Émile GOUÉ (1904-1946)
Chamber Music - Volume 2
Piano Quintet, Op. 42 (1943-4) [29:39]
Petite Suite Facile for String Quartet, Op. 28 (1940) [6:49]
Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano, Op. 6 (1933) [25:11]
Quatuor Joachim; Olivier Chauzu (piano)
rec. 23 November 2011 (Op. 28), 7-8 January 2012 (Op. 42), Maison de la Culture d’Amiens – Studio Gil Evans, 18 November 2012, Studio Recital B (Tihange-Belgium) (Op. 6)

This is the second volume of chamber music by the French composer Emile Goué released under the auspices of La Collection du Festival International Albert Roussel. It has been produced by Damien Top, singer, conductor, composer and musicologist, who has also written the accompanying booklet notes.

In my review of Volume One I set out the salient features of the composer’s tragically short life and the effects he suffered from five years spent as a prisoner of war in Oflag XB Nienburg-on-Wesser during 1940-1945, resulting in his early death from a lung infection in October 1946.

The earliest work here predates his period of captivity. The Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano, Op. 6 was written in 1933 and clearly shows the influence of César Franck. Yet despite this, Goué’s skill, inventiveness and his personal fingerprint clearly make their mark. Set in four movements, the first begins with a slow introduction before things begin to take off. I found the music troubled and agitated. The cello launches proceedings in the slow movement with a plaintive chant, where everything is kept under wraps. Eventually the violin takes over, set against Chauzu’s sensitive accompaniment. The notes refer to a ‘hypnotic charm’, and this just about sums it up. A brief, energetic romp through the countryside, reminiscent of the hunt characterizes the brief third movement. The finale is likewise animated and forward moving.

The two remaining works were composed in Oflag XB. The Petite Suite dates from the beginning of his confinement in 1940. It’s aimed at the amateur musician, in this case his fellow instrumentalists in the camp. What emerged was a triptych of the Nativity: Prélude, Rorate and Noël Languedocien. The first two movements are rather serene and tranquil, the Rorate being an Advent hymn. Noël Languedocien, based on the carol ‘Li a pron de gens’ (there are many people) composed by Nicolas Saboly in 1667, is a little more joyous and upbeat.

In a letter dated 22 December 1943, the composer wrote to his wife that he was working on a Quintet for Piano and Strings. By the following February the first movement was more or less completed. The other two movements followed not long after. By this time illness and loneliness were taking their toll, though you wouldn’t think so listening to the last movement. The work follows a monothematic structure, where a single theme runs the course of the Quintet, with subsidiary themes deriving from it. The work is compositionally more advanced than the two previous opuses, with the opening movement being quite dissonant and atonal. Dramatic and passionate, Goué pours out his soul in its angst-ridden narrative. The last two movements are linked. The central Lent presents the theme six times, harmonically varied on each occasion. A quirky Rondo completes the work; its tongue-in-cheek humour and jazz-infested rhythms would certainly have found favour with Milhaud and Poulenc. At the end, the piano boldly restates the theme, alone then joined by the full ensemble. The Quatuor Joachim and Olivier Chauzu have an instinctive feel for the contours of Goué’s score, and their confident playing and commitment are truly convincing. Of the three works on offer this Quintet is, for me, the pièce de résistance.

I should add that Hubert Culot has reviewed volume 3 in this Goué chamber music series and that other Goué CDs are listed here.

Stephen Greenbank