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RECORDING OF THE MONTH

 

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André JOLIVET (1905-1974)
Violin Sonata (1932)a [19:32]
Incantation (1937) [3:48]
Suite rhapsodique (1965) [17:42]
Violin Concerto (1972)b [37:59]
Devy Erlih (violin); Manabu Sekiya (piano)a; Orchestre National, Marius Constantb
rec. (live) Japan, 1991 (Violin Sonata); Château du Seuil, Aix-en-Provence, June 1977 (Incantation, Suite rhapsodique) and (live) Théâtre de la Ville, Paris, April 1975 (Violin Concerto)
LYRINX LYR 242 [79:09]

 

On the occasion of the centenary, Lyrinx have re-issued a number of their earlier recordings of Jolivet’s music. They have added some hitherto unpublished tapes, such as this performance of the Violin Concerto; Jolivet’s only major concerto left unrecorded over the years. There’s also the long-forgotten Violin Sonata (1932). Let it be said straightaway: this release is a must for all admirers of the composer.

The Violin Sonata composed in 1932 is one of the earliest major works and curiously enough has remained unperformed until it was found in the composer’s papers several years after his death. In fact, the first movement was performed in 1933, but the first complete performance was by Erlih in October 1989. It was not mentioned in Hilda Jolivet’s book (Avec André Jolivet, Flammarion,1978), but is now published and features in the catalogue available on www.jolivet.asso.fr - a very well-made site well worth more than the occasional visit. It is a substantial work in three movements, and one already displaying many features that have since been regarded as typical Jolivet fingerprints. As is the case with a number of early major works by Jolivet (the piano suite Mana and the String Trio for example), Bartók’s model is in evidence. This is not at the expense of Jolivet’s personal voice already apparent at that time. The outer movements brim with characteristic muscular writing, sometimes of considerably taxing virtuosity. The ecstatic slow movement draws the listener into the same meditative, almost mystical atmosphere, that will often characterise his slow movements in later works. Listen for example to similar effects in. the slow movements of the Second Trumpet Concerto, the First Cello Concerto or the Concerto for ondes Martenot.

IncantationPour que l’image devienne symbôle” (1937) was originally written for flute and is often recorded with Cinq Incantations (1936). It also exists in a version for violin. This is the edition we hear. The much later Suite rhapsodique for solo violin is one of the several suites for solo instruments: Ascèses for clarinet, Eglogues for viola and Suite en concert for cello. These are all major pieces from the composer’s full maturity. The model for the Suite rhapsodique as well as for the other suites is, no doubt, Bartók’s masterly Sonata for Solo Violin; but once again the music is entirely Jolivet’s own. The Suite rhapsodique may be more overtly melodic and it sometimes sounds oriental (it was written after a trip to Israel). Vintage Jolivet at his most accessible.

The substantial Violin Concerto (1972) is Jolivet’s only concerto that has never appeared on disc before. Neither has it been much performed, let alone recorded, since its première by Luben Yordanof and the Orchestre de Paris conducted by Zdenek Maçal. Here it is, at long last, and it has been worth the wait. It is a substantial large-scale work. It might even be Jolivet’s longest concerto. Written when the composer’s skills were at their highest, it does not pale when compared to the somewhat better-known cello concertos. The Violin Concerto is in three substantial movements: an impassioned opening movement, a tripartite central Largo (actually slow meditative outer sections framing a furious Scherzo) and a grand, powerfully energetic, rousing Finale. There is no doubt about it: Jolivet’s Violin Concerto is a masterpiece, and one “hidden” from us for too many long years. The soloist’s part is taxing; but once its technical difficulties have been mastered, the music – and thus the whole piece – is immensely rewarding. Much of Jolivet’s best music is difficult; but, no matter how complex it may be, it communicates powerfully thanks to its great expressive strength and thanks to the composer’s honesty and generosity. This is music that takes one by the scruff of the neck and will not let you go.

Devy Erlih, a long-time champion, plays superbly throughout, with assurance and conviction, bringing out the many facets of Jolivet’s music. The recordings from various sources are inevitably of varying quality, but are always quite satisfactory. The recording of the Sonata, however, is not particularly flattering (it sounds as if recorded out doors), but Erlih’s committed playing does much more than compensate. Curiously enough, the sound of the live recording of the Violin Concerto is remarkably fine with very little in the way of unwanted noises. The recorded performances of Incantation and Suite rhapsodique were originally released in a double-LP set (Lyrinx 7707-008/9) published in the late 1970s and sound satisfactory.

Let’s not forget there is another Lyrinx CD of Jolivet chamber works on LYR 244.

This is a very important release and a must for all Jolivet fans. I hope that it will draw violinists’ attention to a long-neglected masterpiece. Lyrinx are to be wholeheartedly congratulated for their untiring championing of Jolivet’s music. I hope now that they will soon re-issue their recordings of the three symphonies.

Hubert Culot

 

 

 

 

 

 



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