Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Joseph JONGEN (1873 Ė 1953)
Cello Sonata Op.39 (1912)
Aria Op.68 No.1 (1921)
Moto perpetuo Op.68 No.2 (1921)
Dans la douceur des pins Op.51 No.1 (1916)
Caprice-impromptu Op.51 No.2 (1916)
Habanera Op.86 (1928)
Feuille díalbum (1892)
Valse Op.35 (1909)
Karel Steylaerts (cello)
Piet Kuijken (piano)
Recorded: Academiezaal, Sint Truiden, July 2002
PHAEDRA 92030 [73:38]


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2003 will be Ė or, at least, should be Ė Jongenís year celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of his death. Jongen was undoubtedly the most important Belgian composer of his generation. He also played a major role in academic circles. As a conductor, he was also responsible for some early performances of many important works from the first half of the 20th Century. But he will be primarily remembered and admired as a most distinguished composer with a huge and varied output from which opera is conspicuously absent. Besides a number of orchestral works culminating in what may rightly be considered as his greatest masterpiece, the masterly Symphonie Concertante Op.81 for organ and orchestra of 1927, he composed a great deal of chamber music including a worthwhile body of works for cello and piano, of which the large-scale Cello Sonata Op.39 of 1912 must have pride of place. It is a substantial and ambitious work in three movements of fairly equal length, still roughly cast in the Romantic mould; but, to a certain extent, it may nevertheless be considered as a transitional work absorbing the Romantic frame of mind inherited from César Franck whose shadow loomed large over Jongenís early years and some French Impressionism inspired by Fauré, Debussy and Ravel. These will remain the main characteristics of Jongenís music throughout his long and prolific composing life. The first movement, roughly in sonata form, alternates a declamatory first subject and a more relaxed flowing second one. The second movement is mostly song-like in character. The last movement, however, is somewhat more complex : it opens with a long recitative-like introduction leading into the main part of the Finale. The cello is rarely absent and obviously carries the bulk of the argument, but the often florid and busy piano part is also quite demanding. Jongenís Cello Sonata was dedicated to none other than Pablo Casals, though we do not know if he ever performed it.

The present release offers the complete works for cello and piano of Jongen, though it does not include the short Chanson intime of 1936, which incidentally does not have any opus number. The earliest piece is the short Feuille díalbum of 1892 (no opus number) still steeped in the Romantic tradition of Jongenís early works. All the other pieces are also fairly short. The two diptychs (Op.51 composed in 1916 and Op.68 composed in 1926) are both sets of character pieces often of great melodic charm such as the beautiful Dans la douceur des pins Op.51 No.1 written in England where Jongen and his family had settled after the outbreak of World War I and where he founded the Quatuor à clavier belge with Désiré Defauw, Lionel Tertis and Emile Dochard. The Op.68 diptych (Aria and Moto perpetuo) was written after his return to Belgium. This superb release also includes the attractive, though light-weight Habanera Op.86 and ends with the delightful Valse Op.35 of 1909.

I enjoyed the present performances enormously. These committed and assured readings serve Jongenís richly melodic music well, and I hope that Karel Steylaerts will some day record Jongenís works for cello and orchestra (there are four of them including the large-scale Cello Concerto Op.18 of 1900, one of Jongenís earliest large-scale works). Anyway, this is a most welcome and desirable addition to Jongenís slowly expanding discography. Heartily recommended.

Hubert Culot

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