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André JOLIVET (1905-1974)
Concerto pour flûte et orchestre à cordes (1949) [13:09]
Suite en concert pour flûte et percussions (1965) [16:03]
Frank MARTIN (1890-1974)
Ballade pour flûte, orchestre à cordes et piano (1939-41) [7:30]
Sonate da chiesa pour flûte solo et orchestre à cordes (arr. V. Desarzens) (1958) [18:12]
José-Daniel Castellon (flute), Jean-Jacques Balet (piano), Les Percussions Claviers de Lyon, Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne / Nicolas Chalvin
rec. 2004, Salle Métropole, Lausanne
CLAVES 50-1818 [55:29]

Here we have two composers who were roughly contemporary. Though Martin was fifteen years older than Jolivet, both died in 1974. Scratching beneath the surface the two men had even more in common. Each adhered to tonality, and weren’t averse to occasionally sidling up to serialism. Melody and lyricism was an abiding feature, too, and both had an unique and individual voice. One other attribute was a mystical and spiritual thread running through their music.

Although Frank Martin was married to a flautist, he composed very few works which spotlight the instrument. Between 1938 and 1972 he wrote six single-movement pieces for different solo instruments, each bearing the title Ballade. The one for flute was commissioned by the Concours International d'Exécution Musicale de Genève in 1939. It was conceived initially with a piano accompaniment, then later orchestrated. It calls for expert skill from the performer, covering the full range of the instrument and employing wide melodic leaps. It doesn't skimp on lyricism. The whole thing is cast in a neoclassical mould.

The Sonata da chiesa of 1938 appeared originally as a piece for viola d'amore and organ. Martin then arranged it for flute and organ for his wife Maria. In 1959, the conductor Victor Desarzens, a fervent champion of the composer's music, arranged it for flute and string orchestra. It's an intensely beautiful work with a meditative vein running throughout. Castellon weaves an expressive line around Martin's colourful harmonies, enhanced by Desarzen's masterful orchestration.

André Jolivet's Flute Concerto dates from 1949 and was premièred on 24 January 1950 by Jean-Pierre Rampal. Its four movement structure conforms to a slow-fast-slow-fast pattern. The opening is melancholic, but the second movement resembles a bustling scherzo. The Largo, which follows, is sombre and pensive, whilst in the finale the flute's skittish gestures call time in jovial manner. Despite the work’s melodic simplicity, Jolivet's harmonies are venturesome.

The kaleidoscopic four-movement Suite en Concert harnesses wild incantations, ostinatos and complex rhythms. These elements are scintillatingly profiled in the third movement especially. The second movement, by contrast, is thought-provoking and chillingly atmospheric. The solo flute hovers like some disembodied spirit. Throughout the work, Castellon and the four percussionists of Les Percussions Claviers de Lyon perform with dazzling virtuosity, breathless energy and élan.

The recordings are in top of the range sound, and instrumental balance is faultless. I can’t hesitate to give this release a resounding thumbs up.

Stephen Greenbank

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