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André JOLIVET (1905-1974)
Concerto for Flute and String Orchestra (1949) [13:22]
Cello Concerto No. 2 (1966) [21:27]
Concerto for Bassoon, String Orchestra, Harp and Piano (1954) [15:25]
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (1949-50) [20:40]
Symphony No. 1 (1953) [24:09]
Five Ritual Dances (1939) [24:57]
Rhapsody for Seven (1957) [20:39]
Alexander Korneyev (flute); Mstislav Rostropovich (cello); Valery Popov (bassoon); Victor Kastelsky (piano).
Moscow Radio SO, Radio France PO/composer
USSRSO/Gennadi Rozhdestvensky
Unnamed ensemble/Valeri Polyansky
Latvian SSR State SO/Vassili Sinaiski
rec. Paris, 1969; Grand Hall, Moscow Conservatory, 1966-82
MELODIYA MELCD1002215 [70:50 + 69:71]

This set is an immersion in Soviet performances of this French composer with one Gallic interloper.

The first disc is an all concerto effort: four of them and all quite compact.

The Flute Concerto starts with cool and idyllic reserve - languor without idleness. It then changes to a charming jazzy capering - youthful and curious. There's a minute Largo which is very serious, to the point of chilly tragedy. It's fascinating that this should be as brief as 1:48 when the mood and the manner suggests something more extended. The finale has the flute in flight again with the strings skitteringly urgent.

The single-movement Cello Concerto No. 2 is a nightmare flight of a work: tensile, tortured, fast and furious, determined and angular yet flowing. It's the second work here to be accompanied by a string orchestra and the composer conducts. Rostropovich is the soloist who commissioned the work and premiered it in Moscow in 1967; Navarra was in his place in the First Cello Concerto in the Warner Erato set. The lyrical lines in this Second Concerto are clear when they appear and the language sometimes has a Bergian tenderness.

The Bassoon Concerto reverts to the idyllic singing manner of the Flute Concerto rather than the spiky souring display of the Second Cello Concerto. At times, the 'singer' here shows himself as a wandering exploratory soul; less of a pilgrim with a firm goal and more of a rambler inspired by the moment. The finale dances with delight and dreams amid beaming smiles.

The three-movement Piano Concerto is from the same epoch as the flute work. Valery Kastelsky is more than equal to the challenges here, as is his Latvian orchestra. The music bucks with a colt-like kick and steely springs. It's by no means restful - fast and furious like a pyroclastic flow coupled with Dies Irae thunder. The central movement is a chiming dream of an Andante but the mood is not sustained. Fits of fury shake its frame. The finale is marked Allegro Frenetico. Its feral jazz is not far from the Kapustin at one extreme and Nancarrow's player-piano at the other. Like a jazz-fuelled pom-pom gun this work's heaving tectonic plates carry the redolence of John Ogdon in Mennin's Piano Concerto.

The 1953 Symphony No. 1 is played by the Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra and conducted by the composer. It’s in four movements of which the Allegro Strepitoso is stupendously earnest and brilliantly frenetic. The Adagio's hyper-extended lyricisms pitch and buck, impatient and irate. The Allegro Vivace is an angry flight - full of adventures in timbres and the Allegro Coruscante (what a title) marks the score out as for a virtuoso orchestra - all skittering collisions and anger at speed. In that sense it calls up memories of Tomasi's Symphonie Du Tiers Monde and the Fifth Symphony Virtus Lusitanae by Braga Santos.

Then come the Five Ritual Dances. Initiation Dance lays siege to the fantasy garden of Ma mère l'oye. Strange colours and tonal contrasts are on display in music that is more extended rite than possessed dance. Heroic Dance brings awkward blocks of sound into raw collision while Wedding Dance is not especially celebratory. The composer seems to have something far more earthy in mind and the music ends in a prolonged sigh. Stealing Dance is a murderously ruthless procession with upheavals along the way. The brass benches moan, yawl and yawp. The final Funeral Dance is more introverted at first, then more shadowed and mysterious. A slow and crippled grand march lollops along yet finds a heavy dignity. There's a final succession of rasping growls.

Lastly comes the Rhapsodie for seven winds, strings and percussion. It's in three movements. This is the most modernistic of all the pieces here and enjoys very clear sound. Extreme and dissonant expressive music also makes contact with Weill and Klezmer. As for the second movement, called Hiératique, this is a moaning processional with some of the introspective impressionism of Initiation Dance. The finale again taps dissent. The whine and wail of the music is perhaps paralleled by Copland's Vitebsk.

This set can be placed alongside the 4-CD Warner Erato box (2564 613202 - review) and the French EMI 2 CD set Les Rarissimes de André Jolivet (5852372 - review), both from 2004

We should end with some words from Jolivet: “I want music to have its original ancient sense back, when it was an expression of a magical and invocating element of a religion which united people.” They are apt to the listening experiences provided by this set which has better than decent vital sound and is documented in Russian, English and French.

Rob Barnett



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