiss commemorative broadcast onCervantes.
After considering composers like Manuel de Falla,Darius Milhaud and Marcel Delannoy, Pabst askedMaurice Ravel to write songs for Chaliapin, but Ravelcould not meet the deadline set. Ibert's orchestralversions used in the sound-track of the film wererecorded on 78 rpm discs in 1933 by Chaliapin, with thecomposer conducting, providing a moving historicaldocument. With a slight modification that omitted theextended instrumental introduction to the Chanson duduc, these songs were published shortly afterwards.
The present 1990 recording seems to be the first stereophonicversion of this orchestral version, although thepiano version has been recorded on various occasionsby distinguished singers. It is not clear why the texts setby Ravel are different from those set by lbert.
The Quatre chansons call for an ensemble of onlyfive instruments in the first song and full orchestra inthe rest, except for occasional variation in the use ofwind and percussion instruments. The overallorchestration provides solo parts for saxophone, bassclarinet,tuba, guitar and/or cembalo, timpani, harp andvibraphone, with single wind and a string sectionreduced in numbers. The vocal line, set in a discreetand sophisticated Spanish mood, makes this cycle amasterpiece in the repertoire of French song. Theseinspired verses by Alexandre Amoux and Pierre deRonsard are in perfect accordance with Pabst's poeticconception and have additional independent poeticvalue.Chanson du depart
This new castle, all made of marble and porphyry andbuilt by love's own power and heaven's own beauty, isa bastion against evil. Highest virtue, as admired bythe eye and by the spirit, can retire there, making allhearts his servants. Its door can only be approached bythose adventurous knights, which are saviours of greatkings, victorious, valiant and loving.Chanson ?á Dulcinee
To me, one year lasts only one day, if I do not see myDulcinea. I discover her face painted by love in everyfountain, in every cloud, in every sunrise and everyflower, and this soothes my languishing. Always nearand always distant, you are the star of my long errands.
Your breath, Dulcinea, is carried over to me by thewind, mingled with the perfume of jasmine.Chanson du Duc
Let me sing here of the Lady of my dreams, who exaltsme over this century of mud. Her diamond's heart isfree of lies and the rose darkens at seeing her owncheeks. In her homage I have risked great adventures,liberated captive princesses, vanquished magicians andfought against perjury. My Lady, I will also fightagainst all those who do not advocate yourincomparable splendour and virtue.Chanson de la mort
Do not cry, my dear and good Sancho. Your master isnot dead and not far away from you. He lives on ahappy and pure island, where there are no lies, on thatsame island which had been promised to you and whichyou too will discover one day. All the books have beenburnt and become a pile of ashes. If they have killedme, it needs but one to make me alive, a phantom in lifeand reality in death: this is the strange destiny of poorDon Quixote.Chanson de Sancho
The piano score of a song written for Dorville, the actorwho played Sancho Panza in the film, was rediscoveredwhile preparing this recording. It wasdecided to include it, in an orchestration not inaccordance with the original soundtrack, where a smallmusic-hall wind ensemble was used (as much as couldbe figured out from the blurred historical sound), butrather fitting the ensemble of the Quatre chansons. Itsobviously popular character, set in the form of a Pasodoble,and comic text could make it an eventual encorefor concert performances. This transposed version wasspecially prepared for this recording, although anorchestral version in the original key is also available.
Paul Morand's and Alexandre Arnoux's words inthe printed version differ slightly from the texts finallysung in the film, but the first were used here, andtranslated they mean:In this inn, away from Senora Panza, Chivalry is afine life! Let's liberate Princesses and Highnesses, let'sspear sheep and treacherous prisoners! Goodbye to fear,let's put down our spears and carouse: thank God, thepolice will not come here! Long live my island! Whyshould I care? All these fat sausages and the wine ofManzanilla are for Sancho Panza!Golgotha