Chœr Nicolas de Grigny / Orchestre National de Lorraine / Lionel Peintre

Gabriel Pierné: L'an Mil & Les Cathédrales & Paysages franciscains

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Timpani's survey of the works of Gabriel Pierné has previously covered his charming chamber works and witty orchestral bonbons, but the series takes a detour into more atmospheric orchestral music on this 2007 release. The three works lavishly presented here by conductor Jacques Mercier, the Orchestre National de Lorraine, and the Chœur Nicolas de Grigny may be classified as symphonic poems; L'An Mil (The Year 1000) is a brooding Gothic study, portraying the middle ages as perceived from a nineteenth century perspective; the Prélude from the incidental music for Les Cathédrales is a shorter piece of scene-painting, though very much in the same somber style as L'An Mil; and the triptych Paysages franciscains depicts a pilgrimage with evocative representations of nature. Pierné's music dates from the late Romantic and early modern eras, a period roughly spanning 50 years between the belle epoque and World War II; and his works have several features in common with those of his teachers, César Franck and Jules Massenet, though in his later music Pierné shows the strong influence of his friend, Claude Debussy. The performances of these pieces are appropriately moody and shaded with the colors of fin de siècle Romanticism and Impressionism; Mercier has fine control of the ensembles' tonal qualities, and he is well-attuned to the subtleties of this evanescent music. Timpani's reproduction is clear yet softly rounded, so the blurred effects and muted timbres are heard to best effect.

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