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REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers


Claude DUBOSCQ (1897-1938)
Violin Sonata (1919) [16:12] *
Sonata for piano, violin, and piano (Concert intime) (1919) [16:54]
Matines, Sarabandes and Galliards (1919) [18:26]
Laurent Le Flécher (violin); Alexandre Léger (piano) *
Odette Gartenlaub (piano); Serge Blanc (violin); Raphaël Sommer (cello)
rec. 1961, Paris; 2014, Rennes *

Claude Duboscq, composer and poet, took his own life at the age of 40 in May 1938. The son of a wealthy solicitor, Duboscq studied in Paris with d’Indy and became associated with notables such as Roussel and Ropartz before War broke out. He enlisted in 1915. Even early on he seems to have developed a distinct aesthetic that involved religious vocal music. Gregorian plainchant was his ‘supreme model’ and he sought a comparably reserved life too, renouncing worldly success.

The three works in this disc were all composed in 1919, the year after his elder brother had died during the Spanish flu pandemic. All attest to his favouring of a vocalised form of address in his music. The Violin Sonata opens with a long-breathed piano melody, the violin responding with arpeggiated patterns. The mood is tranquil, later the music alternating between more urgent Debussian lyricism and seamless transitions. There is a strong chanson element to Duboscq’s music-making, tender and full of feeling and perhaps analogous to Reynaldo Hahn – whose own Violin Sonata is really a Song Sonata as well. He recycles material as the sonata develops, all the while infusing the music with a sense of song and of dance before winding down to a brusque end. Laurent Le Flécher and Alexandre Léger play with great sympathy for the idiom and a real generosity of phrasing.

The same dance-like imperatives are met in the Concert intime cast in five movements with a polyphonic opener – unhurried and easeful – followed by a nicely off-beat Ronde. There’s a deliberately exaggerated salon waltz, where one can hear the cello’s roaming line, and a study in dynamics and mood in the Sarabande. Here the song is one of tristesse. The finale is a real Forlane, folk-like in part, with chances for the three soloists to play out. This recording, unlike that of the Sonata, is an archive one, dating from 1961. The players are Odette Gartenlaub (piano), Serge Blanc (violin) and Raphaël Sommer (cello) and in the fine booklet we can read some personal reflections from the violinist Alexis Galpérine who writes with great affection of his association with Sommer. Finally, from the same year, Odette Gartenlaub plays the Matines, Sarabandes and Galliards - really lovely, but thoughtfully changeable pieces for the piano. Once again his immersion in polyphony can be appreciated, but so too his humour – there’s a slightly kooky Galliard that wouldn’t be out of place in the Music Hall. The carillon is part and parcel of the sound-world of this work and there’s also a truly lovely Sarabande IV, just to reinforce, as if it were necessary, Duboscq’s gifts.

This is an excellent, somewhat unexpected disc, mixing a new recording of the Sonata with the two archival ones. Everything sounds splendid – there’s a rather abrupt edit in the finale of the Sonata but it’s over in a flash – and the notes (Marc Vignal) and artist biographies (Denis Havard de La Montagne) are a valuable addition.

Jonathan Woolf

Previous review: Stephen Greenbank



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