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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


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André JOLIVET (1905-1974)
Chant de Linos for flute, violin, viola, cello and harp (1944) [5:50]
Sonate for flute and piano* (1958) [15:58]
Cinq incantations for flute solo (1936) [16:55]
Suite en Concert for flute and percussion (1965) [15:59]
Cabrioles for flute and piano* (1953) [1:10]
Eline van Esch (flute) and Ensemble
Gerard Bouwhuis (piano)*
rec. Frits Philips Concert Hall, Eindhoven, September 2005
ETCETERA KTC1322 [62:38]

 


I’ve never found André Jolivet to be a composer who is easy to take in a whole sitting, but the clever presentation and programming by Eline van Esch and Etcetera have sugared the pill: colourful covers and illustrations can render ‘difficult’ music attractive. The flautist’s association of Jolivet’s works with the paintings of Jos van den Berg is illustrated with examples in the CD booklet and described in her own introduction, which sums up in a paragraph that which is elaborated upon later in helpful notes by Jeanine Landheer.

Jolivet associated the flute with ‘the breath of life’, and with his search for musical influences outside the Western mainstream was attracted to the ‘primitive’ aspects of both flute and percussion. Together with other musicians, Olivier Messiaen among their number, he co-founded ‘La Jeune France’ in 1936 and produced the Cinq incantations for flute solo in the same year. Heavy with symbolism, the works are given elaborate titles which form a kind of collective narrative from “To receive the negotiators…” to “For the burial of the chieftan…”, but listening ‘blind’ the pieces are especially impressive for their intensity and impassioned expressiveness. Eline van Esch is a superb advocate for these works, standing foursquare behind every note and never letting up – convincing us of musical content and never hiding behind impressive technique within a modern idiom. 

Carrying on in chronological order, Chant de Linos was originally written for flute and piano as a commission for a competition at the Paris Conservatoire in which Jean-Pierre Rampal won first prize. The two musicians became great friends, and the composer later heightened the mythological element in the work by re-arranging it with harp and strings. In this version, the piece does take on more of a timeless poise in the more intimate sections, but the rhythmic charge is also dynamic and passionately challenging for players and audience alike. 

Cabrioles, the closing piece on the disc, was composed as a short study for flute students, and is a well judged finale – the title meaning something like ‘capers’. The other work for flute and piano is the far more substantial Sonate, which was written for Jean-Pierre Rampal and Robert Veyron-Lacroix. Unexpectedly for Jolivet, the work has a classical three movement form, and while the idiom is at times angular and atonal, the piece is in fact quite lyrical and approachable for much of the time. Where lyricism ends, drama takes over, and there are some dark and threatening moments in which the primitive Jolivet comes through again. 

The Suite en Concert for Flute and Percussion was written in 1965, while Jolivet was professor of composition at the Conservatoire in Paris. This piece is also known as his second flute concerto and as such forming part of a series, and is also dedicated to Jean-Pierre Rampal. The ‘orchestra’ consists of four percussionists, and there are four contrasting movements, each with its own rich variety of colour and character. There is none of the gentle relief one might have hoped for from tuned percussion such as marimbas or vibraphone, but, reflecting Jolivet’s earlier introduction to composition through Edgar Varèse, has aspects of the elder composer’s uncompromising approach to sound – especially in percussion. The penultimate Hardiment movement has some infectious rhythms which carry the listener on, and, to my ears, renders the flute to an almost secondary role – the rhythm is something your ears can follow and enjoy, the flute is ‘way out there’ somewhere, with technically exotic lines which are harder to take in. Other movements possess atmospheric calm, in which the expressive lines of the flute can more easily take on the foreground. 

All of the works here are superbly performed and recorded. The Frits Philips hall has a reasonably resonant acoustic, with some reflections which are stimulated by louder dynamics, but with fairly close microphone placements you get intimacy, detail and the concert-hall experience all at the same time. Eline van Esch, well known in The Netherlands and abroad, is an excellent soloist and advocate for Jolivet’s music, and with a team of musicians sourced from the cream of Dutch music making there can be no cause for complaint when it comes to the ensemble pieces.
 
Dominy Clements
     

 


 

 


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