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Thread: Unheralded French romantic orchestral composers

  1. #211
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prodromides View Post
    Would Mr. Knox consider Jean Rivier and/or Jean Wiener (both born in 1896)?

    or ... Désiré-Émile Inghelbrecht (1880 - 1965)?
    Again, you're welcome to post on any of them:

    Jean Rivier -- my initial reaction to Rivier's First Symphony was "modernist: neoclassical branch" and I don't want to go through his numerous works for this particular thread. If you think certain works belong here please post on them or direct me to them.

    Jean Wiener -- his Bach-parodying Accordion Concerto is the funniest piece I've heard in a long time -- dry humour, built-in performer "mistakes," composition "errors," hilarious. But he was mainly a very prolific film composer. If you or anyone else thinks this thread needs some humour as we approach the end of the era this could be the piece, in a "And Now For Something Completely Different" sense.

    Désiré-Émile Ingelbrecht -- yes I think his Sinfonia breve de camera is very good, and the pieces in Nursery Suite No. 1 are piquant. I've taken notes and will post.
    Last edited by Roger Knox; Jun-16-2021 at 03:31.

  2. #212
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prodromides View Post
    Perhaps Marcel Labey (1875-1968), too?
    I hadn't heard of him and haven't found any of his music to listen to.

  3. #213
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    Gabriel Dupont (1878-1914) is one of those composers who leave you wondering what might have been had fate not intervened. Already seen as a major figure early in his adulthood, it was tuberculosis that drastically shortened his career and life. He composed much vocal music including four operas, while his purely orchestral output was small. Fortunately we now have the excellent recording Gabriel Dupont: Complete Symphonic Works; Orchestra Philharmonique Royal de Liège/Patrick Davin; Fuga Libera (2019).

    Jour d’été (1900) is a three-movement symphonic sketch where the mood is light as we move through the summer day. It opens with the bouncy Matinee ensoleillée in cheerful 6/8 time, with rapid upward scales in the flute and piccolo suggesting shafts of light. Sous-bois is an idyllic respite in the woodlands. It is characterized by lyrical phrases for the woodwinds and smooth strings, while a longer solo for violin carries the music to a more intimate level. And then we are surprised by Nocturne, a fast minor-key tarantella-like tour de force of orchestral writing with what seem like swarming insects and other menacing events. Distant horn calls interrupt the busy night, but the action soon returns. Finally, there is a “turn to safety” in the major mode as the movement closes.

    (To be continued, with Dupont’s Le chant de la destinée and the orchestral version of Les Heures dolentes)
    Last edited by Roger Knox; Jun-17-2021 at 04:03.

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  5. #214
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    (continuing from Post #213 with the other two orchestral works from the same recording)

    Warning: the two later compositions by Gabriel Dupont and the discussion of them here may be upsetting and triggering for readers dealing with disease or disease-related issues, including from the COVID-19 crisis.

    By the time Dupont composed Les Heures dolentes (1903-5) and orchestrated four of its pieces, he had experienced a major tuberculosis attack and subsequent recuperation. Dupont was a composer of late-romantic, passionate music. Just as he captured a sense of joy in Jour d’été, here he expresses harrowing feelings from his convalescence. I knew this work first as a long set of 14 piano pieces. What has changed with orchestration is the magnitude of highs and lows, louds and softs, and of course variety of tone colours.

    Epigraphe - La mort rôde (Death Lurks) and Nuit blanche: Hallucinations are the most powerful pieces. The first opens the work Les Heures dolentes. Low strings are followed by a harp ostinato that becomes insistent; then the strings alternate with aggressive low brass (“death lurking”). Later things become eerie, with an irregular syncopated beat and an ongoing pianissimo two-note pattern in the high strings. The piece ends with the English horn soloing over an orchestral ground bass, traditionally associated with mourning. The closing Nuit blanche: Hallucinations begins with ominous open fifths and octaves. There is a march-like build-up; each wave crescendos to a peak and then falls back in a dramatic manner. Full brass, loud timpani and a fast repeated-note wind chorus announce a crisis. All is brought to an end with a chorale-like passage and the suggestion of expiring heartbeats.

