Darius MILHAUD (1892-1974)
Milhaud conducts Milhaud
Les Quatre Saisons (1934-53) (Concertinos de: Printemps [8:44]; Eté [13:27]; Automne [9:48]; Hiver [12:28])
rec. June 1958, Philips
Saudades do Brasil, Op. 67 (1920-1921) [23:50] (complete: Overture; no. 1, Sorocaba; no. 2, Botofogo; no. 3, Leme; no. 4, Copacobana; no. 5, Ipanema; no. 6, Gavea; no. 7, Corcovado; no. 8, Tijuca; no. 9, Sumaré; no. 10, Paineras; no. 11, Larenjeiras; no. 12 Paysandu))
rec. Studio A, Capitol Tower, Hollywood, 10-12 September 1956
Szymon Goldberg (violin) Printemps; Ernst Wallfisch (viola) Eté; Geneviève Joy, Jacqueline Bonneau (pianos) Automne; Maurice Suzan (trombone) Hiver.
Ensemble de Solistes des Concerts Lamoureux/Darius Milhaud
Concert Arts Orchestra (Saudades)/Darius Milhaud
First issued as Philips 00-576, June 1958 (Saisons); Capitol P8358.

That spring morning sense of revival of sunshine's joy and power suffuses the Printemps Concertino. Seascapes seem to sparkle and glint. This is Milhaud streaming delight through Goldberg's playing. This is done with as much apparent facility as Elgar drawing music from the air around Malvern's rivers and hills. The score is in constant and lively motion - active, winged and soaring. The Concertino d'Eté is soaked in summer's buzzing heat with the textures as intricately busy as those in Printemps. The pulse is slower and there is room for a shade more dissonance among the viola-led riches - the merest veneer. Joy and Bonneau counterpoint thoughtfully the more circumspect and less impulsive writing. Interesting choice of Milhaud's to place Winter last and to make the chosen solo instrument the trombone. The soloist is given gamely impudent as well as reflective music to play. Its dartingly tireless energy is variously reminiscent of Berg, Tippett and Stravinsky.

The Saudades refer to "an ardent longing for an absent place," in this case Brazil - its bustle, its unnerving wilderness and its carnival. Each of the thirteen separately-tracked episodes carries a dedication: Ipanema - loud, dangerous and defiant - to Artur Rubinstein and Tijuca - laid-back and slyly-urbanely Waltonian - to another pianist, Ricardo Viñes. The music has something in common with the sultry luxuriance and jungle thickets of Villa-Lobos's Floresta do Amazonas. There's popular culture too - both languid (Corcovado and the tango-inflected Sumaré) and haywire. We might think of other railway pieces of the 1920s when we hear Paineras. Larenjeiras flutters and hiccups with Amerindian currents and jazz. Paysandu is said to be an evocation of the feminine spirit in Brazil but its main theme reminds me of episodes from Elgar's Enigma; no really!

The sound throughout out has been very nicely captured by Andrew Rose. It accordingly makes an extremely attractive disc or download. One must however accept a hiss typical of these mid- late- 1950s mono originals. It's a negligible concession in a bargain that works well for the accommodating listener.

I do not recall Les saisons being reissued before but this Saudades has been out on EMI Classics Great Recordings of the Century 3 45808 2 and not so very long ago.

The delightful tonal wares on display here share their lissom yet tangy character with those on the Milhaud VoxBox which I welcomed in a retrospective review in 2005.

Rob Barnett

Delightful tonal wares on display … lissom yet tangy character.