Aureole etc.

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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Joseph JONGEN (1873-1953)
Impressions d'Ardennes (1913) [14.53]
Cello Concerto (1900) [34.59]
Fantaisie sur deux noëls populaires wallons (1902) [15.17]
Marie Hallynck (cello)
Orchestre National de Belgique/Roman Kofman
rec. 9-13 July 2002, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels. DDD
CYPRÈS CYP1634 [65.14]


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In the year of the 50th anniversary of his death Jongen's output is being reassessed. People know his name because of his music for solo organ and for the multiply recorded Symphonie Concertante for organ and orchestra. Well, it's a start anyway!

Impressions d'Ardennes is in a single movement. You might have been expecting something like Massenet's or Gustave Charpentier's 'scènes' suites; not a bit of it. Instead this is a late romantic topographical rhapsody. It conjures the spirit of the region rather than being a stringing together of picture postcards or folk material. The Belgian National Orchestra are not specially plush in the string department but everything else is cleanly put across in a score that touches on the confident grandeur of the high and lonely places. Parallel works would include Novak's In the Tatras, d'Indy's Jour d'été and Delius's Song of the High Hills. This is lightened by folksy voices similar in style to Vaughan Williams' Norfolk Rhapsodies and In the Fen Country.

The Impressions along with the Southey-based orchestral fantasy Lalla-Rookh (a fascination with mid-Eastern exotica also shared with fellow countryman Adolphe Biarent) were published by Chester in London as late as 1931. The English connection is accounted for by the fact that during the Great War Jongen fled to England, returning shortly after the war had ended. Links between the two countries should not be surprising. Channel ferries were regular. Indeed in the early years of the century Granville Bantock promoted concerts in Belgium mixing his own works and those of Holbrooke and Belgian composers.

Jongen wrote his Cello Concerto for the virtuoso Jean Gérardy - that ‘Thibaud of the cello' said Le monde Musical in Paris. It was written in 1900 - the same year as the Jongen Symphony. A placid soulful assez lent, which towards its end develops a pert trilling charm, divides the first and third movements. The outer movements at times pick up on the world of Bruch, Tchaikovsky and Saint-Säens. Marie Hallynck is a spirited interpreter playing with admirably vibrant and burred tone on a 1717 Matteo Gofriller.

The concerto was premiered by the dedicatee at the Concerts Ysaÿe on 15 May 1904 conducted by Ysaÿe himself. In the second half of that concert Ysaÿe conducted the Brussels premiere of d'Indy's Second Symphony.

The Fantaisie is placed by Cyprès's Michel Stockhem in the Belgian's d'Indyist camp. This he links back to Guillaume Lekeu's Fantaisie sur deux airs populaires angevin. The strings sound much smoother here than in the other two works. The music proceeds as if driven by instinct. The jaunty moments, often carried by the brass, disconcertingly remind one of Brahms' Haydn Variations or Academic Festival (5.51). There are many charming coups including at 5.12 the modest solo trumpet line as well as some Tchaikovskian high jinks at 6.03.

Once again Cyprès have done a sterling job kicking over the predictable traces - choosing repertoire, orchestra and conductor well. Documentation is all you could ask for. Good to see Roman Kofman's name again. Last time I encountered him was when reviewing Valentin Silvestrov's surreal-melodic Fifth Symphony (BMG-Melodiya). He is the dedicatee of that work and conducted that premiere recording. Kofman shows himself just at ease in high-romantic seas as in the late Twentieth Century modernists.

Rob Barnett


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