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Jean ROGISTER (1879-1964)
Viola Concerto (1914) [16:20]
Lamento et Allegro energico (1916 and 1940) [6:33 + 5:49]
String Quartet No.2 (1914) [28:42]
Adieu for viola and string orchestra (1919) [3:23]
Anne Leonardo (viola: Adieu)
Thérèse-Marie Gilissen (viola: concerto)
Pécs Symphony Orchestra/Marc Trautmann (Concerto)
Orchestre Royal de Chambre de Wallonie/Jean-Paul Dessy (Lamento, Adieu)
Gong Quartet
rec. 1993, Pécs Theatre, Hungary (Concerto); 1999, Église de Horrues, Belgium (Lamento, Adieu); 1999, Chapelle de Bolland, Belgium (Quartet)

MEW’s collection of discs devoted to music composed during the First World War increases with this latest release. It joins those by known quantities such as Jongen and Ysaÿe as well as the much less familiar name of Georges Antoine. Rogister is rather better remembered than Antoine, perhaps, but for anyone excited to hear another recording of his Viola Concerto I should add a little caveat. These are not new recordings; they are all reissues.

The Concerto was recorded in 1993 and first issued on Koch. The String Quartet comes from a1999 Cypres CD. Only the string works are from original MEW sessions. Still, if you haven’t made the acquaintance of the three discs of which these recordings form part, their appearance here in an all-Rogister selection should prove attractive.

Rogister was a violist and is still remembered best in some circles for his membership of the Liège Quartet in the 20s and 30s, led by the excellent Henri Koch, an elite exponent of the sonata by fellow Belgian Guillaume Lekeu. An active chamber player from his earliest days in 1901 Rogister also composed, and the fruits of his wartime compositions can be heard in this sturdily efficient book-like release.

The 1914 Viola Concerto is cast in one movement though very obviously subdivided into three conventional sections that correspond to two Allegros separated by a Minuet. It’s a very lyrical work, asking for a battery of avian trills from the soloist and warmly, appositely orchestrated. The opening movement is relatively relaxed, whilst the Minuet is full of rhythmic finesse. The finale is the shortest section, a spirited Allegro molto. Soloist Thérèse-Marie Gilissen plays with a light tone which she deploys with expressive discretion. Rogister’s wife Juliette died shortly after childbirth in early 1915. The following year came a Lamento for string orchestra, originally composed for four cellos, deeply elegiac as one might expect and also deeply moving. I wonder if he knew and was remembering Lekeu’s Adagio for string orchestra, written back in 1891. Many years later in the next world war he wrote a fast movement to turn the work into a kind of diptych. The Allegro energico is a decidedly ebullient piece to have written in the dark days of 1940 but admirers of the composer will appreciate his mastery of string writing.

Rogister worked on the Second String Quartet at the same time he was preparing the Viola Concerto. Composed a few months after the outbreak of war it had to wait until 1922 for a first performance, which was given by the Charlier Quartet of which he was then violist. Its moods encompass an initial geniality and light-heartedness, and a rather Debussian slow movement, warmly aerated, longingly songful, and full of sprung rhythm. Most Franco-Belgian quartet scherzi are zesty and witty and Rogister’s is no exception and there’s real harmonic interest as well as bouncing figures in the finale, which take one back to the slow movement. The writing throughout is commanding and confident. Finally, there is the 1919 Adieu for solo viola and strings. The notes amplify the ambiguity of the title; Adieu to the War, perhaps, or was there a more hidden meaning, given the work is dedicated to Lydie Schor, the cellist who was soon to become his second wife. To me there could be a third meaning; it’s a work cast in the mould of the Lamento so maybe it too was also intended as an Adieu to Juliette.

This forms an admirable companion to the previously issued WW1 discs on this label. With fine notes and profuse illustrative material, it’s also handsome to look at.

Jonathan Woolf



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