Émile GOUÉ (1904-1946)
Symphony No. 2 op. 39 (1943) [32:41] Ballade on a poem by Emily Brontë op. 25 (1940) [12:42]
Max Roques (violin); Orchestra Radio Symphony Paris/Tony Aubin (symphony); Marie Béronita (soprano); Quatuor Vocal; Quatuor Krettly/Louis de Froment
rec. Paris Radio, 8 Feb 1958 (symphony); 18 Mar 1949 (Ballade). INA. International Festival Albert-Roussel. mono AZUR CLASSICAL AZC135 [45:23]
Rarities often seem to come on short-playing discs. The present French esoterica are on a very brief duration CD.
I had heard of Goué before but only because Azur have issued no fewer than seven CDs of his chamber music. They are listed on the inside back page of the Azur liner-booklet. I list some of them below. Hubert Culot has addressed
Volume 3 of Azur's chamber music series.
Goué was a successful scientist and mathematician who was active in the French education system. He pursued a parallel career as a composer and was productive in many musical genres. In the 1920s he also conducted a university orchestra. His music was shaped by study with and encouragement from Koechlin and Roussel. The Second World War saw him serve as a lieutenant in the artillery but in 1940 he became a prisoner of war. In the POW camp he developed and led education courses for his fellow captives. It seems that he also took comfort in writing music during those long years of captivity. The Second Symphony is one of the products of that time.
The Ballade is an example of Goué's penchant for multi-layered lyrical complexity. There's a touch of Ravel in there but his textures are not as fine as those of the senior composer. It is interesting to see Louis de Froment directing; this is the very same conductor who was used so much by Vox in the 1950s and 1960s. It's unusual to see a French composer setting Emily Brontë.
The vocals are inventively deployed - always something to tickle or caress the ear … even in this mono representation. I think of similarly exotic instrumentation and effects by Maurice Delage and by Roussel in his Evocation and in Padmavati. There's a hypnotic rapture but also a contrasting exultantly heroic side. The latter is voiced at 8:33 by the piano in a grand Rachmaninovian statement. There are some outstanding moments but overall this is not indelibly memorable.
Symphony No. 2 opens the first of its four movements with a very romantic plunge into seemingly incessant cantabile. The solo violin makes its presence strongly felt from the start. The second movement opts for a very lovely Baxian mist. This is redolent of the slow movement of Bax's Violin Concerto and much of the Third Symphony. A better parallel might be the slowly oozing pulse in Dukas's glorious La Péri which is more likely to have been known by Goué. This is the sort of music that would have appealed strongly to the Bakst/Diaghilev faction but was written many years later. Listen to that steely Baxian sleet of strings at 2:49 and the capricious Rimskian progress of the movement. The third movement adopts a snappy pace but again Goué cannot resist the floral asides. This can be felt even in the gaunt fanfares at 1:29 and the in the movement's Ravel-like shudders. The finale seems to depict a gale but it feels a bit mechanical — rather like Nystroem's Tempest.
This work is something of a "symphonie concertante" in the traditions of Szymanowski, D'Indy and Lalo. Its weakness lies in its static aspects and there's little sense of development of ideas. The lyrical drive of the music compensates.
It was premiered by the prison camp orchestra directed by the composer on 13 November 1943.
Without a known performing tradition it is difficult to be sure about
the quality of the performances here. At a purely impressionistic level the
Symphony appears to be played with warmth; indeed a confident fervour. There
are no half measures here. The other piece feels a degree cooler but still
speaks with engagement and assurance. Some of the voices are afflicted with
vibrato but nothing to get in the way of this attractive music.
There's a strong honest mono signal in the case of each of these works but given that the tapes are more than half a century old the sound is unsophisticated.
The notes in French and English are good about the works but I wish more had been said about Goué.
Intriguing. For those who would like to delve below the surface of French mid-twentieth century music.
Emile GOUÉ (1904-1946)L'oeuvre pour piano - Vol.1
Nocturnes (2) - Rives changeantes & Le Phare; Wanda, Op. 8: Les Jeux de l’Ocean contre les falaises de Vendee; Ambiances, Suite No. 1, Op. 11; Petite Suite facile No. 1, Op. 18; Prehistoires, Op. 40; Petite Suite facile No. 2, Op. 21; Prelude, Choral et Fugue, Op. 37
Samuel Ternoy (piano)
rec. no date given, Studio Recital B, Tihange-Belgique. DDD AZUR CLASSICAL AZC082 [69:18] L'oeuvre pour piano - Vol.2
Theme et variations, Op. 47; Penombres, Op. 3; Sonate pour piano, Op. 13; Horizons, Op. 24; Ambiances, 2e suite, Op. 35; Deux Impromptus, Op. 44; Prelude, Aria et Final, Op. 45
Diane Andersen (piano)
rec. no date given, Studio Recital B, Tihange-Belgique. DDD AZUR CLASSICAL AZC083 [74:44]
Mélodies: Trois poèmes de Rainer Maria Rilke (DT) [8:55]; La route - Le Chemin (JJC) [8:36]; Les heures étranges (JJC) [8:49]; Trois chansons sur la pluie (CP) [6:52]; Nuits d'Exil (DT) [3:12]; Chants de l'âme navrée (JJC) [10:24]; L'Offrande sous les nuages (Christian Delmas) (DT) [17:10]
Damien Top (tenor); Jean-Jacques Cubaynes (bass); Christel Plancq (soprano); Eric Hénon (piano)
rec. Studio Recital B (Tihange), 2005. DDD RECITAL SYPRO054 [64:27]