    By contrast Le soir tombe dans la chambre (Evening Falls in the Room) opens with the flute; rich strings and winds are soon added. An oboe solo with bass clarinet counterpoint, followed by a telling passage of solo violin over strings continue a trend of downward scales and a longer-range downward succession until night has arrived. Des enfants jouent dans le jardin begins in 6/8 time with a catchy tune, that later alternates with a march-like passage in common time but rhythmically complex. Such is the carefree, non-rigid progression of children’s play. Some especially reedy low winds and a flutter-tongued raspy horn add contrast in the middle section; the melody returns with trumpet and flute providing an upbeat ending.

    In the symphonic poem Le chant de la destinée (The Song of Destiny; 1907) the “song” is long, wide-intervalled and declamatory, delivered by trumpet with supporting brass and winds. The strings play a secondary role initially, answering with a figure that fills in rhythmically. Later a more chant-like stepwise melody enters in the high strings. As a symphonic poem this work has more formal twists and turns than the Dupont pieces discussed previously. The composer’s heart-on-sleeve romanticism is still present, but impressionist elements are prominent too – open fifths, augmented triads, and Debussy-like ninth chords. When the original Song of Destiny returns in the brass, the massed strings have thrilling arpeggiation over fifths and octaves, heightening the sense of anguish and grief. Then the song dwindles in dynamic and is reduced to fragments. As in Epigraphe - La mort rôde from Les Heures dolentes, the English horn ushers us out, this time over sul ponticello cello tremolos ...
    Last edited by Roger Knox; Jun-17-2021 at 22:09.

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  7. #215
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    Max D’Ollone (1875-1959) was a child prodigy composer, a winner of the Prix de Rome, and a prolific composer of operas. Three orchestral compositions appear on Max D’Ollone: Orchestra Simfonica De Barcelona i National de Catalunya/Lawrence Foster; Claves (2003). My preference is Le Ménétrier (The Minstrel; 1901) for violin and orchestra. Mark Kaplan is superb throughout as soloist. This three-movement work is a program concerto based on the idea of a medieval minstrel (the violin) in his native country who travels to the land of the Bohemians, and returns home. The opening is attractive and modal, suggesting ancient times, with interplay between the solo violin and winds. From there the music builds to a grand orchestral statement with the virtuosic violin in full flight. The middle movement is in waltz time with gapped scales and stylistic idioms of Eastern Europe. In the finale a long soaring melodic line over soft trilling orchestral strings is especially effective. A cadenza-like violin passage follows, and then the work closes with a brief reminiscence of the minstrel's trip to the East.

    Lamento (1908) is a late romantic elegy that features subtle handling of harmony and instrumentation. It is a good example of Wagner-influenced French music. The earlier Fantaisie for Piano and Orchestra (1897) composed when the composer was 22 is technically and musically accomplished, something of a “crowd-pleaser” stylistically reminiscent of Saint-Saens. Much later, D’Ollone became president of the music section of Groupe Collaboration, an organization which “sought to establish close cultural links with Nazi Germany and appeal to the higher echelons of French life” [Wikipedia]. There is more information on the internet about this topic; this is not a place for political discussion.
    Last edited by Roger Knox; Jun-18-2021 at 19:25.

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    Gustave Samazeuilh (1877-1967) was a prominent late romantic composer and long-time advocate for Wagner. The influence shows in his orchestral music, but so do those of Debussy and impressionism. Samazeuilh excelled in piano transcriptions of orchestral music. There are good CD’s of his piano and chamber music, yet for orchestral music there seem to be only archival-quality recordings of broadcasts by the Orchestre Philharmonique de la RTF on YouTube. The substantial symphonic poem Le Nef (The Nave [of a ship]; 1907) opens with the initial leitmotif of the Tristan and Isolde Prelude, which recurs in sequence on higher pitches. A grand passage suggesting the surging ocean is succeeded by faster music in ¾ time (skipping over the waves?). My guess is that the music alludes to the Wagner opera’s ocean voyage. After reaching a Straussian climax the work continues, with the whole-tone scale prominent.

