a series of one-hour radio programs produced, written, hosted,
and edited by Fred Flaxman
©2007 by Fred Flaxman
"The Pleasures of Pierné"
MUSIC: opening from Pierné: Serenade for Violin and Piano performed by Philippe Koch, violin, and Christian Ivaldi, piano [Timpani 1C1106, track 5] [under the following]
Hello and welcome to Compact Discoveries. I’m your
guide, Fred Flaxman, and I hope you’ll stay with me for the next hour
so that we’ll experience “The Pleasures of Pierné” together.
MUSIC: fades out
I’m referring to the French composer, conductor and organist, Henri
Constant Gabriel Pierné, who lived from August 16, 1863, until July 17,
1937. I recently discovered some of his beautiful, melodic, romantic
and impressionistic music myself and want to share the best of my
discoveries with you.
But that will take at least two hours. In this hour we’ll listen to his complete Piano Concerto, which is in three movements, followed by his Canzonetta for Clarinet and Piano, the
March of the Little Lead Soldiers, the Fantaisie-impromptu for Violin
and Piano, the Pastoral for Wind Quintet, the Serenade for Oboe and
Harp, and his ballet Giration / Gyration.
I’ll fill you in on Pierné’s biography a little
later. But let’s get started right now with his highly romantic Piano Concerto in C Minor, Opus 12, which I think deserves to be better known and played more often.
This was probably written in 1886 and seems very influenced by the
piano concertos of Camille Saint-Saëns. Notice that the particularly
impressive final movement makes use of material found earlier in the
piece, helping to create a sense of unity.
The soloist in this Hyperion recording is the British pianist Stephen
Coombs. The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra is directed by Ronald Corp,
the British conductor who founded the New London Orchestra in 1988.
MUSIC: Pierné: Piano Concerto in C Minor, Opus 12,
performed by Stephen Coombs with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra,
conducted by Ronald Corp [Hyperion CDA67348, tracks 1, 2 and 3] [19:41]
Pianist Stephen Coombs with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra conducted by Ronald Corp performed the Piano Concerto in C Minor, Opus 12, by Gabriel Pierné.
You are listening to “The Pleasures of Pierné” during this hour of Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman.
Pierné belonged to a musical family from the east of France which took
refuge in Paris when the Franco-Prussian war broke out and never left
the French capital. He studied at the famous Paris Conservatory,
winning first prizes for piano, organ, counterpoint and fugue.
He won the coveted Prix de Rome
in 1882. He took organ lessons from another famous composer/organist,
César Franck. He learned so well that he succeeded Franck as organist
at the Sainte-Clotilde Church in 1890. Pierné took composition lessons
from another well-known composer, Jules Massenet.
In his time Pierné was even better known as a conductor than as a
composer. He became deputy conductor of the Concerts Colonne in 1903
and replaced Colonne at his death in 1910. Pierné continued in that
post until his retirement in 1932.
Pierné’s catalogue of works includes eight operas, ten ballets,
incidental music, cantatas, orchestral works, works for solo
instruments and orchestra, songs, chamber music, piano solos and duets,
organ, and harp music. I think its about time for this prolific, highly
competent composer to be rediscovered, and I hope you’ll agree with me
after hearing some more of his music.
So let’s get back to it with a thoroughly delightful little piece for clarinet and piano called Canzonetta. It is performed here by clarinetist Olivier Dartevelle and pianist Christian Ivaldi on a Timpani compact disc.
MUSIC: Pierné: Canzonetta, performed by clarinetist Olivier Dartevelle and pianist Christian Ivaldi [Timpani 1C1107, track 2] [3:45]
Canzonetta by Gabriel Pierné. The clarinetist was Olivier Dartevelle; the pianist, Christian Ivaldi.
Once upon a time, before recordings became so popular, people had to
create their own music if they wanted to hear it in their own homes.
Those without financial means could always sing in their bathtubs. But
middle class and aspiring middle class, educated, cultured folk
purchased pianos, and their children took piano lessons, whether they
wanted to or not.
Many of these children learned a piano piece by Pierné called the March of the Little Lead Soldiers.
In fact, during the early 1900s -- the period I’m talking about -- this
was Pierné’s most famous piece. It is the final work from a collection
of piano pieces for children called “Album pour mes petits amis”
(“Album for My Little Friends”). Now it is one of 36 pieces on another
kind of album -- a double CD from the Canadian label, Marquis Classics,
called “The Parlour Grand: Piano Favorites from a Bygone Era.” The
pianist is Robert Silverman.
MUSIC: Pierné: March of the Little Lead Soldiers, performed by Robert Silverman [Marquis 77471 82501 2 4, CD2, track 8] [3:25]
Robert Silverman played the March of the Little Lead Soldiers by Gabriel Pierné.
Another of my favorite Pierné pieces is his Fantaisie-Impromptu for Violin and Piano.
Let’s listen to that next as performed by violinist Philippe Koch
with pianist Christian Ivaldi on a Timpani compact disc.
