Notes and Editorial Reviews
Piano Sonata No. 1
Pascal Gallet (pn);
Jonathan Darlington, cond;
MAGUELONE 111.171 (47:04)
During his early years, André Jolivet was linked with Olivier Messiaen as a fellow member of a group of composers dubbed “La jeune France.” Indeed, Jolivet helped set up this group. However,
while both men were concerned in different ways with ritual, Jolivet’s music bears little resemblance to Messiaen’s. Experimenting with modern harmonies and primitive, driving rhythms, Jolivet forged a style that owed something to jazz, something to Bartók (particularly in the forceful, almost abrasive nature of his piano music), and quite a lot to Stravinsky’s
Rite of Spring
. In the 1940s, Jolivet went out of his way to deny any influence of Stravinsky. His later music became more lyrical but rarely mellow, and always harmonically complex—as can be gleaned from a hearing of his late Violin Concerto, premiered in 1972 (two years before the composer’s death) and stunningly recorded by Isabelle Faust. His most frequently recorded works are his two concertos for flute—but neither of these charming pastoral pieces is typical of his music, as they lack its defining rhythmic momentum.
The Piano Sonata No. 1, dating from 1945, marks the beginning of Jolivet’s most significant period, where an early experimental style became tempered with lyricism and a Debussyan atmosphere. (Debussy and Ravel were among the composer’s early heroes.) The Sonata’s three movements contain thick textures at times, notably in the outer movements, but often encompass delicate scherzando passages as well. If you know Henri Dutilleux’s Piano Sonata, completed three years later, you will have a fair idea of what to expect.
The Piano Concerto (1951) marries this driving pianism with a colorfully scored, percussion-dominated orchestra, utilizing repetitive rhythmic figures derived from African models. Again in three movements, the Concerto is a restless work. Even in its second movement, which begins with pretty, stylized textures, a primitive energy eventually takes over. The busy finale reaches a surging climax, via a jazz-inspired drum solo. It would be an exciting work to hear live—in fact, this performance is recorded in concert—so its lack of popularity may only be explained by the absence of instantly memorable thematic ideas.
French pianist Pascal Gallet appears to be a Jolivet specialist; this is the third volume in his survey of the composer’s piano output. Gallet has both the technique and the temperament to convey the music’s dynamism, as well as its decorative complexity. Both works are well recorded, particularly the Sonata (a studio recording). Gallet and Darlington’s recording of the Concerto (compiled from performances on the 19th and 20th September 2007) has appeared on disc previously, specifically as part of a CD on the Acousence label in the Living Concert Series. That disc couples the Concerto with an interesting orchestral program by the same forces: Debussy’s
(orchestrated by Bernardo Molinari) and Ravel’s
Gaspard de la nuit
(orchestrated by Marius Constant). Maybe I’m wrong, but the Acousence version of the Concerto seems to me to provide more presence in the orchestral sound, even though it is indisputably the same performance. It also dispenses with the prolonged applause that follows on the Maguelone disc.
The only competitor I know of in the Concerto is a 1965 recording that still sounds very good indeed: Philippe Entremont is the soloist, with the Paris Conservatoire Orchestra conducted by the composer (coupled with Milhaud’s First Piano Concerto, also conducted by its composer). Despite its age, this CD remains available from Japanese Sony and is well worth seeking out. If solo piano is your primary interest, a 2003 Centaur disc gives us Jolivet’s piano sonatas Nos. 1 and 2, and
Five Ritual Dances
. I don’t believe this one has been reviewed in
; it is cleanly recorded and played with all the requisite flair and understanding by Canadian pianist Philip Adamson. Each of the three discs is excellent—four, if you include the mixed program—so if you wish to get to know more of Jolivet’s vital and invigorating music, do not hesitate.
FANFARE: Phillip Scott
Works on This Recording
Piano Sonata No. 1 by André Jolivet
Pascal Gallet (Piano)
Date of Recording: 04/10/2007
Venue: Eglise St Marcel Paris V
Length: 21 Minutes 55 Secs.
Piano Concerto by André Jolivet
Pascal Gallet (Piano)
Venue: Mercator Halle, Duisburg, Germany
Length: 7 Minutes 39 Secs.
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