Roussel: Bacchus et Ariane, Op 43 (Suites Nos 1 & 2); Poulenc: Les Biches (Suite); Debussy: Six épigraphes antiques (orch Ansermet)

Reviewed on Wed 14 Sep, 2016

The winsome five-movement concert suite that Poulenc compiled from his 1924 ballet Les Biches receives a reading of mellifluous grace and glowing affection. Top-drawer sound, too, emanating from Geneva's acoustically superb Victoria Hall.

Here's the fourth instalment in this highly desirable series from Pentatone featuring the Suisse Romande Orchestra in dance repertoire under its impressive young Japanese principal guest conductor, Kazuki Yamada. The centrepiece comprises a welcome outing for Debussy's haunting Six épigraphes antiques (1914) in the tasteful and immaculately idiomatic garb devised for them in the 1930s by the orchestra's legendary founder, Ernest Ansermet (1883-1969). Yamada and his colleagues do these mysterious, ritualistic miniatures proud and also shine in Roussel's bracingly symphonic and pungently characterful ballet Bacchus et Ariane, completed in 1930 and first staged the following year at the Paris Opéra to a choreography by Serge Lifar. (In case you were wondering, the two published suites given here together make up the entire work.) The winsome five-movement concert suite that Poulenc compiled from his 1924 ballet Les Biches likewise receives a reading of mellifluous grace and glowing affection, though don't deprive yourself of hearing the irresistible complete score (Georges Prêtre's marvellous 1981 Philharmonia recording – now on Warner – remains a desert-island disc for yours truly). Top-drawer sound, too, emanating from Geneva's acoustically superb Victoria Hall. An easy recommendation.
–Andrew Achenbach