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Marcel LANDOWSKI (1915-1999)
The Warner Landowski Edition
Maurice Andre, David Wilson-Johnson, Michel Bouquet, Galina Vishnevskaya, Mstislav Rostropovich, Danilo Sanges, Catherine Dubosc, Michel Senechal, Alfred Mittenhofer, Jose Van Dam, Philippe Huttenlocher
Alain Lombard, Georges Pretre, Jean Martinon, Marc Soustrot
Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra, French National Orchestra, ORTF National Orchestra, Pays De Loire Philharmonic Orchestra
Full artist details and track-listings below
WARNER CLASSICS 2564695917
[9 CDs: c.496:00]

Experience Classicsonline

CD 1 [67:37]
Piano Concerto No. 2
Concerto for ondes martenot, strings and percussion
Concerto for trumpet and electro-acoustic instruments
CD 2 [66:39]
Symphony No. 1 Jean de la Peur
Symphony No. 3 in B minor Des Espaces
Symphony No. 4
CD 3 [23:41]
Symphony No. 2
CD 4 [55:55]
Le Fantome de L'Opera (excerpts)
CD 5 [59:44]
Un enfant appelle - Concerto-Opera for soprano, cello, percussions and orchestra
La Prison
CD 6 [74:38]
La Vieille Maison - Musical story in two acts
CD 7 [71:12]

Messe de L'Aurore
4 Pieces for trumpet and organ
CD 8-9 [42:08 + 43:33]
Le Fou - Lyrical drama in four acts

 
Landowski was born in Brittany but spent much of his life in and around the life and institutions of Paris. There are five symphonies (1948-98), plenty of concertos, eight operas and large-scale choral-orchestral pieces. Symphony No. 5 Les Lumières de la nuit for chamber forces, and of 23 minutes duration, was premiered on 20 November 1998 at the Théâtre des Champs Élysées by Ensemble Orchestral de Paris/John Nelson. As with many composers of the last century including his early model, Honegger, Landowski made his way with music for the screen, big and small, between 1942 and 1966. He became a part of the upper echelons of the administrative aristocracy of the French cultural world. He worked extensively in this realm with André Malraux, who was de Gaulle's cultural minister, to reform French artistic life of the 1960s and 1970s. The renaissance of the Paris Opera, the inception of the Orchestre de Paris and the various French regional orchestras were in large part down to his work. This absorbed much of his energy between 1962 and 1975 when he again turned to composing.
 
The artist list for this set reads like a roll-call of the great and good in French musical life.
 
The Piano Concerto No. 2 broods and buzzes with ominous threats, Waltonian energy and a limpid beauty the latter often carried by the piano. The music has aspects of Fauré, Bartók and Herrmann. French romantic cinema surely also plays a role in the last movement.
 
The Ondes Martenot had already has music written for it by Messiaen and Jolivet when Landowski wrote his Concerto. Its typically haunting voice leads the listener through a most expressive journey without dissonance but full of tension. By the way do have a look at Thomas Bloch’s website celebrating the instrument and its concert repertoire.
 
The Trumpet Concerto is from 1977. It was written for and premiered by that breathtaking stalwart of the French musical scene and beyond, Maurice André. The orchestra is supplemented with 'electro-acoustic elements' which growl and snarl most prominently at the start of the finale. Again the sense of quest and sensitivity subjugates the instrument's proclivity for display. This music is not like that of Hovhaness but Landowski uses the trumpet with a similar taste for inwardness and song rather than dazzle.
 
The 1948 First Symphony is dedicated to Monteux but was premiered at the Pasdeloup by Albert Wolff. In three movements and is a work of stricken emotion. It tracks a course rising from moaning threats over an avian woodwind ostinato to a dervish-whirled climax of some bitterness. This fades into stratospheric birdsong. This chittering is picked up with fugal insistence in the allegretto. The effect is continued with purposeful determination in the final Adagio which takes violin-lofted wing at 4:10 but which evolves into a grand merciless cortege.
 
Charles Bruck in Strasbourg premiered the two movement Third Symphony in 1965. The composer tells us the title, Les Espaces, refers to the great spaces of the world real and those sometimes imagined in our dreams. A Berg-Barber sweetness in the strings is married with the groaning and barking tragedy we encounter in the Allan Pettersson symphonies. The final enigmatic chord rising and light-filled impresses.
 
