So, more d’Indy: not only in the now three volumes from
Chandos (see reviews of Vol.
), but last year, on
Hyperion (CDA67690 - see review
). He was a composer not always
in his native
always performed with understanding. When performances came they
were often dutiful, so it’s good to welcome this Chandos
volume and especially the Third Symphony.
Possibly because the British weather was so dismal that day or
possibly because I was thinking about a forthcoming holiday to
the region I started to listen to the CD from the last track
the Diptych méditerranéen
this to be an instantly adorable work. This is what my wife calls “comfort
music” and it is certainly reassuring and warm-hearted.
The two equal length movements are first ‘Soleil matinal’-
which starts in imperceptible quiet and the second ‘Soleil
vespéral’. The first part grows towards its midday
with a glorious brass chorale via the nagging call of cicadas.
The second part fades gradually into a warm, sunset glow again
via the cicadas. The performance captures the atmosphere beautifully.
The disc begins with a wonderfully sensitive rendition of the
earliest work here Istar
. It’s based on an
Assyrian story which concerns a goddess who in releasing her
imprisoned lover divests herself of her ornaments and clothes
eventually appearing completely naked through the seventh door
of the underworld. d’Indy plays a formal trick in this ‘Variations
symphoniques’ of beginning with his seven variations and
ending with his theme, revealed as it were, completely naked
in wind and strings against a forceful ostinato. So, d’Indy
the eclectic, makes the work grow from a deserted scene of vague
impressionism, through ideas which are almost Wagnerian into
the main theme which in its contours may well be reminiscent
of Gregorian chant which was such a regular inspiration to the
composer who was a devoted Roman Catholic. A fine work indeed
and one very much in the César Franck tradition which
d’Indy was keen to uphold.
The Choral varié
for saxophone and
orchestra is also a sort of theme (the chorale melody stated
at the beginning) and a series of developments or variations.
Andrew Thomson’s booklet notes are a model of their kind
in saying something about the background to each work and then
taking the listener gently through the music with enough useful
analysis without it becoming too technical. Thomson also describes
this work as eclectic. With its solemn march tread, impressionistic
linking ideas and classical format I completely agree. Sigurdur
Flosason milks what little he has to do with a dreamy and cantabile
tone of great beauty. This brief work passes by as a dream. Wonderful.
The main work on the disc however is the four movement Third
. This was composed during the darkest days of
the Great War and is subtitled Sinfonia brevis de Bello Gallico
indeed it does have some militaristic qualities. The opening
movement has march-like material often accompanied by the side-drum.
The finale quotes a plainchant associated with St.Michael who
is the saint often linked with battles (in heaven) and victory
over oppressors. That said, its opening is beautifully calm and
impressionistic as are many other passages. In between these
glorious outer movements are first a scherzo with a curious trio
section in 5/4 time and then a dreamy slow movement with an almost
Stravinskian middle section. Despite its date of composition
I found this to be an uplifting and life-enhancing work, rather
Gallic in its understated emotion. It is more Sisley than Renoir,
not really glorifying war, although there might be some who might
think so. The work, like a great deal of d’Indy, has certainly
grown on me, both in its content, its form and in its orchestration.
I’m not quite sure why an Icelandic orchestra was given
the task of recording this work. I can’t help but feel
that a French orchestra with some of those fruity woodwinds and
silky horns might have been more suitable. Nevertheless they
play marvellously for Rumon Gamba the only criticism of whom
is that the marking ‘Lent et anxieux’, an expressive
idea in the first movement, comes out more like ‘Lent et
The essay I have already commented on. There are, as ever, biographical
notes on the performers but these are, as usual, as dull as ditch