An aspect of D’Indy’s output that is not frequently mentioned
is his inclination to travel in music. In addition to the famous
Symphony on a French Mountain Air we have the early Symphonie
Italienne, the Jour d'été à la Montagne,
Dyptique Méditerranéen and a number of other scenic
or geographically -oriented works. Karadec and Tableaux
de Voyage, two of the three pieces on this new disc, fit into
this same category.
Karadec was originally incidental music to a play
taking place in Brittany.
The suite consists of three parts, all three betraying a charm
that is far from the heaviness associated with many of the
composer’s more ambitious works. The Prélude comprises
a folksy march followed by a Franckian middle section. The
major interest lies in how D’Indy brings back the opening
march, only to turn it progressively sadder and more distant
- a characteristic of many of his works. The Chanson that
follows is charming, but lacking in character. In the Noce
bretonne (Breton Wedding) the original march theme
returns, but somewhat agitated, with the composer developing
it further in interesting style. The agitation gives way to
a new and happy theme on the oboe, leading to a return of
the Prélude’s music. In short, not a gripping work,
but one with much charm.
Brittany we cross the border to Germany and the Black
Forest. In spite of his rabid patriotism,
D’Indy had a great love for German culture. The Tableaux
de voyage consists of orchestrations of six of a cycle
of thirteen piano pieces from 1889. They are linked by the
use of mediant relationships - intervals a third apart - producing
a sense of expansiveness. This is very obvious in the opening
Préambule where thirds on woodwinds produce a sense
of mystery on entering the forest. En marche is pleasant, with an alternation of a
folk melody and a quavering figure which both die away in
the typical D’Indy manner mentioned above. This is perhaps
the highlight of the work. Appropriately solemn is Le Glas
(the knell or toll). This has a wavering use of C-minor
and a beautiful development of a melody on clarinet and viola,
with references to the Préambule. The next two movements,
Lac vert (Green Lake) and La Poste are less interesting although the latter has
moments that are reminiscent of Pierné, which the latter composer
would certainly have thought a compliment. The final Rêve,
again in C-minor, starts out sounding like Bruckner’s Seventh,
but becomes livelier and ends with quotations from several
of the other movements. Again, a charming work, but not of
the most substantial.
Symphony No. 2 is considered by many to be the most
important of the composer’s many orchestral works. D’Indy’s
adherence to cyclic form is well-known and the Symphony No.
2 is based upon not one but two motifs that appear throughout.
They are presented in the introduction to the first movement
- the first motif disturbing and slightly amorphous and the
second nobler and reassuring. What is interesting is that
they both have whole-tone elements and the use of whole-tones
appears throughout the symphony. The main part of the first
movement is a sonata-form disturbed by the first motif, but
also containing beautiful developments of the second motif.
The slow movement consists of contrasting variations of the
two motifs, with some interesting orchestration. In the third
movement we have a new theme on viola, followed by much use
of the whole-tone scale, generating a real sense of mystery.
This is followed by variants of the viola theme. In the last
movement the first motif is turned into a fugue before the
main theme, based on the second motif, appears. This is happy
and light-hearted and excellently developed. Although there
are reminiscences of the first motif, the new theme continues
on to a grandiose chorale - a fine end to the symphony.
woodwinds of the Iceland Symphony are first rate, especially
in the Tableaux de voyage and Karadec. The strings
are also very solid. Gamba’s rendition of the latter piece
compares well with available competition by Douglas Bostock
as does his Tableaux with the old version by Dervaux.
For the Symphony I have to say that I prefer Plasson’s version.
But overall this is a creditable effort, especially as a complete
D'Indy does not come our way every day.