    My preferred work is Nuit … (Poème pour orchestre; 1924). It is a memorial to Gabriel Fauré though more reminiscent of Wagner, and a shorter, stronger work than Le Nef. Once again there is a leitmotif, this time in the Lydian mode. The poetic idea is of eternity and the night -- rich chromatic harmonies intensified with appoggiaturas, whole tone scales, and a riot of Straussian epiphanies become the norm. Towards the end clusters of parallel high flute and piccolo lines come flooding down over the orchestra. In Cantabile et Capriccio for string orchestra (1947), the slow, languorous Cantabile is succeeded by a contrasting fast pizzicato Capriccio. Then the two types alternate, and I’ll leave readers to decide which prevails. During World War Two Samazeuilh was a member of Groupe Collaboration, involved in interactions with the occupying Germans. Maybe that history explains the lack of recordings of his orchestral works. Nevertheless, there is a better-sounding choice: his orchestral song cycle Le Cercle des Heures, played by the Orchestre de la Société des Concerts/Charles Munch on the conductor’s complete recordings set.
    Last edited by Roger Knox; Jun-19-2021 at 11:28.

  9. #217
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    Philippe Gaubert (1879-1941) was an outstanding flautist and successful conductor; one could wish for a flute concerto too. Instead, what he left are the Violin Concerto (1930) and Poème Romanesque for Cello and Orchestra (1932). The Violin Concerto is a short, attractive work. Its strengths include the composer’s expressive melody and modulating harmony to match. I especially like how he maintains variety in the solo part with delicious violin nuances and contrasts of register. The work begins well, but the composer overworks the leading motif and because of the sustained Andante tranquillo mood, contrast with the noble slow movement is lessened. The virtuosic finale opens as a non-threatening march and then the violin breaks loose with amazing high-altitude fireworks and harrowing double-stops.

    Overall I’ve enjoyed the Violin Concerto, and enjoyed Gaubert’s Poème Romanesque even more. It is also in three movements and about as long as the Concerto. The Poème’s opening movement excels with a soaring cello first theme and an intimate high-register second theme. They return cyclically in later movements. There are typically impressionistic pitch patterns, e.g. the whole-tone scale, augmented triad, and minor-major seventh chord, woven skillfully into these passages. More agitated music ensues for a while. A varied return of the second theme plus the first theme in the home key complete a mini-arch form (A-B-C-B1-A), wrapped up with the cello’s virtuosic close in double notes. The distinguished, mysterious second movement is modal with parallel chords; bells over calm string music add a spiritual reference. The cello charges in with the first movement’s theme but the string music returns. The now agitated cello challenges them then again with upward arpeggios but this time – voila! – it has a "change of heart," subdued and softly expressive. There is a cadenza and a squib of a finale, where a “duddle-um” cello figure reminds me of fireflies darting about. Above, the opening movement’s first and second themes return cyclically.

    The Concerto and Poème are available on Philippe Gaubert: Works for Orchestra Volume 3: Philippe Graffin (violin), Henri Demarquette (cello); Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg/Marc Soustrot; Timpani (2011). I especially love cellist Henri Demarquette’s Poème, for intonation, tone, bow control, and impeccable French style. His Poème recording plus other French concertante cello works are also on Portrait avec orchestra: Henri Demarquette; Timpani (2018).
    Last edited by Roger Knox; Jun-20-2021 at 21:31.

