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Vincent d’INDY (1851-1931)
Orchestral Works: Vol. 1
Jour d’été à la montagne, op.61 (1905) [30:42]
La Forêt enchantée, op.8 (1878) [13:36]
Souvenirs, op.62 (1906) [18:45]
Iceland Symphony Orchestra/Rumon Gamba
rec. Háskólabíó, Iceland – October 2007
CHANDOS CHAN10464 [63:25]
Experience Classicsonline

I know I’ve come across – and dismissed – the music of César Franck-student Vincent d’Indy (1851-1931) before. I faintly remember an old EMI disc with a symphony and I seem to recall a Marco Polo disc with chamber works. That - and being unmoved. But my ears have been opened now, by a new Chandos release that makes me re-evaluate d’Indy at once and thoroughly. Instead of being in my mind an also-ran of French music of the turn of the last century behind Ravel and Debussy, I find him catapulted to the forefront of French symphonic writing, all courtesy of Rumon Gamba’s recording of three tone poems with the marvellously performing Iceland Symphony Orchestra.

Volume 1 of d’Indy’s orchestral works opens with the 1905 Jour d’été á la montagne (op.61), a musical day-trip in the Ardèches mountains that makes Debussy’s more famous impressionist works pale in comparison. That strength of statement may be partly caused by the excitement of discovery – but only in part. After all, it is wonderful to hear fresh music of this quality without having to go back to the two or three all-too-familiar staples.

The eerie bird calls that toll through the - very dark - darkness of the night barely giving way to dawn (in Aurore) and again just after dusk (in Soir) are of a veracity that reminds me, if faintly, of nature described in great moments of Wagner and Richard Strauss. The hovering opening (in C) has that aboriginal, out-of-nothingness sense also found in the beginning of Das Rheingold, or Also Sprach Zarathustra, or Mahler’s First and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. But even in surging daylight, this chromatic beauty of a work remains enormously impressive; most importantly it never lapses into being dainty or epicene.

Still more obviously under the influence of Wagner (and Liszt) is the much earlier La Forêt enchantée (op.8, 1878), created with the impression of the premiere of Der Ring des Nibelungen still fresh in his memory. A horseback-romp through an enchanted forest - a German specialty, that - with a seduced hero and plenty magic, this piece is slightly more explicit and not as hauntingly evocative. However it’s just as effective in telling a musically compelling story.

Finally, Souvenirs (op.62) is a twenty minute tribute to his evidently much beloved wife (and cousin) Isabelle, who died just after d’Indy returned from a trip to the United States. It’s a tribute truly and audibly written with, as Germans would say, blood of the heart (Herzblut) – powerfully moving. Thus comes Wagner into play again – working around a constantly developed Leitmotiv that d’Indy took from an earlier work of his, the op.15 Poème des montagnes. It caps a terrific disc of superb music, excellently played and in very fine sound. How it is that regular Chandos CD’s strike me as better sounding than some of their SACDs, I don’t know – but no complaints as long as they sound this good in either one of the formats.

Jens F. Laurson 





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