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Robert CASADESUS (1899-1972)
Symphony No. 1 (1934-35) [26:56]
Symphony No. 5 Sur le nom de Haydn (1959-60) [20:00]
Symphony No. 7 Israël (1967-70) [16:57]
Natasha Jouhl (sop)
Alexandra Gibson (mezzo)
Mark Wilde (ten)
Michael Druiett (bass)
Gateshead Children's Choir/Andrew Scott
Northern Sinfonia Chorus/Alan Fearon
Northern Sinfonia/Howard Shelley
rec. Jubilee Hall, Gosforth, Newcastle, 29-30 Oct 2004. DDD
premiere recordings
CHANDOS CHAN 10263 [64:13]


This is not the first recording of Casadesus as composer. Reviewed on the site is a Sony collection mixing chamber and concertos and another of music for violin and piano (Koch). It is however the first disc to present any of the symphonies. We know Casadesusís name as a pianist although now his CDs are not that often found on shop shelves. His recordings for CBS of the late Mozart piano concertos were once core to the LP stable. It was Ravel who first recognised something special in Casadesus's talents as a composer and later the budding composer dedicated his 24 Preludes to Ravel.

The First Symphony is dedicated to Casadesusís wife Gaby. The music is characterised by clarity of aural layout, an athletic and coolly serenading disposition and a creative tension between romance and neo-classicism. Darting and probing strings course hither and thither. At various times you may well be reminded of Paray (his Symphony), Wirén (Serenade for Strings), Rawsthorne (lighter music) and Lambert (ballets) in what is a lithe and lyrically inventive work. For a First Symphony it speaks volumes of the composerís self-confidence that he is happy to end on a gentle, modest yet utterly beguiling downbeat. It was premiered in Paris at the Salle Pleyel with Charles Munch conducting.

The Fifth Symphony was written for the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the death of Haydn and is written for the sort of orchestra Haydn used. Though a quarter of a century has passed, Casadesus is still noticeably the same composer who wrote the First Symphony. There is an Elysian calm about this music; nothing ill comes near. The closest he comes to an occluded mood is in the pensiveness that pervades the Lento. The Menuet takes some of the impress of neo-antiquity works such as Masques et Bergmasques. You will love this if you like fruity neo-classical music or that elusive mood of intoxicated nostalgia in which Constant Lambert was so proficient.

The Seventh and final symphony is dedicated to the memory of Georg Szell with whom Casadesus worked in his many CBS recordings of the Mozart piano concertos (there is a French Sony bargain box). It is a work written as a tribute to the people of Israel at the of the Six Day War. It differs from the other two works in requiring voices both choral and solo - vocalising - there are no words. It is still a work of lyrical release avoiding dissonance. However there is a new profundity about the music. It continues to avoid searing emotion and there is a sense of standing a pace back from tragedy; a very emotionally rigorous work. The premiere was given on 8 November 1972 conducted by Frederic Waldmann (he of the Musica Aeterna orchestra) in New York. Casadesus heard a read-through but died before the concert on 19 September. His son Jean had died in January that year.

The notes by Bruno Talouarn are helpful in 'placing' Casadesus however thought-through conclusions must await the final volumes in this engaging series. Plaudits for Chandos for once again being first and doing it in style.

Rob Barnett

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