JACQUES IBERT: Le Chavalier errant; Les Amours de Jupiter – Orch. Nat. de Lorraine/ Jacques Mercier – Timpani 1C1230, 57:35 (5/12/15) [Distr. by Naxos] *****:

A pair of wonderful half-hour-length ballet scores by a French composer who doesn’t get nearly enough attention. Even his once-popular Escales (Ports of Call) seem to be less frequently heard now. The first is a first recording and the second may be the only one on CD, with an old Capitol vinyl conducted by the composer with the Paris Opera Orchestra the only other one known of The Loves of Jupiter. While in mono, it is very similar in performance to this new stereo version.

The first ballet is obviously based on Cervantes’ Don Quixote story, and was originally a big production in 1934 with a speaker, chorus and orchestra. The speaker was Ida Rubinstein, and the wandering knight is not as usually depicted, but more as he sees himself during the various adventures which he lives so instensely. Ibert fortunately reduced the work to a strictly orchestral score and this is it. The Spanishness only shows up when the guitar comes in during the third part of this four-movement suite, and it builds to a glorious climax at the end.

The Loves of Jupiter of 1945 is a series of short bits depicting exactly that. Jazz and pop music come into Ibert’s compositional style in this work, and it’s long been one of my personal favorites. Some may find it rather similar to the ballets of Constant Lambert, and both ballets are important for anyone caring about 20th-century ballet music.  Performance is excellent, with the Lorraine Orchestra being one of the leading European ensembles. Its high level of performance was recognized by the French Ministry of Culture when it awarded it the “National” title.

—John Sunier