The restoration of Jaques-Dalcroze’s compositional
fortunes continues. Sterling
contained some wry orchestral music and as with this
Guild disc, it was Moscow forces that paraded them, the same orchestra
as here in fact, though Sterling employed Adriano to conduct.
Jaques-Dalcroze is best known now for his invention of eurhythmics.
But as a musical theoretician Jaques-Dalcroze was also a well
received composer of the time – his songs were popular, and he
wrote widely. He was also chummy with many leading soloists. In
the case of his violin music for example, Ysaÿe premiered the
Nocturne in June 1900.
Henri Marteau did the honours for the Concerto in C minor which was first heard in 1900. The composer was thirty-six, and writes with mellifluous, if old-fashioned charm. The work is decently structured, buttressed by some columnar orchestral passages, but let down by a first movement fugal section of feebly orthodox, academic windbaggery. There is, otherwise, genial non-virtuoso and slightly meandering progress in which the soloist is more a colouristic agent than a striving propagandist for novelty or melodic distinction. There is chorale solemnity in the central movement, then flowing lyricism; attractive though not especially distinctive. The slightly pomposo
pealing motif that starts the finale carries strong late Romantic charges, and then a floridly exciting waltz section enters. This is all nicely pointed though undeniably episodic. It takes the concerto dangerously near ballet music waters, a genre at which he was clearly adept. If this suggests a distillation of the concerto ethos I wouldn’t disagree. It ignores the Brahms-Tchaikovsky axis wholly.
The companion work, first performed in Stuttgart in 1909, is the Poème, a descriptive title that may hint at Ysaÿe-Chausson in orientation; it was dedicated to the former, in fact, though there’s no evidence he played it. It’s a long work though, clocking in at forty minutes or so in this performance. The suggestive orchestral suspensions and soliloquising solo instrument suggest Debussy as a strong influence but all couched in a doloroso
patina which does open later into more florid uplands before the appearance of a funeral cortege. This two movement work, roughly equal in length, suggests the structure of gloom opening out into light. The second movement’s exchanges between violin and lower brass offer intriguing textual colouration, and the more light-hearted writing does offer suitable contrast. It’s all far too long-winded though, and by the end I had been reduced to near critical mutiny at the painful progress.
I don’t have any reference performance against which to measure these Moscow traversals but my hunch is that they are all too dutiful. There’s a rather half-hearted element to the music-making and whilst I happen privately to sympathise, one would need wholly committed performances to put across the works with the kind of fortitude they need. Nevertheless Zamuruev is an agile player, and helps to make a plausible case for these two flawed works.