Pierné, Gabriel


Pierné, Gabriel

Fantaisie Basque sur des thèmes populaires Basques Espagnols for violin and orchestra (Piano Reduction/Solo

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Pierné, Gabriel

Fantaisie Basque sur des thèmes populaires Basques Espagnols for violin and orchestra (Piano Reduction/Solo

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Gabriel Pierné was born in Metz on 16 August 1863. His father, Jean-Baptiste, was a gifted singer who had studied at the Paris Conservatoire and appeared at the city’s renowned Théâtre-Italien. After learning the rudiments of playing the piano from his mother, young Gabriel started taking lessons in solfège and piano at the age of five. When Lorraine was annexed to Germany in the wake of the Franco-Prussian War, the family settled in Paris and opened a music school in the Quartier Latin. In 1872 Gabriel was allowed to enter the solfège class at the Paris Conservatoire. In the years that followed, he (like his classmate Claude Debussy) studied with Antoine François Marmontel, Jules Massenet, Émile Durand, and César Franck. After winning the Prix de Rome in 1882 with his scène lyrique Edith, he spent almost three years of study in Rome, after which he returned to Paris to teach at his parents’ music school. In 1903 he became the deputy principal con- ductor of the famous Concerts Colonne, advancing to the post of general director with the death of Édouard Colonne in
1910. In this capacity he conducted the premières of major works by such contemporary composers as Debussy, Ravel, Stravinsky, Roussel, and d’Indy. In the summer breaks he devoted himself entirely to composition, eventually producing a large oeuvre consisting not only of vocal and instrumental music but of a very wide array of stage works. Particularly successful was his oratorio La Croisade des enfants of 1904, which was awarded the Grand Prix de la Ville de Paris and went on to receive more than two-hundred performances in France and abroad. Other important works from his pen are the operas Vendée (1897), La Fille de Tabarin (1901), and Fragonard (1934), the symphonic poem L’an mil (1897), and the ballets Cydalise et le chèvre-pied (1923) and Impressions de music-hall (1927). He was made a Commander of the Legion of Honor and succeeded Théodore Dubois in the French Académie des Beaux-Arts in 1924. He died in Ploujean on 17 July 1937, the same year as Ravel, Roussel, Louis Vierne, and Charles-Marie Widor.
The first attempts at researching Basque music were made in the 1880s by Charles Bordes, Pierné’s fellow-student at the Conservatoire and a co-founder of the Schola Cantorum in Paris. Bordes was commissioned by the French government to collect Basque folk tunes, which he duly published in the collection Archives de la tradition basque (1887). From this volume Pierné extracted the melodic material for his incidental music to the play Ramuntcho by Pierre Loti (1908). The overture to that work marks the first appearance of the zortzico, a lively dance in 5/8 meter whose dotted rhythms would find their way into his Quintette (composed in 1919) and the present concert piece for violin and orchestra, Fantaisie basque sur des thèmes populaires basques espagnols (op. 49). It was composed during the summer months of 1927 and bears a dedication to the violinist Jacques Thibaud. The première took place on 11 December of that same year in the Théâtre du Châtelet, with Pierné conducting the orchestra of the Concerts Colonne and the solo part taken by the dedica- tee, Jacques Thibaud.
The score is based on seven folk melodies that Pierné borrowed from Cancionero Vasco, a collection of Basque songs and dances edited by the Spanish priest, musicologist, and composer José Antonio de Donostia (1886–1956) and published in
1922. It begins with a subdued, rhythmically complex introduction in D minor for the orchestra (Assez vif, 2/4 meter) in which the dotted rhythms of the zortzico are already foreshadowed by a solo timpani (m. 3). The solo violin then presents motivic snippets of the belatsarena theme (mm. 25-28 and 44-47), after which the melancholy theme unfolds in full splen- dor, beginning at bar 48 (rehearsal no. 5, quasi recitativo). Especially important is a section beginning in bar 71 (rehearsal no. 8): here Pierné uses string pizzicato to enhance the dramatic expression of the theme and achieve a typically Hispano- Basque tinge. The zortzico rhythm returns in bar 86 (timpani), after which the belatsarena theme is repeated, now played by a solo flute (rehearsal no. 10). The first section of the song Amaiur appears in bar 92, first stated in a minore setting by the solo violin. Finally, from bar 100 on, the orchestra develops this melody in its original key of G major (rehearsal no.
12). After a reminiscence of the opening theme in bars 120 to 130, alternating between orchestra and solo violin, the music increasingly takes flight: the zortzico introduces a new section of the piece in bar 148 (rehearsal no. 17), giving the soloist greater opportunities for virtuoso display and appearing twice in its original key of D major (the second time entirely in harmonics). A sudden change of mood occurs in bar 199 (rehearsal no. 21, Vif): the music takes on a faster pace and a new Basque melody is introduced by the trumpets (Araiotz). In the bars that follow, the solo violin is given an opportunity to indulge its virtuosity in double stops, harmonics, glissandos, and rapid runs. Finally it is joined by the orchestra to present two new dance motifs: Aranaz (mm. 259ff.) and Inguruko Dantza (m. 268, rehearsal no. 27). After introducing a joyful inguruko theme (mm. 371ff., rehearsal no. 38), Pierné first returns to the musical material of the opening bars and the belatsarena melody (m. 434, rehearsal no. 44, Lent). The concluding coda, beginning in bar 448 (rehearsal no. 46, Très vif), consists mainly of the inguruko theme, now brilliantly enhanced in both the orchestra and the solo violin.
The first CD recording of Pierné’s Fantaisie basque was released in 2006 on the Timpani label, with Philippe Koch in the solo part and Bramwell Tovey conducting the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg.

Translation: Brtadford Robinson

For performance material please contact the publisher Éditions Musicales Durand-Salabert-Eschig.

Score No.






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