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Auguste TOLBECQUE (1830-1919)
Barcarolle pour violoncelle et piano, Op. 6 No. 1 [3:13]
Danse cosaque ' Kozatchok' pour violoncelle seul, Op. 21 [2:22]
Rêverie pour violoncelle et orgue, Op. 9 [5:17]
Musette pastorale pour violoncelle et piano, Op. 6 No. 2: Allegretto [2:03]
La Styrienne pour piano, Op. 4: Andante - Mouvement de valse [3:37]
Koncertstuke pour violoncelle et piano, Op. 19 [9:05]
Pièces (2) pour violoncelle solo sans accompagnement, Op. 22: Les Vagues – Moderato [2:47]: Marche des mousquetaires, 1727 [2:58]
Prière pour violoncelle et orgue, Op. 9: Andantino religioso [4:36]
Après la Valse Ouverture pour piano à 4 mains, Op. 20: Gaiement [4:10]
Sérénade et Saltarelle pour violoncelle et piano, Op. 7 [5:56]
Elégie pour violoncelle et orgue, Op. 8: Andante plaintive [7:21]
Romance et Polonaise pour violoncelle et piano, Op. 5 [7:08]
Fantaisie de Bravoure pour violoncelle et piano, Op. 13: Marziale - Thème et variation - Cantabile – Allegretto [11:38]
Andante et Rondo pour violoncelle et piano, Op. 10 [5:33]
Christophe Coin (cello)
Jean-Luc Ayroles (piano)
Caroline Esposito (piano 4-hands)
Jan Willem Jansen (organ)
rec. 2019, Studio Sequenza, Montreuil
PASSACAILLE PAS1068 [77:54]

Auguste Tolbecque was a soloist, composer, collector and instrument maker. He was influential in the performance of early music via his research into - and reconstituting of - historical instruments and this element of his life and work has been the dominant one. For a man who premièred Saint-Saëns’ Concerto No.1 in A minor, which was dedicated to him, and the First Cello Sonata, his name as a concert soloist should certainly be better known but his executant career trailed off during the earlier part of the last quarter of the nineteenth-century. And he retired before there was any chance to record.

He was a student of Henri Reber at the Conservatoire de Paris. His compositions appeared in print from 1862, though precise dates of composition are not easy to come by. The majority seem to date from the period 1862-70 when he was living and teaching in Marseille. There was a central period when he wrote pedagogic works as well as some lighter pieces whilst his final period of writing came between 1903 and his death in 1919.

The works here are light in style and conventionally titled – romances, dances, romantic concert pieces, waltzes, an elegy, a March and so forth. The Barcarolle shows a strong Mendelssohnian influence and there’s some flavoursome bite to the Danse cosaque. The Rêverie is written for cello and organ – surprisingly perhaps he wrote almost nothing of significance for the organ - and it’s Schumann-like in tone. There’s a stylized country dance, the Musette pastorale, and an example of his non-cello works in the form of a rather slavishly Chopinesque Le Styrienne.

There’s no doubting his gift for songfulness; the two selected movements from his Konzertstück – or Konzertstuke to follow its published title – reinforce that element whilst also re-emphasizing a debt to German Romanticism. Après la Valse is a joyful and witty salon piece for piano four-hands. The solo cello Les Vagues shows what a fine technician he must have been, and how artful his sense of phrasing, even though it’s a little too etude-like for comfort.

His Op.22 No.2 is a charming, jovial character study called Marche des Mousquetaires (1722) and it’s heard here in a version for viola da gamba made by its performer, Christophe Coin. There is the expected nineteenth-century finger-buster, such as the Fantaisie de Bravoure with its necessary complement of martial theme, variations, piquant detail and coquettish dance. And there are a couple of bipartite pieces with the usual slow-fast, lyric-Allegretto schema.

The use of ‘Instrumentarium’ in booklet notes seems to be on the increase. It’s just me, I’m sure, but I rather take against the Latin; what’s wrong with ‘Instruments’? Still, I must suspend my dislike because this one includes some very attractive all-colour pictures of the cello and viola da gamba used by Coin and I should add there are attractively reproduced plates and photographs throughout. One can note in passing that Tolbecque had begun using an end pin by 1903, if not earlier.

These are all premiere recordings.

Coin is the perfect man for this project. Most will have encountered him in the baroque repertoire and his enthusiasm for old string instruments fits in handily with that of Tolbecque himself. He plays with sensitivity and judicious tonal weight, nicely accompanied by Jean-Luc Ayroles. Kudos, too, to Ayroles’ partner at the piano four-hands, Caroline Esposito, and to organist Jan Willem Jansen who plays on two instruments, one of them a Tolbecque.

Jonathan Woolf



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