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Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Maurice EMMANUEL (1862-1938)
Les six Sonatines: No. 1 Bourguignonne (1893) [7:29]; No. 2 Pastorale (1897) [8:32]; No. 3 (1920) [8:27]; No. 4 sur les modes hindous (1920) [9:29]; No. 5 alla francese (1925) [10:19]; No. 6 (1925) [7:11]
Sonate en trio for clarinet, flute and piano (1907) [11:36]
Marie-Catherine Girod (piano)
Alain Marion (flute)
Richard Vieille (clarinet)
rec. Paris, Sept 1986. AAD
Collection Musiques Françaises

ACCORD 476 165 8 [63:48]

Maurice Emmanuel despite a pitilessly cruel jibe by Delibes rose to recognition which has only just held firm following his death just a year short of the Second World War.

His six sonatinas were written between the ages of 31 and 63. They have in common a title, conciseness and a consanguinity of language. Within that frame there is variety. The First is in four movements, four of them are in three and the Alla Francese is in six. Some of the sonatinas have evocative titles; others have none. The individual movements of Pastorale and Alla Francese also have titles; the former involving birds (La Caille, Le Rossignol, Le Coucou - Quail, Nightingale, Cuckoo) and the latter the typical Bachian complement (Ouverture, Courante, Sarabande, Gavotte, Pavane et Gaillarde and Gigue). The Bach titles of No. 5 should come as no surprise. He edited various of Bach’s work clavier including the Partitas, Italian Concerto and French and English Suites. The Fifth is dedicated to Robert Casadesus and comprises music of cut-glass precision but with an emotional dimension related to Poulenc. The Fourth Hindou is dedicated to Busoni (who also wrote six Sonatinas). Delage, Koechlin, Schmitt, Cras, Tomasi and Roussel amongst many others delighted in the exotic harmonic world of the Far East and in increasingly impressionistic finery this work moves in a dreamy and suggestive world becoming menacingly assertive in the warlike and cruel finale. It reminded me of John Foulds’ Essays in the Modes; itself published by Salabert in Paris and recorded on Altarus and Bis.

I cannot imagine Girod being bettered in this music. She is no stranger to Emmanuel returning to his works in 1995 for the Timpani collection of Emmanuel songs (1C1030). That disc included Odelettes Anacréontiques Op. 13 (1911); Musiques Op. 17 (1918); Vocalise-Étude Op. 24 (1926); In Memoriam Op. 11 (1908).

Girod faces some competition from the similarly adventurous Peter Jacobs who recorded all six on Continuum CCD1048. However there is no coupling in that case and from what I can recall the golden extremes of impression are not quite as vividly put across as they are here. To have the Sonate en Trio would in any event have swung the recommendation given the excellence of Girod’s reading.

Emmanuel’s two symphonies have been recorded and issued on Marco Polo 8.223507 along with his Poème du Rhin. The First (1919) was written to the memory of a young airman killed in the Great War - rather like one of Loeffler’s string quartets. The Second (1931) is entitled Le Breton. The Chansons Bourguignonnes du Pays de Beaune are available on Warner Erato 0927 44656 2 (Dawn Upshaw) and on Marco Polo (Florence Katz, mezzo; Jean-Pierre Quenaudon, tenor; Laure Rivierre, piano; Choeur Regional de Bourgogne/Roger Toulet (8.223891). Perhaps we can now hope for recordings of the two lyric tragedies, the string quartet and the cello sonata.

Until then anyone interested in the freshness and profusion of the French music from the period 1890-1930 should track down this disc - the more so at its attractive mid-range price. Rewarding music and anything with Madame Girod in it is going to be worth hearing. I only wish that we heard more of her.

Rob Barnett


 

 



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