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

I can’t imagine many people have heard of the French composer Claude Duboscq. One of six children, he was born in Bordeaux in 1897 into a wealthy Catholic family. With the encouragement of his solicitor father, he began piano at three, and composing at eleven. In 1912 his mother died, and in 1916 he went to study composition with Vincent d’Indy at the Schola Cantorum in Paris. Albert Roussel and Joseph-Guy Ropartz became acquaintances. In 1921 he married, and later fathered six children. In 1930 his father died, setting in motion a chain of events that included family conflicts, and the death of his eighteen month old daughter. As a result, he became depressed and sadly took his own life in 1938, aged only forty.

His compositions have a vocal and religious bias. Apart from the three works on this CD, all composed in 1919 when he was in his early twenties, I have never heard any of it, and am not sure much has been recorded, apart from some songs on the Eclectra label.

The highly original and, in some ways, unusual Violin Sonata finds some echoes of Debussy, who composed his Violin Sonata only two years earlier. Duboscq takes a more novel approach, setting it in one continuous movement, but with three distinct sections, resembling a triptych. Another curious feature is that there are neither time signatures nor bar lines drafted into the score. The impression is of one continuous narrative, evolving throughout. A short piano introduction ushers in the violin, and the music weaves its way through several changes of mood, building up to a passionate climax, then subsiding. The second section is lyrical, rhapsodic and wistful in character. The third section begins with twenty-two emphatic chords, and the pace quickens. The overall atmosphere is more upbeat, with dance-like rhythms playing a part. The work ends with a brusque final chord. Laurent Le Flecher and Alexandre Leger give it a warm, passionate and idiomatic reading.

The Concert intime for piano, violin and cello is a suite of five dances. Here there are bar-lines and tempo indications, but no time signatures. A delightful waltz is at the centre with a kind of swaying theme, seeming to gain momentum as it progresses. The Sarabande which follows is my favourite. In it the cello assumes a dominant role. Duboscq makes use of extremes of dynamic range, and the scoring is sparsely textured. An air of serenity prevails, with the players luxuriating in the dreamy demeanour of the piece.

Nine short piano pieces make up the Matines, Sarabandes and Gaillardes. The composer shows a capable hand in the polyphonic writing of the Matines. An element of contrast is introduced into the set by the positioning of the slower Sarabandes next to the more lively Galliards. Sarabande IV clearly shows the influence of Debussy. The sound quality of this 1961 recording, and the Concert intime is excellent. They both derive from a private recording.

A beautifully produced accompanying booklet in French and English, with contributions from Marc Vignal and Denis Havard, offers a comprehensive biography of the composer. In addition there are biographical portraits of the participating artists. Finally, the French violinist Alexis Galpérine shares some fond personal memories of Gartenlaub, Blanc and Sommer. I would like to explore further this composer’s music; let’s hope more will be released. This valuable document has been supported by the Société du Bourdon – Les Amis de Claude Duboscq, whose website can be found here.

Stephen Greenbank