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Decca Phase 4
Jour d'été à la montagne (Pour orchestre à Henry Kunkelmann), Op.
61 (1905) [30:42]
La Forêt enchantée (Légende-Symphonie d'après une Ballade
de Uhland à Pierre de Bréville), Op. 8 (1878) [13:36]
Souvenirs (Poème pour orchestre à la mémoire de la Bien-Aimée), Op.
62 (1907) [18:45]
Symphony Orchestra/Rumon Gamba
rec. 9-11 October 2007, Háskólabió, Iceland
CHANDOS CHAN10464 [63:25]
a pedagogue Vincent d'Indy bequeathed us a number of orchestral
works that, on the strength of this disc at least, ought
to be much better known. Certainly a quick Google reveals
a paucity of d'Indy recordings so this, the first in a projected
cycle, is most welcome. As for the Icelanders they are new
to me but their British-born music director Rumon Gamba isn’t;
his Malcolm Arnold overtures with the BBC Philharmonic (Chandos
CHAN 10293) has given me great pleasure and must now be the
benchmark in this repertoire.
how does Gamba fare with d'Indy? The earliest piece here is La
Forêt enchantée, premiered in
1878. Despite being a fervent patriot d'Indy readily embraced
Wagner, whose influence pervades this work from start to
finish. Apart from the ripely Romantic orchestration there
is also an echo of Tannhäuser in the knight Harald’s
journey through an enchanted forest and his encounter with
all very atmospheric, beginning with ominous timps and horn
fanfares. And even though we expect ear-pricking realism
from Ralph Couzens and his recording team this is something
extra special Perspectives are entirely natural and d'Indy’s
subtle orchestral palette is faithfully rendered. Gamba coaxes
some ravishing sounds from his players, the ghostlier passages
shimmering with detail.
the obvious Wagnerian overtones there is a pleasing Gallic
restraint – call it good taste, if you will – that prevents
this music from sounding overblown. The orchestra sounds
full-bodied, Harald’s martial rhythms and gallops nicely
articulated. As for those nodal cymbal clashes they are stirring
but never overdone. The finale as Harald drinks from the
enchanted fountain and falls into a deep sleep, surrounded
by a magic circle of elves, is as translucently beautiful
as anything Debussy ever wrote.
course Claude Achille’s fingerprints are all over Jour
d'été à la montagne, an impressions of a day in
the Ardèches. The brooding C on the lower strings that ushers
in ‘Aurore’ is a marvellous piece of scene painting, in some
ways reminiscent of Richard Strauss’s Alpine ramble; just
listen to how d'Indy conjures up the rising sun, the chirp
of birds and the rustle of leaves. Yes, it’s a cliché but
the composer brings a freshness and skill to this music that
is irresistible. As sunrises go this is pretty impressive,
as is the Icelanders’ consistently fine playing.
Although ‘Jour’ seems
a touch Wagnerian at times there is a redeeming lightness
to the writing. Once again the engineers have worked their
magic, the folk dance and gathering storm superbly dramatic.
But it’s Gamba who deserves the most praise for his seemingly
intuitive pacing and phrasing; and, as tempting as it may
be, he never succumbs to self-indulgence either.
In ‘Soir’ the
scoring is more forthright than usual, the Gregorian chant
reminiscent of Respighi’s Church Windows. Comparisons
aside, there is little doubt d'Indy’s orchestral style has
crystallised; it now has a strength and integrity of its
own. As dusk approaches we hear pizzicato strings and a lonely
horn before the music moves into a twilight world of gossamer
lightness and muted colours. The gentle coda, a wisp of a
thing, is sheer magic, played and recorded to perfection.
returned from a conducting tour of the USA in 1905 to find
his wife dying from a brain haemorrhage. Souvenirs, dedicated
to her memory, is Wagnerian in its leitmotiv-like
use of the ‘Bien-Aimée theme’ from his Poème des montagnes of
1881. The first movement is elegiac, the solo cello infusing
the music with sadness, but then d'Indy resolves to celebrate
their life together with a mix of nostalgia and affection.
Souvenirs is perhaps the most original work on the disc. There is a new transparency
and purpose to the writing and Gamba judges the changes of
pace and mood with great sensitivity. I must single out the
solo clarinet and cor anglais, who phrase the Bien-Aimée
theme with such feeling. And then there are the noble horns
and solo cello, who also deserve a mention in despatches.
a promising start to this cycle. Apart from bringing these
neglected scores to new audiences this recording also confirms
Gamba as a conductor to watch. The orchestral playing is
exemplary, the engineering spectacular. In many ways this
lovely collection reminds me of Seascapes (see review),
where good production values also yielded memorable results.
sonic and musical treat. Not to be missed.
see also review by Jens F Laurson
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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