Emile GOUÉ (1904-1946)
Chamber Music - Volume 3
Sextuor à cordes, Op.33 (1942) [24:59]
Duo for violin and cello, Op.34 (1942) [11:38]
String Trio Op.22 (1939) [16:46]
Fleurs mortes for violin and piano (1934) [7:33]
Trois Mélodies for tenor and string quartet, Op.36 (1942/3) [8:58]
L'Amitié for tenor and string quartet [2:28]
Elmira Darvarova (violin); Kristi Helberg (violin); Ronald Carbone (viola); David Cerutti (viola); Samuel Magill (cello); Wendy Sutter (cello); Damien Top (tenor); Linda Hall (piano)
rec. Oktaven Audio, Yonkers, New York, 2012
AZUR AZC120 [73:09]

This is the third and final volume in Azur’s Émile Goué chamber music series. In the previous two volumes, which I had the pleasure of reviewing (Volume 1 ~ Volume 2), I set out the circumstances of the composer’s life, including the years he spent as a prisoner of war in Oflag XB Nienburg-on-Wesser between 1940 and 1946. The years of incarceration may have dampened his spirits but did nothing to stifle his creativity.

The earliest work here is Fleurs mortes for violin and piano, dating from the happier days of 1934. ‘Dead flowers’, sounds rather dispiriting, and doesn’t fully reflect the mood of the two pieces. The first glances back to childhood, and maybe the wistful recollections do have a slight bearing on the title. The second piece is a popular nursery rhyme and has an innocent simplicity. Five years later, Goué penned his String Trio Op.22. It’s full of confidence and positive feelings, echoing his last days of freedom; the fast-slow-fast layout is pretty conventional. Albert Roussel, whom the composer met in Paris, is certainly a detectable influence if you listen hard enough. The two outer movements, which are optimistic and upbeat, frame a central slow movement more sombrely poised.

By the time the Sextuor à cordes, Op.33 came along, the composer was firmly ensconced in the P.O.W. camp. He wrote it with his fellow inmates/musicians in mind, and this is reflected in the simplicity of language used. In comparison to the other works here, it is more substantially laid out. The slow introduction to the opening movement is almost despairing. It leads into a vigorous march, only for the mood of despondency to return near the end. A vigorous scherzo-like movement follows. Goué wrote the slow movement as an expression of love for his wife, and the finale was given a creative boost by the onset of spring. The work was premiered in the camp on 19 October 1942.

Despite the hardships and deprivations of everyday life, the composer somehow managed to keep his spirits up and remain focused. The Duo for violin and cello, Op.34 of 1942 is testimony to this. He was following in distinguished footsteps here, as Ravel, Schulhoff, Martinů and Honegger had already composed duos for similar forces. Elmira Darvarova and Samuel Magill deliver an exciting performance with plenty of gusto in the outer movements.

The Trois Mélodies, for tenor and string quartet, Op.36 were a commission for art songs with string accompaniment from Dany Brunschwig, who had recently formed a string quartet. Two of the settings are by the French poet Jean de La Ville de Mirmont, and the other by the Bohemian-Austrian poet and novelist Rainer Maria Rilke. The songs were premiered in Paris in May 1944 by Jane Hérault-Harlé and the Quatuor Brunschwig, with a repeat performance at the camp three days later courtesy of Maurice Chanteau. L'Amitié has remained unpublished to this day, and its date of composition is unknown. The tenor Damien Top, who has masterminded this series gives warm, committed performances of these vocal gems. Sadly no texts are provided.

Well recorded, this is music that deserves to be heard. All concerned in the performances do full justice to these attractive scores.

Stephen Greenbank

Previous review: Hubert Culot

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