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André JOLIVET (1905 – 1974)
The Erato Recordings
Cello Concerto No.1 (1962)a
Cello Concerto No.2 (1967)b
Suite en concert (1965)a
Harp Concerto (1952)c
Trumpet Concerto No.1 (1948)d
Trumpet Concerto No.2 (1954)d
Ondes Martenot Concerto (1947)e
Heptade (1970)d
Arioso barocco (1968)d
Flute Concerto No.1 (1949)f
Suite en concert (1965/6)f
Chant de Linos (1944)g
Six Incantations (1936/7)f
Sérénade avec hautbois principal (1944)g
Cinq Danses rituelles (1939, orchestrated 1940/1)
Bassoon Concerto (1954)h
Suite liturgique (1942)i
Poèmes intimes (1944)j
Lily Laskine (harp)c; Jeanne Loriod (ondes Martenot)e; Colette Herzog (soprano)i; André Navarra (cello)a; Mstislav Rostropovich (cello)b; Maurice André (trumpet)d; Jean-Pierre Rampal (flute)f; Maurice Allard (bassoon)h; Maîtrise de l’ORTF, Jacques Jouineaui; Quintette Marie-Claire Jametg; Orchestre de l’association des Concerts Lamoureux; Orchestre National de l’ORTF; Orchestre Philharmonique de l’ORTF; Orchestre Jean-François Paillard; Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourgj; André Jolivet, Alain Lombardj
Recorded: ORTF Studios, Paris, December 1968-January 1969 (Cello Concerto No.1, Cinq Danses), November 1967 (Harp Concerto, Ondes Martenot Concerto); and Eglise du Liban, Paris, May 1966 and April 1967 (flute works), and September 1967 (Bassoon Concerto). No further information concerning the other works
WARNER ERATO 2564 61320-2 [78:04 + 71:32 + 76:48 + 71:58]

In the mid-1960s, Erato recorded a good many of Jolivet’s works. These recordings were either conducted or supervised by the composer. This and the fact that most performers taking part in these recordings had a long association with the music give them an unmistakable ring of authenticity, although younger musicians have now successfully followed suit. Some time later, all the concertos, but the Bassoon Concerto, were re-issued in a boxed set of LPs. Now, at long last, Erato are re-issuing these splendid performances in a generously filled and neatly re-mastered 4-CD set. Among others this brings several works back into the current catalogue. Several works, such as the cello concertos, the Ondes Martenot Concerto and Cinq Danses rituelles (at least in their orchestral guise) have not been recorded since the time of these Erato recordings. This set includes works from various periods of Jolivet’s busy composing career which allows for a pretty comprehensive survey.

The earlier works are the fairly well-known. These include Incantations for solo flute of 1936-1937 and the rarely heard Cinq Danses rituelles of 1939, although the original piano version is reasonably well represented on disc. Incantations is the first and the best known of several substantial works for solo instruments that Jolivet composed throughout his career. The other ones (Suite rhapsodique for violin, Asceses for clarinet, Eglogues for viola and Suite en concert for cello) are rather less well-known, although they have all been recorded. André Navarra’s recording of Suite en concert for Erato was coupled Kodaly’s Sonata for solo cello. Both Cinq Danses rituelles and Incantations as well as the piano suite Mana belong to Jolivet’s first period. The music adheres to some of the ‘principles’ set-out by the Jeune France group (Messiaen, Jolivet, Baudrier and Daniel-Lesur), "to restore music’s ancient, original meaning when it was the magic and incantatory expression of the sacred in human communities" (Jolivet’s own words). Jolivet stuck to this and other guidelines all his life. His meeting and private studies with Edgard Varèse also greatly helped him achieving his ideals, at least in musical terms. One might be tempted to consider Cinq Danses as a remake of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, which must have been at the back of his mind at the time, but which is a literally unique achievement, difficult to imitate and impossible to emulate. Jolivet went his own way and the end result is a gripping score of great intensity and great expressive strength, but ultimately tamer that Stravinsky’s earth-shaking masterpiece.

During the war years, Jolivet’s music became much simpler and more accessible, although he managed to avoid neo-classical clichés; the same clichés rejected by Jeune France. This is clearly to be heard in the beautiful Suite liturgique (1942 - voice, oboe doubling cor anglais, cello and harp) and Poèmes intimes (1944 – voice and piano which Bernac and Poulenc often performed in recitals), both heard here, and the lovely Pastorales de Noël (1943 – flute, bassoon and harp), not included here though I think that it, too, was recorded by Erato. Suite liturgique, for solo female voice and instruments, originates in some incidental music for Henri Ghéon’s Mystère de la visitation. The version for female voices and instruments heard here was made at the suggestion of Lily Laskine. Poèmes intimes on words by Louis Emié is dedicated to the composer’s wife on their 10th wedding anniversary. He will do so every ten years. Epithalame for chorus and Yin Yang for strings were similarly celebrating other such anniversaries. All the pieces of that period, i.e. up to about 1950, are characterised by clarity, economy of means and direct appeal, without ever falling into the trap of facility. The Serenade for wind quintet and the fairly well-known Chant de Linos provide further examples of such clear, direct, superbly crafted and expressive music, for all its apparent simplicity.

