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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


Joseph JONGEN (1873 Ė 1953)
Chamber Music for Flute, Harp and Strings

Concert à cinq Op.71 (1923)
Sonate-duo Op.109 (1938)a
Danse lente Op.56 (1917)b
Adagio Op.22 No.1 (1901)c
Deux pièces en trio Op.80 (1925)d
Ensemble Arpae (Aldo Baerten, flutebd; Sophie Hallynck, harpbd; Gudrun Vercampt, violinac; Diederick Suys, violac; Marie Hallynck, celload)
Recorded: Academiezaal, Sint-Truiden, March 2002
CYPRÈS CYP 1632 [60:52]

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Jongenís large and varied output includes a lot of chamber music in almost all forms and for various instrumental combinations. One of the finest examples of his refined music making is the lovely Concert à cinq Op.71 of 1923 for flute, harp and string trio. Interestingly enough, another wonderful chamber work of his, the colourful Rhapsody Op.70 (piano and wind quintet) was written in 1922. Both are perfect examples of Jongenís impressionistic writing, and both are free fantasies in which the composerís imagination effortlessly shines throughout. Contrary to the Rhapsodyís multi-sectional single-movement structure, the Concert à cinq is in three movements in the fairly traditional fast-slow-fast pattern. The music is quintessentially Jongen in its formal clarity, harmonic refinement and seamless melodic flow, the whole tinged with healthy earthiness. The opening Décidé, roughly in condensed sonata form, is followed by a beautifully lyrical rêverie. This lovely work ends with a vigorous, jig-like Finale of great charm. Incidentally, it was the very first work written for the French ensemble Quintette instrumental Pierre Jamet which performed it repeatedly and for which several French composers (Koechlin, Schmitt, Roussel and Ropartz, to name but a few) have also composed similar works. The Ensemble Arpae grouping several brilliant young Belgian musicians has already recorded the piece, which they obviously love, for another Belgian label (Phaedra 92012, published in 1996, with quintets by Pelemans, Westerlinck and Daniel-Lesur).

The somewhat later Sonate-duo Op.109, completed in 1938, is a major work that has remained unheard for too many long years and is the major discovery here. Though quite probably modelled on Ravelís Sonate pour violon et violoncelle, it nevertheless is a quite different piece of music. Jongen roughly devised it as a theme and variations, full of brilliant string writing and often intricately contrapuntal, sometimes paying homage to Ysaÿe whose sonatas for solo violin are at times brought to mind. However, as is often the case in Jongenís best music, the formal aspect of the music neither obscures its expressive strength nor excludes flights of instrumental fancy of great virtuosity.

Jongen composed two sets of Pièces en trio. The earlier one, the present Deux pièces en trio Op.80 for flute, cello and harp, was composed in 1925 whereas the other set Deux pièces en trio Op.95 of 1931 is for piano trio and has already been recorded repeatedly over the last few years. This attractive diptych consists of a slow, dreamy first movement followed by a lively dancing second one. All Jongen hallmarks are displayed to the full in this delightful piece of the composerís mature years.

Jongen loved the viola and composed a number of substantial works for it, including the substantial Suite pour orchestre et alto principal Op.48 recorded many years ago during the LP era but shamefully neglected since then. Here, we have another rarity, the Adagio Op.22 No.1 for violin and viola, a most welcome short contrapuntal study superbly written for the instruments. (Incidentally, Op.22 No.2 is a short one-movement sonata for solo violin which I have never heard.)

This most attractive release also includes one of Jongenís most popular works, the beautiful Danse lente Op.56 for flute and harp composed in 1917 in England where Jongen and his family stayed during World War I. (It may also be played as a more conventional duo for flute and piano, available on Cyprès CYP 4615, to be reviewed shortly.)

This enjoyable release is another most welcome addition to Jongenís expanding discography. Several mature works of great beauty in excellent, loving and dedicated performances that serve the music well. Jongenís beautifully crafted music is, at long last, being given its due, and there is much more to come.

Hubert Culot



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