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Claude DELVINCOURT (1888-1954)
Danceries (Ronde; Bourrée; Basquaise; Louisiane; Farandole) (1934) [13:11]
Sonate pour violon et piano (1922) [29:17] Contemplation (1935) [4:23]
Sonate de jeunesse inédite pour violon et piano (1907) [26:36]*
Eliot Lawson (violin)
Diane Andersen (piano)
rec. 2012-2014, Studio Recital B (Tihange-Belgium)
first recording * AZUR CLASSICAL AZC121 [73:25]
On page 5 of the accompanying booklet notes to this release, there’s a full-page black and white photograph of Claude Delvincourt sitting at the wheel of his Peugeot 202 in Dieppe. The year is 1938. The image is significant and has a certain poignancy as, on 5 April 1954, the composer was killed in a car accident on his way to Rome, where he was to attend the premiere of his string quartet.
Born in Paris in 1888, his early musical studies were with Leon Boëllmann and Henri Büsser. He later attended the Paris Conservatoire, where Georges Caussade and Charles-Marie Widor were his teachers. At the same time he attained a law degree at the École Polytechnique, as it was hoped he would follow his father’s footsteps into the diplomatic service. In 1913 he won the Première Grand Prix de Rome, which no doubt altered the course his life was to take. When war broke out in 1914, he joined the voluntary infantry, but his service was cut short when he was badly injured. He bore the scars for the rest of his life. In 1932 he was appointed Director of the Versailles Conservatoire and Director of the Paris Conservatoire in 1940. During the German Occupation in the 1940s, he helped protect his students from service in Germany. He formed the Orchestre des Cadets du Conservatoire. He hid many illegal students, and he himself joined the resistance movement ‘Front National des Musiciens’. He ended up having to hide himself towards the end of hostilities at a Jewish friend’s house. He remained in his conservatory post until his death.
For his violinist friends, Delvincourt penned Danceries in 1934. This five movement work has an abundance of unbridled fantasy and ebullience. It draws on the circus and music hall for its inspiration, a subject that fascinated other composers at the time, with a little jazz thrown into the boiling pot. Everything is upbeat and genial. Ronde is quite spiky and angular, whilst Bourrée begins and ends aggressively, with a contrasting central section more subdued. Eliot Lawson's translucent harmonics are expertly executed. Basquaise is buoyant and uplifting. Louisiane sounds the most jazzy to me, and I hear echoes of Gershwin. Again Lawson’s elegantly nuanced glissandi and double-stops capture the mood. A scintillating Farandole ends the work, with both players basking in the music’s sun-soaked lyricism. Contemplation, from a year later, is tinged with sadness and regret.
The Sonata of 1922 is a work of great significance and emotional impact. The sombre opening to the first movement ‘mirrors ... the stigmata of war’. When things get going there’s an unsettled feeling. Lawson and Andersen’s intelligent approach bring direction and cohesion to its loosely bound structure. The short Vif et gai which follows has an underlying restlessness. Impressive is Delivincourt’s well-crafted instrumental writing. The last two movements are linked. The first is dreamy and otherworldly, exquisitely managed by the duo; the violinist’s intonation in the upper reaches is pristine, and the pianist impresses with her translucent sonorities. The finale abruptly interrupts, breaking the spell. After taking us on a more energetic romp, intensified by some ravishing chromatic brushstrokes, the halcyon calm returns to end the work.
The youthful Sonata of 1907, together with a Piano Quintet and Piano Trio remain unpublished to date. The manuscript of the Sonata was discovered by Damien Top in 2012, and here receives its premiere recording. The piano has a major role in the proceedings, and the influence of Alkan clearly shows. Its four linked sections express a range of emotions. Sensuous lyricism alternates with drama and passion. Lawson and Andersen certainly give it a run for its money, contouring the ebb and flow of the narrative and never losing sight of the rhetoric.
Claude Delvincourt’s music for violin and piano hasn’t exactly been neglected. The 1922 Sonata made its debut in the recording studio on a Ducretet-Thomson LP in the mid-fifties courtesy of Maurice Crut (violin) and Lucette Descaves (piano). It has been transferred to CD by Forgotten Records (FR534
review). In 2013 the violinist Ilona Then-Bergh paired with Michael Schäfer to record the three published items here on Genuin (13271). Unfortunately I haven’t heard any of the alternatives.
This release is a joint venture of La Collection du Festival International Albert Roussel and Les Amis de Claude Delvincourt, established in 1995 by Michel Humbert-Delvincourt, nephew of the composer. The project has been overseen by the artistic director Damien Top, singer, conductor, composer and musicologist. He has also contributed the excellent annotations, supplying background and context, in French with English translation. The instrumentalists have been warmly recorded and are ideally balanced throughout. This issue is volume 1 of the composer’s chamber works, I sincerely hope we’ll not have to wait too long for the next one.