The Fourth Symphony dates from 1988 and was written for and premiered by Georges Prêtre that great veteran of French orchestral life. He conducted its first performance at the Théâtre Champs Elysées in Paris on 15 October 1988. It's in five movements. The first is like a slow-shifting meditation for strings with some connection to Messiaen's violin writing. The music has a tang perhaps in the manner of Hartmann but is not hard going. It again admits us over the longest span of any of the symphonies to the Landowski inscape. There eloquent tenderness glances over its shoulder at the cataclysm. You sense this strongly in the finale Le Quête in which breathtaking beauty and nobility announced near the start at 0:55 soon stand down in favour of nightmare and then rampage. The Dies Irae hangs there like a blurry phantasm in shifting clouds of sound.
 
CD 3 proffers only the 23:41 Second Symphony (1962). Its three movements again deploy music with a tonal anchor. That said, it journeys freely into dissonance and searing emotionalism akin to the style of Benjamin Frankel. The piano provides a plangent underpinning in this score. The conductor is Jean Martinon whose symphonies really should be recorded as an intégrale.
 
The extraordinary Gaston Leroux-based ballet Le Fantôme (1978) is represented by 55 minutes of seven extracts from the Roland Petit ballet. The young singer and her young man are all represented as are the screams and coughing of the audience and the crashing chandelier. The music recalls William Schuman's purposeful arches of violin sound. The orchestra is again supplemented with electro-acoustic sound effects, David Wilson-Johnson's vocalising and Michel Bouquet's oration. Playful innocence is again shadowed by tension shading its way into doom. Limpid beauty can be heard in the movements Les Rats and Un premier baiser. Les Rats includes some superb rodent music certainly up there with that of Shchedrin.
 
Landowski’s Un enfant appelle (1979) is a triptych song-cycle for soprano - in this case Vishnevskaya. The orchestra is here conducted by Rostropovich. It is in the finest perfumed Gallic tradition but lifted very gently by the feathery breeze of Landowski’s essentially lyrical style; there’s also a strong presence from the trumpet in the second song. It’s a lovely performance too with the singer still in very fine voice. La Prison – an unconventional work - stands tall in this company. Like the song-cycle it is in three movements. The music can be fierily dramatic; theatrical in fact but also splendidly detailed and bristling with imaginative touches often from the brass and percussion. The slow dripping of time is evoked in the final poetic section. This provides a gripping ostinato for the solo cello and the soprano’s magnificently acted, spoken, laughed and sung role. The words are by the composer.
 
La Vieille Maison is performed by the Pays de Loire forces conducted by Marc Soustrot. This time we hear the whole work which is in two acts: 11 tableaux and an overture. It's a tender tale to a libretto by the composer in which a child steals from his parents to give to a gangster whom the child believes to be a victim. The gangster turns from the subterfuge when he finds the child in himself and finally cannot perpetrate the crime. The music reminded me of a sort of amalgam of Messiaen, Berg and Ravel's L'Enfant et Les Sortileges: beguiling and dreamlike.
 
The Messe de l'Aurore (1975) marked Landowski's return to composition after fifteen years locked in the embrace of the French cultural ministry and reform of musical artistic life in France. It's a big work lasting about 45 minutes across the seven movements of the Mass and ending with an Amen. Good to hear Ian Caley's tenor again. The Colonne forces are conducted by that veteran of many a Vox Turnabout revival Pierre Cao. Its highly effective, written in his accustomed rootedly tonal idiom yet with freedom to probe into dissonance. Unusually for him the Gloria takes Landowski into some frankly ecstatic celebratory writing for the solo tenor and bass and the great Colonne choir. The Credo grates with understated Messiaen-like conflicts in brass and woodwind. A seraphically tolled out Agnus dei looks through dissonance-tinged veils back to the great example of Fauré. The bells of Amen rise to a billowing wave that crests and then subsides into the musing Ondes Martenot and the open choral glow that began the work.
 
The Four Pieces for Trumpet, Organ and orchestra are from 1977. They were premiered by Maurice André and Hedwig Bilgram in 1978. Their meditative proclivities leave us somewhere between Hovhaness's Avak The Healer and Messiaen's L'Ascension - more Messiaen than Hovhaness. If the Trumpet Concerto No. 2 eschewed display the same cannot be said of the proud rapturing and soaring adoration of the Jour de Joie finale.
 
