Jacques Ibert (1890-1962) is from that long list of prolific French composers known for one or two familiar if slight works (Divertissement and Escales) but who’s more serious output has been ignored. This selection of chamber works (a cost effective genre) seeks to redress that neglect but falls short of its aim.
The String Quartet composed between 1937 and 1941 then premiered soon after the liberation of Paris in 1944 is a weighty work that bears witness to troubled times. Its first movement is a cogent argument of obsessive motives but with characteristic urbane turns of phrase followed by a slow movement of lamentation and bleak sonority. The scherzo is a playful pizzicato movement while the finale bustles along with Hindemithian counterpoint; its syncopations reminding us of the lighter Ibert we know.
The Trio for violin, cello and harp from 1944 is a good-humoured romp of fine craftsmanship and integrity: its Andante sostenuto a lyrical idyll. The programme is filled out with other short instrumental works such as the strange Ghirlarzana for solo cello and an early work; the enjoyable if inconsequential Souvenir for string quartet and double bass, here receiving its premiere recording.
Unfortunately the good intentions are scuppered by the perfunctory performances on offer. The Bridge Quartet’s anaemic tone, approximate intonation and lack of dramatic projection sapped the music of its colour and energy. At times it seemed as if I was hearing a preparatory run-through rather than the finished article. Useful as a library item with fine sonics and serviceable notes but this music deserves better than these drab efforts.


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