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  11. #218
    Senior Member Prodromides's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Knox View Post
    I hadn't heard of him and haven't found any of his music to listen to.
    My online searches lead me to a website which lists compositions by types. https://musicalics.com/en/composer/Marcel-Labey

    Marcel Labey reportedly has written these items for orchestra:

    Suite Champetre • (1922) • Suites
    Eglogue: orchestra • (1943) • Chants
    Sinfonietta: chamber orchestra • (1950) • Symphonie
    Symphony 1 • (1903) • Symphonie
    Symphony 2 • (1908) • Symphonie
    Symphony 3 • (1933) • Symphonie
    Symphony 4 • (1940) • Symphonie
    Symphony: strings • (1954) • Symphonie
    Fantaisie: orchestra • (1900) • Pièces
    Triptyque Symphonique: orchestra • (1947) • Pièces

    I don't have any of these ... and I only brought his name into this thread due his date of birth provided within a Cybelia CD compilation on French chamber music. Labey is categorized as 'modern', so I expect his name will get no further mention with respect to the topic.

    As we can see, there are plenty of compositions 'out there' which are unperformed + unrecorded + overlooked (unintentionally or otherwise) ... and these are only that which exist with publishers. Think about the multitudes of manuscripts that were never formally accepted by the musical 'establishment' due to perceived commercial infeasibility.

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  13. #219
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prodromides View Post
    My online searches lead me to a website which lists compositions by types. https://musicalics.com/en/composer/Marcel-Labey
    I don't have any of these ... and I only brought his name into this thread due his date of birth provided within a Cybelia CD compilation on French chamber music. Labey is categorized as 'modern', so I expect his name will get no further mention with respect to the topic. ...
    Thank you Prodromides for bringing in the name Marcel Labey and for this additional information on his works. It's a good example of how useful musicalics.com is. I have looked up Labey also but only yesterday did I check the easy place and find an entry on -- Wikipedia! He was yet another significant composer from Brittany and a student of D'Indy. A large number of prestigious faculty and staff who left the Schola Cantorum in 1935 joined the Ecole César Franck (also in Paris) where Marcel Labey became director. His wife Charlotte Sohy (1887-1955) was also a student of D'Indy, and her works have received notable attention in the revival of French woman composers. Labey, according to Wikipedia's list of works, "rediscovered the 'esprit franckiste' in his compositions;" however one takes that, his music was not modernist. Lacking recordings I'll stop there.

  14. #220
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prodromides View Post
    ... As we can see, there are plenty of compositions 'out there' which are unperformed + unrecorded + overlooked (unintentionally or otherwise) ... and these are only that which exist with publishers. Think about the multitudes of manuscripts that were never formally accepted by the musical 'establishment' due to perceived commercial infeasibility.
    Being a composer I'm aware of that and I second your emotion. Personally I've set the bar lower than musical establishment acceptance. Music I write needs to be played well, heard by an audience, and recorded in some form. This comment doesn't adequately answer your post -- to bring music from manuscript to publication to recording to acceptance by the musical establishment is a tall order. But in the cases of individual works and composers -- I have seen it happen and that's what encourages me. I don't know how to take up this issue in a more general way.

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    On the same Philippe Gaubert recording as the concertante works are two compositions for orchestra alone. In Le Cortège d’Amphitrite (1910), the composer adeptly builds a procession from distant beginnings to a grand, wonderfully-orchestrated here-and-now. The work is based on French symbolist Albert Samain’s poem. Young sea-goddess Amphitrite emerges surrounded by sea-nymphs, riding the waves in her silver conch. Sea monsters try to hold her but she shakes them off, her cortège proceeding serenely accompanied by dolphins that make gushing water-spouts.

    The two-movement symphonic poem Au pays Basque (In the Basque Country; 1931) is no mere travelogue. The composer spent his summers in the Basque region, adopting customs and music of the people. Au matin dans la montagne (Morning in the Mountains) evokes sunrise and nature with the composer’s masterly instrumentation. At this time Gaubert was at the pinnacle of the flute profession (Jean-Pierre Rampal said he was the best flautist – ever); his writing for winds is outstanding, but so is that for other sections of the orchestra. The second movement, Fête populaire à Saint-Jean-de-Luz (Popular Feast in Saint-Jean-de-Luz), is notable for the composer’s adoption of 5/8 meter from a Basque dance, the zortziko. Normally the beat grouping is 1+2+2, but here there are also other formulations that keep us “on our toes” (and me queasy sometimes!).

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