Le Fou was Landowski's second opera. It's often referenced as his signature work. Written between 1948 and 1955 he also provided the text. Once again the work, which runs to approaching ninety minutes, is specified for individual solo voices, a choir, orchestra with ondes martenot (heard from the outset) and sparingly used electro-acoustic elements. The sound of waves and sea birds are blended with the instrumental work at the atmospheric beginning of Tableaux 3. Landowski here deploys a more direct use of natural world effects than the wind machine in Riders to the Sea or the Sinfonia Antarctica by Vaughan Williams. It tells a story taking place after WWII. Peter, a scientist, has invented and developed a weapon of untold destructive power. He refuses to give it to any government and for this he is tortured and executed. Along the way we meet a Prince, the Scientist's wife and Artus a police officer who will stop at nothing to get the weapon for his country. The work is dedicated to Albert Einsstein. It was premiered in Nancy, conducted by Jésus Etcheverry with Henri Peyrottes as Peter and mezzo Jane Rhodes as Bel, Peter's wife. There are tender moments here between Peter and Bel. Overall this is a powerful piece with more than its share of Oppenheimer moments. Contrary to my expectation is was by no means depressing. It is no wonder that it chalked up some one hundred performances in the ten years after the 1956 premiere. The music is full of individual touches some of the most memorable in the duet at the end of Tableau 2. The rhythmic intricacy, pile-driver power and jaguar speed of Tableau 4 are remarkable. Isobel's sensational vocalise in Tableau 5 recalls that of the famous Rachmaninov work but in this context to very much more poignant effect.
 
No words are provided for any of the works here but especially in Le Fou and La Vieille Maison the singing is of considerable clarity and emotional eloquence. Even those with rudimentary French should have little trouble with the direction of the plot even if the detail of the words occasionally eludes us. Warner include a handsome apology in the booklet that they were unable to provide the texts via their website. I am sorry that this also prevented the use even of texts written by Landowski himself. Ah well the commercial travails of copyright! If only the holders of the rights could have seen this project for its value as a promoter of further performance and of further income.
 
Warner Classical already have a very strong French stable with an invaluable Messiaen Edition (18 CDs 2564 62162-2) and boxed sets of Maurice Ohana (4 CDs 2564 61321-2) and André Jolivet (4 CDs 2564 61320-2). The present set first emerged piecemeal LP by LP, disc by disc, set by set between 1964 and 1990. As a nine CD fest it first spread its wings in 1990 as a Radio France Erato ADD/DDD extravaganza: a card slip-case housing seven single width CD cases some comprising two discs; most one. That was 4509 96971-2 (WE898). 2009 was the tenth anniversary of Landowski's death which saw this revival.
 
As a supplement to this box you can try to track down a long-deleted EMI Classics disc (7243 5 56349 2 4; 1996) of the Violin Concerto with the Symphonie Concertante for organ and orchestra and two other pieces including the Menuhin-dedicated Que ma joie demeure for violin and orchestra. The solo in the three movement Violin Concerto and the Menuhin piece are played by Patrice Fontanarosa who is the dedicatee of the Concerto. It's tender and takes its diaphanously orchestrated pilgrimage through a land triangulated between Barber, Szymanowski and Berg. Definitely worth the journey. The pulse and substance of the Barber Essays resonate in the 1991 Adagio cantabile and the 1994 Que ma joie demeure. The Symphonie Concertante is a work of extremes between which the composer moves with dramatic speed - tenderness, sinister insinuation and snarling macabre are all accentuated by the Cavaillé-Coll of the Basilique Sainte Clotilde, Paris. There have also been all-Landowski CDs on the Chamade and Koch labels.
 
2015 will see Landowski's centenary. We must hope for more by this resourceful and imaginative composer whose reputation looks otherwise to slip modestly away. His music deserves more than self-effacement.
 
