Émile GOUÉ (1904-1946)
String Quartet No. 3, Op. 46 (1945) [27:28]
Sonata for violin and piano (1941) [17:34]
Alfred Loewenguth, Maurice Fuéri (violins)
Roger Roche (viola)
Pierre Basseux (cello)
Françoise Doreau (piano)
rec. 1956, La Comédie des Champs-Elysées, Paris
AZUR CLASSICAL AZC081 [45:27]
This release, courtesy of the Amis de la Musique de Chambre and the Amis d'Émile Goué, holds the distinction of being the first ever recording of one of Émile Goué’s compostitions. It derives from a rare non-commercial recording, set down in 1956 at La Comédie des Champs-Elysées, Paris. The Quatuor Loewenguth's interest in Goué's music dated back to the late 1930s, and they performed his first two quartets on occasion. After the composer’s death in 1946 they went to great lengths to promote his music both at home and abroad. They became the composer's choice to premiere the Third Quartet in 1945. A photograph of the LP, signed by the artists, is reproduced in the booklet. On the flip side Alfred Loewenguth joined forces with the French pianist Françoise Doreau in a performance of the Violin and Piano Sonata. Interestingly, Doreau only died in 2011 at the grand old age of 101.
The name Émile Goué will be new to many. He was born in Châteauroux, central France, on 13th June 1904. Gifted with a fine intellect, he was able to combine music with a brilliant scientific and academic career. Toulouse Conservatory provided his initial musical grounding, but later in Paris he came under the influence of Albert Roussel and Charles Koechlin. In 1927 he married Yvonne Burg and fathered three children. Although his earliest works date from 1933, it was 1936 that saw the burgeoning of an intense period of creativity, and he destroyed much of these earlier ventures. When war broke out in 1939, he was enlisted as a lieutenant of artillery. In June 1940 he was captured and spent the next five years as a prisoner of war in Oflag XB Nienburg-on-Wesser. He died not long after his release on 10 October 1946.
The Third Quartet was written in the spring of 1945 against a backdrop of hope and optimism, when the end of war seemed in sight and liberation for the camp prisoners would be imminent. It's more compositionally advanced than the previous two quartets and requires more perseverance from the listener to penetrate its hidden depths. The composer himself described it as '..... my twentieth century work composed in captivity'. His fellow inmates gave the first two movements a trial run in March 1945. The final movement was added in the June after liberation. Significantly, it was the Loewenguth String Quartet, who premiered it in November 1945 in Paris. The Quartet is a very personal utterance, melancholic and austere, where the composer reflects and comes to terms with his struggles. Its monothematic narrative is set out in a theme in the opening movement. The ‘barcarolle’ lilt of the slow movement is lyrically pleasing. In the finale, Goué puts his adept contrapuntal skills to good use in an obsessive fugue.
The Violin and Piano Sonata is an earlier work. Begun in 1939, when the slow movement was written, the other movements were added later, with the work completed in 1941. It has a traditional three movement (fast-slow-fast) layout. The opener is animated and upbeat, but is tinged with regret at the end. The slow movement has a mournful and sombre cast with a theme transformed by a series of variations. The movement is titled 'mort d'un autre' which gives some indication of its melancholic tenor. The brisk finale is probable the least distinguished of the three. The violin part doesn't seem to make many technical demands of the performer.
The recordings sound reasonably good for their age. The LP source was obviously pristine as I didn't detect any surface noise. For those interested in exploring all three string quartets, they’ve been issued complete on a CD in the Azur Classical’s Goué series (RCP067), in modern performances by the Quatuor César Franck, which I’ve reviewed.