Concertos (he composed twelve of them) feature prominently in Jolivet’s output. They were composed at various periods of his life and under varied circumstances (some were written as test pieces while other were written with specific soloists in mind), so that each has its own character. It may be surprising to know that the Concerto for ondes Martenot was the first to be composed. Other composers had used the ondes Martenot previously (one thinks of Messiaen in his sextet La Fête des belles eaux and Koechlin in Le Buisson ardent and the Seven Stars Symphony as well as Honegger in Jeanne au Bûcher); but Jolivet’s may well be the first full-fledged concerto for the instrument. Obliquely inspired by the myth of Orpheus, it is in three movements, albeit not along the traditional pattern (fast-slow-fast). The tension accumulated in the course of the first two movements, and particularly in the central nightmarish movement, is released in the beautifully magical final movement ending peacefully on a luminous final major chord. There are not that many concertos for ondes Martenot (I can mention that of Marcel Landowski, Concertino "alla francese" of Jacques Charpentier and the refined and subtly impressionistic Kaleidoscope of Jacques Bondon as equally successful works for ondes Martenot and orchestra or instrumental ensemble). The present re-issue of Jolivet’s superb concerto is most welcome. The Flute Concerto (1949), the Trumpet Concertino (1948), the Harp Concerto (1952), the Trumpet Concerto No.2 and the Suite en concert (1965/6) for flute and percussion, often referred to as Flute Concerto No.2, are comparatively better-known. They are fairly often heard in concert and well served as far as recordings are concerned; I will not dwell on them for too long. Suffice it to say that they are all superbly written for the instruments, calling for musicality and virtuosity as well, but never gratuitously so. They all cleverly avoid all the instrumental formulas that one may sometimes find in such pieces. All the soloists play with the prerequisite virtuosity, technique and commitment. Jean-Pierre Rampal often played Jolivet’s music for flute, and Maurice André really made Jolivet’s trumpet music his own. Two other trumpet works here were often championed by Maurice André, the short Arioso barocco (1968 – trumpet and organ) and the more substantial Heptade (1970 – trumpet and percussion). In his recording of Heptade, André is accompanied by a huge array of percussion instruments played by no less than Jean-Claude Casadesus, Jean-Pierre Drouet, Diego Masson and Jean-Charles François. This highly demanding virtuoso piece in seven contrasted movements (hence its title), was written for Maurice André and uses the whole gamut of modern trumpet playing calling for a remarkable agility – and musicality – on the player’s part to bring it off successfully. Need I say that Maurice André does bring it off in a most successful way? On the other hand, the delightful Bassoon Concerto is somewhat lesser-known, which is a pity because it does not pale when compared to the other wind concertos.

The cello was Jolivet’s own instrument, so no wonder that his cello concertos are among his greatest achievements. By the time he completed his Cello Concerto No.1 (1962), Jolivet had already composed one of his most gripping and personal, and at times controversial, works - the impressive Piano Concerto of 1951 (a recording of it is now available again on Les Rarissimes de André Jolivet – EMI 7243 5 85237-2 that I reviewed here some time ago). In this as in the First Cello Concerto, Jolivet, now in his full maturity and in full command of his skills, really achieves his Jeune France ideals, in invigorating musical terms full of contrasts, arresting sonorities and rhythmic alertness. In the first and second movements of the First Cello Concerto, the music conjures mysterious, ominous, primeval visions, no less so in the extraordinary second movement; really a jungle in sounds that also includes a remarkable cadenza. The third movement, a brilliant moto perpetuo, has the dancing quality often associated with Jolivet’s final movements, and rushes headlong towards its mightily assertive conclusion. Suite en concert for solo cello was completed some time later. This impressive, often quite beautiful work in five contrasted movements is certainly not unworthy the comparison with Bach’s cello suites (to which it pays a passing tribute), Bartok’s Sonata for Solo Violin and, of course, Kodaly’s grand Sonata for Solo Cello. This demanding music (Navarra once recalled in an interview how his fingers were bleeding after the first run-through), though, still is as communicative as ever. This led to the completion of the Second Cello Concerto written for and first performed by Rostropovich. Though unmistakably by the same composer, the Second Cello Concerto is poles apart from its predecessor. First, it is scored for strings (including a solo quintet surrounding the soloist). Second, it is on the whole more lyrical. The music, as demanding as ever, fully displays Jolivet’s orchestral mastery; for, while renouncing the hugely varied sound palette of the First Cello Concerto, Jolivet conjures some remarkably imaginative and powerfully expressive string writing. As far as I am concerned, Jolivet’s cello concertos undoubtedly belong to his greatest achievements, though they are still unjustly and shamefully neglected by cellists, which is hard to understand, when one thinks of the comparative popularity of Dutilleux’s and Lutosławski’s equally demanding and rewarding concertos.

One of the Erato recordings, that – much to my dismay – is unaccountably missing in the present compilation, is that of the magnificent ‘concerto for voice and orchestra’ Songe à nouveau rêvé (1970), one of his supreme masterpieces and one of the peaks of his output. It was available on the same LP as Poèmes intimes (STU 71120) marvellously sung by Colette Herzog with superb support from the Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg conducted by Alain Lombard. I know that making compilations such as this one often poses cruel dilemmas; but I cannot understand how this could have been left out. I hope that it will soon be re-issued in one way or another.

All these works are superbly played by artists long associated with Jolivet’s music. The recorded sound is generally very fine. The original recordings of the Harp Concerto and of the Ondes Martenot Concerto were a bit problematic, but they now sound remarkably well.

Apart from my reservation concerning the absence of Songe à nouveau rêvé, this compilation is a must for all admirers of Jolivet’s music, the more so that some of these works are otherwise unavailable on CD. This set is also a fair introduction to Jolivet’s substantial and varied output. As such it may be safely recommended to those who want to investigate his music, in excellent performances and at quite approachable expense.

Hubert Culot

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