Jean-Efflam Bavouzet / Juanjo Mena / BBC Philharmonic Orchestra

Pierné: Piano Concerto; Divertissments sur un Thème Pastoral; Suites form 'Ramuntcho'

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A revival of the works of Gabriel Pierné has been spearheaded by a handful of dedicated labels that champion unjustly neglected classics, and Chandos has joined them with this fine recording by Juanjo Mena and the BBC Philharmonic of the Piano Concerto in C minor, the two suites of incidental music from Ramuntcho, and two shorter pieces. Pierné's career extended from the late Romantic era to the early modern, a period spanning roughly 50 years between the belle epoque in France and World War II, so there is a fairly wide range of influences. His early works share features with those of his teachers, César Franck and Jules Massenet, and his later style leans more to his contemporaries, Gabriel Fauré and Claude Debussy; overall, however, his oeuvre is perhaps closest to the music of Camille Saint-Saëns. Whether in the grand form of his Piano Concerto (which was modeled on Saint-Saëns' Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor), the neo-Classical wit of the Divertissements sur un thème pastoral, or in the other picturesque pieces on this album, Pierné's charming melodies, pristine colors, and vivacious rhythms are often arresting and always memorable. Pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet delivers a robust performance of the concerto that is exciting in the fast sections, but luxuriant in more reflective passages, and the orchestra offers a wonderful palette of sonorities in the accompaniment. Chandos' reproduction is excellent, offering vivid sonorities, spacious acoustics, and vibrant presence in all of the selections.

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