Rob Barnett
 
 

Track and Artist Listing
 
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 2
Annie d' Arco
ORTF National Orchestra/Jean Martinon
 
Concerto for Ondes martenot, Strings and Percussion
Jeanne Loriod
Contemporary Music Chamber Orchestra/Jacques Bondon
 
Concerto for Trumpet, String Orchestra and Electronic Acoustic Instruments
Maurice André
Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra/Alain Lombard
 
Symphony No. 1, 'Jean de la Peur'
French National Orchestra/Georges Prêtre
 
Symphony No. 3, 'Des Espaces'
French National Orchestra/Georges Prêtre
 
Symphony No. 4
French National Orchestra/Georges Prêtre
 
Symphony No. 2 in D minor
ORTF National Orchestra/Jean Martinon
 
(Le) Fantôme
David Wilson-Johnson, Michel Bouquet
Loire Philharmonic Orchestra/Marc Soustrot
 
(Un) Enfant appelle, 'A child is calling'
Galina Vishnevskaya, Mstislav Rostropovich
French National Orchestra
 
(La) Prison
Galina Vishnevskaya, Mstislav Rostropovich
Lille National Orchestra/Marcel Landowski
 
(La) Vieille Maison
Nantes Opera Chorus
Danilo Sanges, Catherine Dubosc, Jean-Philippe Lafont, Michel Sénéchal, Renato Ercolani, Christian Davesnes, Claude Genelle, Yohann Le Goff
 
Messe de l'Aurore, 'Dawn Mass'
Ian Caley, Audrey Michael, Michel Brodard
Colonne Orchestra Choir, Colonne Orchestra/Pierre Cao
 
Cahier pour quatre jours
Maurice André, Alfred Mitterhofer
 
(Le) Fou
Claudine Carlson, José Van Dam, Philippe Huttenlocher, Remy Corazza
Rhine Opera Chorus, Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra/Alain Lombard
 
 
Piano Concerto No.2
1. I Moderato
2. II Calme
3. III Allegro vivace
Concerto for Ondes Martenot, Strings and Percussion
4. I Andante - Allegro moderato
5. II Adagio - Allegro
Concerto for trumpet and electro-acoustic instruments
6. I Cantiques d'un soir [Andantino]
7. II Chant pour une feuille morte [Allegro moderaro]
8. III Cortège [Andante]
 
Symphonie n° 1 "Jean de la Peur"
1. Allegro moderato "Car elle naquit des mystères du monde..."
2. GAllegretto scherzando "Et Jean pensa détruire la Peur en tuant les mystères"
3. Adagio "Mais lentement une autre Peur se leva et cette Peur-là le regardait du dedans"
Symphonie n° 3 "Des Espaces"
4. Grave
5. Allegro deciso
Symphonie n°4
6. Andante - Allegro moderato
7. Allegro vivace
8. Calme
9. Allegretto
10. Allegro moderato - Allegro vivace
 
Symphonie n°2
1. Allegro moderato
2. Adagio
3. Allegro vivace
 
Le Fantome de l'Opéra
1. L'Opéra aux premières heures du matin
2. Madame Carlotta danse à décrocher le lustre ce soir
3. La jeune fille traverse le miroir
4. Le fantome conduit le bal
5. Un premier baiser , Horreur... c'est un monstre
6. Les rats
7. La messe de mariage ou la danse des morts
 
Un enfant appelle
1. Un enfant appelle, loin, très loin
2. Je crois très bas
3. La nuit même où il fut livré
La Prison
4. I - L'attente "un meuble a craqué"
5. II - L'interrogatoire "ce n'était qu'une chanson"
6. III - La prison "il n'y a plus de temps"... "il n'y a plus d'âge"
 
La vielle maison
Premier Acte
1. Ouverture
2. Premier Tableau
3. Deuxième Tableau
4. Troisième Tableau
5. Quatrième Tableau
6. Cinquième Tableau
7. Sixième Tableau
Deuxième Acte
8. Septième Tableau
9. Huitième Tableau
10. Neuvième Tableau
11. Dixième Tableau
12. Onzième Tableau
 
Messe de l'Aurore
1. Introit
2. Kyrie
3. Gloria
4. Credo
5. Sanctus
6. Agnus Dei
7. Amen
4 Pieces for trumpet and organ "Cahier pour quatre jours"
8. I Jour du secret intérieur
9. II Jour de quête de soi
10. III Jour des regrets et des pardons
11. IV Jour de joie
 
Le Fou (Part I)
1. Ouverture et premier tableau "La vision de Peter Bel"
2. Deuxième Tableau "Le Cabinet du Prince"
3. Troisième Tableau "La Ville"
 
Le Fou (Part II)
1. Quatrième Tableau "Le laboratoire de Pierre Bel"
2. Cinquième Tableau "La Prison"

 


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