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In Flanders Fields Vol. 49
Suite en forme de sonate Op.60 (1918) [29:23]
Sonatine Op.88 (1929) [9:18]
Georges LONQUE (1900-1969)
Tableaux d'une chambre bleue Op.43 (1952) [5:49]
Nuit d'automne Op.11 (1929) [5:20]
Nocturne Op.45 (1955) [5:09]
Danse espagnole Op.10 (1929) [2:39]
Danse mauresque Op.29 (1942) [5:04]
Voilier Op.42 (1952) [4:09]
Hans Ryckelynck (piano)
rec. Academiezaal, Sint-Truiden, Belgium, July 2005
PHAEDRA 92049 [70:14]

Although he composed a large and varied output for piano, Joseph Jongen never wrote a traditional 'grand' piano sonata. He nevertheless came near to it when he composed one of his first major piano works, the Suite en forme de sonate Op.60. It is in four movements: Sonatine - paying homage to Scarlatti, Le neige sur les Fagnes - an atmospheric tone poem, Menuet and Rondeau, the latter a lively peasant dance. The music is quintessentially mature Jongen with its blend of classical clarity and of colourful Impressionism.
On the other hand, the Sonatine Op.88 is probably one of his most popular works, the one that succeeded in securing a lasting place in the pianists' repertoire. Quite deservedly so: its elegant Neo-classicism never outstays its welcome. For all its brevity and conciseness - it encompasses the most characteristic features of Jongen's mature idiom: Jongen in a nutshell.
Georges Lonque is lesser known than Jongen; which does not of course mean that his music is uninteresting. He was born into a musical family. His father was a viola player, his brother Theo was a cellist and his brother Armand a pianist who also composed a bit. Lonque graduated from the Ghent Conservatory with first prizes in violin, harmony, counterpoint and fugue. For eighteen years he played in the Ghent Opera orchestra. He also taught at his home town's conservatory. His output is not considerable in quantity, but far from negligible in quality. He composed several orchestral works, such as the beautiful orchestral suite Porcelaine de Saxe Op.25 (1939) and a fine Violin Concerto Op.40 (1948) recorded many years ago in a long-deleted boxed LP set devoted to the so-called Ecole belge du violon; as well as chamber works (including a String Quartet Op.24), piano music, songs and a Missa Pro Pace Op.27 (1941 - tenor, male chorus and orchestra or organ). It is rarely heard, let alone recorded, which makes these recordings most welcome. Although he belongs to a younger generation than Jongen, Lonque shared a number of artistic concerns with his senior colleague, particularly his liking for French Impressionism and the music of Fauré, Debussy and Ravel. This is to be heard clearly in the piano pieces recorded here, written between 1929 and 1952 but showing very little stylistic change. Lonque found his own musical voice early in his composing life and stuck to it regardless of fashion.
One can nevertheless note some stylistic progress. Nuit d'automne Op.11 (1929) is still indebted to late-Romanticism, though with a hint of Impressionism. Danse espagnole Op.10, also composed in 1929, is a delightful vignette in the vein of Albeniz. The somewhat later Danse mauresque Op.29 (1942) again looks towards Southern Spain rather than the Middle East, whereas the beautiful Nocturne Op.45 (1955) - and, to my mind, one of his finest piano pieces - reminds one of Manuel de Falla. Tableaux d'une chambre bleue Op.43, a lovely suite of short impressions of childhood, is Gallic in character and written in an elegant Neo-classical vein. Voiliers Op.42 is a small-scale tone poem cast as a barcarole with telling Impressionistic touches. From all this, you will understand that Lonque's piano music should appeal to all those who relish the music of Fauré, Debussy, Ravel, de Falla and Albeniz. This is music that speaks for itself in a most refreshing way without breaking any new ground but with much charm and character.
Hans Ryckelynck's readings seem very fine. He obviously enjoys the music and brings the best out of it. The recording is excellent, although a bit on the bright side. This may be partly due to the instrument - a new Bösendorfer Model 280 concert grand piano which may not be particularly well suited to this repertoire. Nevertheless, this is yet another welcome and worthy release from Phaedra, one that might help renew interest in Lonque's long absent yet elegant music.
Hubert Culot



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