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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



Max d'OLLONE (1875-1959)
Piano Quartet (1949)
String Quartet (1898)
Piano Trio (1920)

Patrice d'Ollone (piano)
Quatuor Athenaeum Enesco
rec Jan 1999, Salle des fêtes de l'Académie de Paris
PIERRE VERANY PV799061 [69.03]

Pierre Verany

This disc is something of a revelation – three substantial works by a French composer who has been largely neglected for more than fifty years. Formal in structure, and highly representative of the late romantic era, they possess a freshness, intensity and individuality that deserves a better fate.

d’Ollone, a pupil of Massenet at the Paris Conservatoire, won the Prix de Rome in 1897, and later became conductor and director of the Concerts Populaire in Angers and the American Conservatoire in Fontainbleau, a professor at the Paris Conservatoire and Director of Music Teaching at the Opéra Comique. His output includes many operas, five of which were produced in Paris during the inter-war years, a ballet, de Temps abandonné, symphonic and chamber works, and almost seventy songs.

The String Quartet was written in 1899, the Trio in 1920 and the Piano Quartet in 1949. Broadly speaking all three are "Brahmsian" in inspiration, though with a decidedly French accent, and can therefore be considered examples of d’Ollone’s early, mid and late chamber music. There is little if anything to identify them with the impressionism of contemporaries such as Debussy and Ravel, though their chromaticism is reminiscent of César Franck. However, facile comparisons aside, this is music there to be savoured for what it is rather than what it might resemble.

The Trio, which is in cyclic form, shows complete assurance in the organisation of its thematic material, from the predominantly easygoing first and second movements to a turbulent Scherzo and a fast, finale. The composer’s attention to "logical" development is typically French, but does not prevent him from creating an adventurous rhythmic and harmonic structure, occasionally nearing, but never overstepping, the boundaries of tonality. Themes develop naturally within a transparently contrapuntal texture, and in all three works on this disc one gets the feeling that d’Ollone is constantly aware of how his ideas are evolving.

The Piano Quartet, in which the composer’s grandson, Patrice, is the pianist, is persuasive and unquestionably "Brahmsian" in character, particularly in the muscular dotted rhythms of the finale; yet it consistently finds something original to say, and says it with subtlety, vigour and rich melodic invention. The string playing is highly accomplished (as it is throughout this recording) and Patrice d’Ollone is a powerful advocate of his ancestor’s music.

The Quartet, the most obviously romantic work on this disc, was composed during the composer’s stay in Rome, and possesses all the natural charm of his mentors, Massenet and Saint-Saëns; yet again d’Ollone has own personal way of dealing with such pervasive influences. This is a satisfying and far-from-immature work, and I impatiently await further opportunities for becoming acquainted with other works by this fascinating composer.


Roy Brewer

See also review by Rob Barnett


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