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Ballade landaise
Patrick Le Junter (piano)
World Premiere Recordings
rec. 2012, Mont-de-Marsan, France

This release, titled A Ballad of the Landes, gathers together piano works by several French composers that have suffered neglect. Each is here receiving its World Premiere Recording.

Mental illness, diagnosed at the time as "neurasthenia", resulted in Henri Duparc turning his back on composing in 1885; he was only 37. Instead, he focused his attentions on his family, drawing and painting. As age progressed he became inflicted with vision loss, and ended his years almost completely blind. Sadly, his reputation lies solely on 17 mélodies ("art songs"), with texts by poets such as Baudelaire, Gautier, Leconte de Lisle and Goethe. So little of his work survives as he was self-critical, destroying many of his manuscripts. His Feuilles volantes for piano was written between 1867-69. It consists of five pieces, and constitutes his Op 1. It’s a delightful group, enhanced by concision and charming lyricism. Vite et avec fraîcheur (Quickly and with freshness) which opens the cycle has a wide-eyed innocence about it. The third piece Andante un poco agitato is wistful and reminiscent, whilst the following piece reminds me of a contented child on a swing, with not a care in the world.

René de Castéra hailed from Dax and studied with Edouard Risler at the Paris Conservatory. Later, he was part of the first intake of nine students to be admitted to the newly established Schola Cantorum. Deodat de Séverac and Albert Roussel were fellow pupils in Vincent d’Indy’s class. In common with Duparc, the three works here are melodically rich and appealing. Serenata, Op 11 of 1907 is the most substantial. It was premiered by Blanche Selva a year later. The innate joy it radiates reflects not only the sunny climes the composer found himself inhabiting but new-found happiness of a love affair with the person he would eventually marry. The gentle and comforting Berceuse precedes the nostalgic longing of the Valse lente.

Joseph-Ermend Bonnal originated from Bordeaux. He could claim a distinguished pedigree, studying piano at the Paris Conservatoire with Charles-Wilfrid de Bériot, harmony with Antoine Taudou, composition with Gabriel Fauré and organ with Alexandre Guilmant and Louis Vierne. He forged a career as an organist and teacher of organ. His unassuming nature meant he didn't promote his compositions, and this has subsequently led to an unjust neglect of his music. Soir aux Abatilles was dedicated to Blanche Selva. It’s an elaborate work, exploring fully the piano’s range and relishing some tonally rich sonorities. Chansons d’Agnoutine, penned in 1929, comprises six pieces, and was the result of a collaboration the composer had with the poet Loÿs Labèque. Each of the pieces evokes areas Bonnal was familiar with. These include the Maresin, Saint-Vincent-de-Paul, the pine forests, the river Adour, the dunes and the ocean.

It was for his students in the Conservatoire des Landes that Patrick Le Junter composed his Miniatures Naïves (1984) and Variations pour petites mains (2008). Miniatures Naïves consists of five pieces. The second Clowns is quirky and comical, whilst Gestes plaintifs is sombre and reflective. Valse is graceful and delights in simplicity. The two Etudes are directed to more advanced students. Quartes is a sort of moto perpetuo, with Arabesques glistening with tumbling figurations. Promenade au Crépuscule of 2011 creates a twilight atmosphere by such means as pentatonic scales and half tones.

These first studio outings have been recorded under the auspices of La Collection du Festival International Albert Roussel, under the artistic directorship of singer, conductor, composer and musicologist Damien Top. The booklet notes have been provided by Patrick Le Junter.

Stephen Greenbank

Henri DUPARC (1848-1933)
Feuilles volantes, Op 1 (1869) [11:04]
René de CASTÉRA (1873-1955)
Serenata, Op 11 (1907) [6:28]
Berceuse, Op 12 (1909) [2:36]
Valse lente (1920) [2:00]

Joseph-Ermend BONNAL (1880-1944)
Menuet triste (1921) [2:43]
Soir aux abatilles (1919) [6:51]
Chansons d'Agnoutine (1929) [8:07]

Patrick LE JUNTER (b. 1958)
Miniatures Naïves (1984) [6:28]
Variations pour petites mains (2008) [2:14]
Etudes [3:50]
Promenade au Crépuscule (2011) [6:13]


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