MUSIC: Pierné: Fantaisie-Impromptu for Violin and Piano, Op. 4, performed by violinist Philippe Koch and pianist Christian Ivaldi [Timpani 1C1106, track 1] [5:45]
Gabriel Pierné’s Fantaisie-Impromptu for Violin and Piano, Opus 4, performed by violinist Philippe Koch and pianist Christian Ivaldi.
You are listening to “The Pleasures of Pierné” on this hour of Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman.
[optional break not included in the total timing]
Next, Pierné’s Pastoral for Wind Quintet performed by
Étienne Plasman, flute; Philippe Gonzales, oboe; Jean-Philippe Vivier,
clarinet; David Sattler, bass; and Miklos Nagy, French horn. This is
from the same Timpani CD that features the Fantaisie-Impromptu we just heard.
MUSIC: Pierné: Pastoral for Wind Quintet,
performed by Étienne Plasman, flute; Philippe Gonzales, oboe;
Jean-Philippe Vivier, clarinet; David Sattler, bass; and Miklos Nagy,
French horn [Timpani 1C1107, track 1] [2:30]
Gabriel Pierné’s Pastoral for Wind Quintet. It was
performed by the soloists of the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra.
Étienne Plasman was the flutist; Philippe Gonzales played oboe;
Jean-Philippe Vivier, the clarinet; David Sattler was on bass; and
Miklos Nagy was the French hornist.
Our next selection, Pierné’s Serenade, was originally
written for violin and piano. We’ll hear it in a very pleasing
transcription for oboe and harp. Lajos Lencsés is the oboist; Giséle
Herbert is the harpist on this Audite recording imported from Germany.
MUSIC: Pierné: Serenade, performed by Lajos Lencsés, oboe; Giséle Herbert, harp [Audite 97.409, track 6] [2:29]
Serenade by Gabriel Pierné as performed by Lajos Lencsés, oboe, and Giséle Herbert, harp.
When I go to see a ballet, I always hope that the dancers will be
accompanied by live musicians, rather than recordings. But this is
often not the case, at least in smaller metropolitan areas in the
United States. The reason for this, of course, is purely economic.
I’m mentioning this because the next and final piece by Pierné for this hour is his eight-minute ballet called Giration / Gyration.
Pierné was very interested in the new 78 RPM recordings which appeared
in his lifetime. In 1933 a recording company asked Pierné to write a
piece which would fill up both sides of a 78 and which would
demonstrate the artistic value of the new medium. Pierné came up with
his short ballet because you could only fit four minutes of music on
each side of a 78. So this was undoubtedly the first ballet ever
created expressly to be accompanied by a recording rather than live
The action of the ballet takes place in a playroom where a ballerina
and a top stand motionless. A dancer arrives and sweeps up the
ballerina in an increasingly lively waltz at the end of which she
dizzily collapses. The dancer tries to resume the mad gyration, but the
young woman, overcome with dizziness, falls at every attempt. He then
grabs the ballerina’s sash and uses it to spin the top. He then runs
off with the top without further conern for his deserted companion. She
has another go at the spinning movement and succeeds in acquiring its
secrets. When the dancer comes back on stage, he joins the balerina in
Here, once again, are the soloists of the Luxembourg Philharmonic
Orchestra to perform Gabriel Pierné’s mini-ballet, Gyration.
MUSIC: Pierné: Giration, performed by the soloists of the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra [Timpani 1C1107, track 12] [8:47]
Gabriel Pierné’s eight-minute ballet, Gyration, concludes this hour of “The Pleasures of Pierné” on Compact Discoveries.
I hope you have enjoyed discovering these pieces by Pierné as much as I
did. If so, you’ll definitely want to be tuned in for “More Pleasures
of Pierné” in the next hour of Compact Discoveries.
MUSIC: excerpt from Pierné: Serenade for Violin and Piano performed by Philippe Koch, violin, and Christian Ivaldi, piano [Timpani 1C1106, track 5] [under the following]
For a complete transcript of this program, including information on all the recordings used, or to hear this or other Compact Discoveries programs streamed on demand, go to www.compactdiscoveries.com on the World Wide Web. This is program number 127.
This program was supported by contributions from three anonymous South
Florida donors. Several of the recordings used were supplied by
ArkivMusic.com, for which I am very grateful. The idea of selecting
Gabriel Pierné as a theme for Compact Discoveries came from Simon Corley in Paris, France.
Thanks as well to all the public radio stations that carry this
program. And thank YOU for listening, and for supporting your local
public radio station!
This Compact Discoveries program was produced in Weaverville, North Carolina, and is a presentation of WPVM, Asheville, North Carolina.
MUSIC: ends at 57:27
ANNOUNCER: Compact Discoveries is made possible in part by Story Books, publishers of The Timeless Tales of Reginald Bretnor,
selected and edited by Fred Flaxman. Samples and ordering available at
bretnor dot com, b-r-e-t-n-o-r dot com; and by Educate Yourself for
Tomorrow, an on-line guide to 37 different Liberal Arts courses for
personal development, including “Mozart and the Evolution of Western
Music.” On the web at onlinehumanities.com.
PROGRAM ENDS AT 58:00