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Alwyn, Grace Williams, Arnold, Wordsworth. Searle, Joubert

Van Dieren Chinese Symphony
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Louis VIERNE (1870-1937)
Cello Sonata, Op.27 (1911) [25:49] ¹
Les Angelus, Op.57 (1929) [12:13] ²
Alex CLAIRMON (b.1910)
Trio for violin, cello and harp (1954-55) [10:31] ³
Geneviève Martinet (cello) and Jean Doyen (piano) ¹
Hélène Bouvier (mezzo) and Maurice Duruflé (organ) ²
Roland Charmy (violin); Jules Lemaire (cello) and Lily Laskine (harp) ³
rec. 1957-59, Paris

It’s inevitable that this release will be of short duration. It was sourced from two vinyl discs - Odeon ODX176 for the Vierne and Pathé 45 ED 85 for the Clairmon and clocks in at just about 48 minutes.
The first piece is Vierne’s Cello Sonata played by Geneviève Martinet and the ever-dependable Jean Doyen, certainly now the better-known of the two musicians. The recording was made in Paris in 1959. The sonata is a three-movement 26-minute affair - in this performance - that runs through a variety of expressive states. The opening cello soliloquy is statuesque and attention-demanding, and then is followed by the Allegro proper, which is rather more conventional in effect. The slow movement is a searching, sometimes withdrawn Andante which at times is almost murmured in its confidential intimacy. There remains something elusive about Vierne’s late-romanticism here. The finale is enjoyable though sometimes undistinguished thematically. Doyen plays admirably, though Martinet is less satisfactory. Her rather monochromatic tone is nasal, and sometimes buzzy, and her intonation wanders.
The companion Vierne work is Les Angelus, for singer and organ, roles here taken by the distinguished duo of Hélène Bouvier (mezzo-soprano) and Maurice Duruflé, who performs on the organ of l’Eglise Saint-Etienne-du-Mont. These three charming pieces utilise poems by Jean Le Pôvremoyne (1903-1970) and there’s much dextrous writing to be heard. The first poem, Au matin, sees a halo around Bouvier’s mezzo and some rich late-impressionist feeling. More open-air is À midi whilst Au soir is very quiet, still, limpid and refined; Duruflé plays beautifully.
Alex Clairmon may seem like a strange bedfellow for the two Vierne pieces and indeed he is. He was born forty years after Vierne and is stylistically from a wholly different school. He’s not well-known these days. The Trio for violin, cello and harp was composed between 1954 and 1955 and is in three brief movements, much the longest of which is the Adagio. It’s couched in a popular Parisian style for much of its length. That central movement is a rather lovely entwining chanson, a touching and reflective oasis of calm followed by an energetic finale. Clairmon was a noted song composer and this gift is uppermost in his Trio. The players include Lily Laskine, doyenne of French harpists, and the cellist Jules Lamaire. The violinist is Roland Charmy, who was to die prematurely a couple of years later. Some may know his name from the recording of Stravinsky’s Ragtime, made for French Columbia in Paris on 78s with the composer conducting. The Clairmon recording is rather dry but that was common in Paris studios in the 1950s.
Unusual, indeed odd, though the coupling is, the original recordings are largely unexplored territory and thus of interest to collectors.
Jonathan Woolf