Henri SAUGUET (1901-1989)
Symphony No.3, ‘I.N.R.’ (1955) [30:36]
Les Forains: ballet (1945) [25:53]
Orchestre National de la Radiodiffusion Française/Pierre Dervaux (Symphony)
Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureux/Henri Sauguet (Les Forains)
rec. June 1956, live, Paris (Symphony) and January 1948, Salle Pleyel, Paris (Les Forains)
This is a valuable restoration, which combines Henri Sauguet’s ballet music for Les Forains, in the composer-conductor’s own 1948 78rpm set, with a live broadcast performance of the Symphony No.3 conducted by Pierre Dervaux in 1956.
The symphony’s subtitle – I.N.R. – relates to the initials of Belgian Radio and the 1955 work is a powerful document cast in three well-balanced movements. Sauguet’s expressive dissonances make a forceful mark in this performance, the music driving onward with animation and also brooding tension. Dervaux certainly establishes the music’s taut and unrelenting opening along with those moments of quiet harmonic sophistication into which the symphony takes refuge now and again. Dervaux chooses the Elgarian indication ‘Nobilmente’ for the central slow movement, a passacaglia with sparse percussive gestures and a chorale-rich growth supported by low brass which seems to suggest the German national anthem at one point. The finale resumes the implacable drive and dissonance established earlier recalling initial march themes. Sauguet’s fine, tough, and moving Third Symphony might profitably be listened to alongside Honegger’s symphonies. There’s a much more recent commercial performance on Marco Polo (8.223472, coupled with the Fourth Symphony) with the Moscow Symphony under Antonio de Almeida.
The companion ballet music is perhaps the more commonly encountered, playful side of Sauguet, the one that inherited elements of the fun and frolics of Les Six. A genial waltz, coy dance and a splash of Viennese whipped cream are part of the run-down of the ballet score. The composer gets playing of great warmth and wit – try the charming wind playing in Exercises – as well as vigour. The score is not without moments of delectable, winsome irony, and no Sauguet-lover should do without the little movement called Le prestidigitateur or, indeed, the knees-up-in-Montmartre finale. The composer, as suggested, gets playing of brio and élan from the orchestra of des Concerts Lamoureux in the Salle Pleyel in Paris. It’s been well transferred from a three-disc Polydor set of 78s.
It ends a very attractive disc for the historically-minded collector.
Jonathan Woolf