ESSENTIAL RECORDINGS
Philippe Gaubert - Le Chevalier et la Damoiselle


PHILIPPE GAUBERT - Le Chevalier et la Damoiselle - Marc Soustrot (Conductor) - Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg - Timpani 1C1175

Unless you are a flute player, the French composer Philippe Gaubert (1879-1941) is most likely unfamiliar to you. He composed many great pieces for the flute, of which there are numbers of recordings, but most of his large scale or symphonic works remain in obscurity. Well, the people at Timpani are on a mission to turn things around. In 2008, they released a recording of some of his symphonic works to great acclaim (1C1135) which collected a few awards and received top ratings from reviewers everywhere. This new, world premiere recording of the ballet Le Chevalier et la Damoiselle, considered to be Gaubert's masterpiece, should equal if not surpass the same expectations.

This ballet's story takes place during the Middle Ages. A young princess has been cursed with a spell that turns her into a doe every night. The spell can only be removed when she meets a man that will make her know suffering. During the day she is locked up in her tower, but at night she runs through the forests. The duty of three squires is to protect the princess from hunters. All three are infatuated with her, but none has won her heart.

The Prélude that opens the ballet, like an overture to an opera, immediately sets the tone of the work by introducing some of the major motifs that will come and go throughout the episodic scenes of the ballet. A nice touch is the semi-medieval style mingled with the main 'Chevalier' theme, which relates to the period in time when this story takes place. Combine Respighi's 'La Boutique Fantasque' and Ravel's 'Menuet Antique', and you will get a sense of the style and color of this work. It is a long ballet lasting over 73 minutes, laid out over two acts divided into about 20 episodic scenes. The main character melodies and motifs constantly return throughout the scenes and make for a cohesive and logical journey from start to finish. From heroic and epic knightly battle scenes, almost cinematic in effect, to tender and lyrical courtly dances, this ballet is constantly inventive and a joy to listen to.

The Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg and conductor Marc Soustrot perform this new work with imagination, confidence and finesse, as if it was an old standard, but also add a sense of discovery to their playing which gives the recording a rare freshness and spontaneity. Recommended!!

Jean-Yves Duperron