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Vincent d’INDY (1851-1931)
Wallenstein Op. 12 (1870-81) [37.05]
Choral varié for viola and orchestra Op. 55 (1903) [11.53]
Lied for viola and orchestra Op. 19 (1883) [7.10]
Saugefleurie Op. 21 (1884) [17.25]
Lawrence Power (viola)
BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Thierry Fischer
rec. Brangwyn Hall, Guildhall, Swansea, 20-23 February 2008
HYPERION CDA67690 [73.42] 


Experience Classicsonline

I have often wondered why the music of Vincent d’Indy has not really made much impression on the repertoire, except that is for the relatively well known ‘Symphonie sur un chant montagnard français’. Concert-goers should not regard him as a 20th Century, ‘modern’ composer but as firmly fixed in the late-Romantic period. The ‘problem’ is that he outlived both Debussy and Ravel and knew Messiaen. However, as this music testifies, although he was not immune to the various ‘progressive’ developments of his time, he remains firmly a Wagnerian as were Ernest Chausson and César Franck (his teacher). D’Indy himself later became an influential teacher. 

This release is most welcome and Chandos are also in the process of recording his orchestral works so it may be that D’Indy’s day is upon us. You could however do no better than to start here. 

‘Wallenstein’ has been recorded several times before. In fact I have a 1975 version with Pierre Dervaux and the Orchestre Philharmonique du Pays de Loire on EMI (CDM 7 63953 – nla). This new version is superior both in the playing of the Welsh Orchestra and in the recorded quality although Dervaux takes the whole work at a brisker pace with a greater overall architectural sense; also I prefer his couplings. Wallenstein, despite its opus number was begun when D’Indy was still a student but he took eleven years to bring it to fruition. It is in three sections. Andrew Thomson in his otherwise exemplary notes calls them, curiously, “Overtures”, surely they cannot really be played separately! 

The first is the breezy ‘Wallenstein’s Camp’. The story is based on Schiller’s poetic drama which is set in the 17th Century. Wallenstein was the treacherous general of the Imperial Hapsburg Army who is suspected of treason against Emperor Ferdinand II. His own son is in love with Thekla who is also the daughter of an officer who is plotting against him. Wagnerian leitmotifs are to the fore and d’Indy ingeniously manipulates them especially in the second movement which is a ternary form portrait of Thekla and her lover Max. In the finale D’Indy writes of Wallenstein’s Death in an incredibly sombre funereal opening - wonderfully realized on this new recording. There’s a powerful middle section and a despondent and reflective ending. The whole work shows a maturity beyond the composer’s years but also stamps his personality, at least at this time, as a Wagnerite. Here was a composer who was particularly inspired by all things German, a situation that would inevitably fall out of fashion. 

The other purely orchestral work on this CD is ‘Saugefleurie’ which also has several Wagnerian characteristics. Based on a poem by D’Indy’s very old friend Robert de Bonnières it has all of ideal traits to make a symphonic poem, in which the characters have their own motifs - very much in tune with its times. There is a fairy, Saugefleurie (Ab major with sometimes delicate flute and harps) who falls in love with a Prince (given a somewhat heroic melody) but whose love can never be requited as she will die once she has given herself to him. There is a hunting scene, with terrific Siegfried-like horn passages and finally there is the death of our heroine with a radiant coda. Yet, as Andrew Thomson remarks “the music remains characteristically French in its sonorous refinement and clear, luminous orchestration”. 

Lawrence Power has recorded, with much praise, for Hyperion before, for example the Rubbra and Walton Viola Concertos (CDA 67587) and those by York Bowen and Cecil Forsyth (CDA 67546), His tone is rich and warm and wonderfully focused and is a real advert for this often much misunderstood instrument.  D’Indy’s Choral Varié is a dark, processional-type work with two main melodic ideas called in the detailed analytical booklet essay by Andrew Thomson  segments 1 and 2. They almost approach Gregorian chant except that the first uses notes best placed in the whole-tone scale. Talking of which although modality and minor tonality are mainly employed there is an ‘Impressionist passage’ on woodwind in the middle of the work. This shows that d’Indy, often seen as opposed to Debussy et al and who does not often go in for orchestral display, could be much influenced by him.  On the whole this is a very un-Debussian, sombre but fine and moving work. 

The other work for viola and orchestra is ‘Lied’ which is an elegant song in something like sonata form. The opening melody is in Bb major and the second melody in G minor. This latter gains some almost Ravel-like development in its gentle progress which also incorporates along its path some felicitous orchestration. 

This kind of repertoire is meat and drink to Thierry Fischer who has made a speciality in recent times of Frank Martin, Honegger and even the early Romantics. He brings the best out of the music. All in all this is an honourable and fine release and should be enjoyed by any music-lover. I’m not sure, just to be a bit picky, if the picture on the cover by that highly original and at times controversial artist Paul Gauguin (d.1903) is quite suitable for d’Indy. Possibly Manet might have been a more adroit match. 

Gary Higginson 


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