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REVIEWS /CHAMBER MUSIC
You won't find Durosoir in any English-language musical encyclopedias. Prior to World War I, he was a successful and well-known violinist who performed all over Europe, introducing new French works elsewhere and new European works in France. But serving in the French Army for 55 months during and after World War I essentially broke his spirit and he was unable to continue his performing career afterwards. Moving to the desolate Landes in southwestern France (where the Germans commandeered his home during the Second World War), he began composing and did so for the rest of his life although, apparently intentionally, he published nothing. These violin/piano works date from the 1920 Aquarelles to the 1950 Chant élégiaque (in memory of Ginette Neveu). Durosoir had studied counterpoint with Tournemire and, in early 1918, struck up a friendship with Sgt. André Caplet, who encouraged his compositional activities until Caplet's own early death in 1925. Sometimes a hint of the ecstatic, visionary quality of Szymanowski (via Debussy, presumably) brightens up the 1921 sonata and the 1927 Oisillon bleu (perhaps a hint of very early Messiaen here too) but, generally speaking, Durosoir's voice is in the conservative line of Fauré. Although the music shows no overt signs of the crushing emotional effect the war had on ending his performing career, it's also fair to say that there is often a shadow over this beautiful, often evocative music. This 2006 release was not previously offered in the U.S. Geneviève Laurenceau (violin), Lorène de Ratuld (piano).
Lucien Durosoir: String Quartets Nos. 1-3 Quatuor Diotima (Alpha 125)
AUDIOPHILE AUDITION (USA)
Published on October 25, 2008 Steven Ritter
LUCIEN DUROSOIR: String Quartets No. 1 in F-minor, No. 2 in D-minor, No. 3 in B-minor - Diotima Quartet - Alpha 125, 79:36 ***** [Distr. By Allegro]:
Lucien Durosoir (1878 - 1955) is a French composer and violinist who studied with Joachim and Hugo Heermann in Germany, and gave noted premieres of many famous violin works by equally famous composers. During WWI he was encouraged to found a string quartet that included his mentor, Andre Caplet. After 1919 he composed for the next 30 years, and while not exactly prolific, his music has a concentrated power and inherent drama that has hints of Debussy, Wagner, and mostly, Ravel, though without the streamlined classical consensus that informs most of that composer's music.
The three string quartets were composed over a 14 year period, and one can easily see the composer's development during this time, though I would concede that what we hear in the earliest of these works is present in cell form in the latest as well. These are all intensely focused pieces with a sense that no notes are wasted; everything he writes has meaning, and one comes away from these works feeling that you get your money's worth from an hour's worth of listening, with nothing superfluous thrown in to waste your time. I am not saying that these pieces inspired that same kind of immediate gratification and even love that the quartets of the above "impressionists" command; but given time and enough repeated hearings, there are lots of things to seduce your emotions and cause you to return to these pieces again and again, always finding something new each time.
The Diotima Quartet is as new to me as this composer, and they play with fire and flair, completely comfortable with the composer as with that of Beethoven. The sound that Alpha provides is wonderfully resonant, and I can't think of a better way to spend money when looking for a discovery.
-- Steven Ritter
3 November 2008
By William Norris
"I am going to
make an enthusiastic report to all my friends about your quartet, which I find
thousands of times more interesting than everything that springs from the pens
of the noisy groups of newcomers that now assails us"'
These were the words with which the acclaimed French composer and conductor André Caplet heralded Lucien Durosoir's String Quartet No. 1 in F minor (1919-20). A highly-regarded concert violinist before 1914 (he gave the French premieres of concertos by Brahms, Strauss and Gade, having studied the instrument with Joachim), Durosoir (1878-1955) dedicated the vast majority of his post-war years to composition. He lived away from Paris, and thus was relatively independent of compositional trends and developments in one of Europe's most influential musical capitals ('Les Six' were rising to prominence at around the same time in Montparnasse, crowned with their collective epithet in 1923).
This notion of individualism - vehemently presented by the composer's musicologist daughter-in-law Georgie Durosoir in her edifying booklet notes - is, essentially, the selling point of this disc. Characterised by concentrated and passionate counterpoint, taut thematic structural integrity, rhythmic ambiguity, and harmonies that oscillate between tonality and atonality, these string quartets defy any attempts at simple classification. Ravel and Bartók most readily spring to mind if one attempts this exercise, but there is also the occasional glimpse over the shoulder to Brahms and towards Shostakovich on the horizon. By the same token, one can readily hear that all three works are from the same genus, that being the inherently unique style that Durosoir cultivated.
All three quartets are in minor keys - F, D and B respectively - and whilst they all contain rays of hope and happiness within them, the overwhelming sentiments of these works can be located within the realms of anguish, anger and anxiety. The first quartet is, temporally, the most substantial of the three. One is immediately struck by the relentless, even hypnotic nature of the composer's elaborate voice-leading, particularly in the outer movements. The Scherzo is an absolute delight, with its fleeting, graceful outer sections and an intensely diabolical central episode. However, the emotional hub of this work lies in the Adagio, a deeply profound and poignant movement that simmers with gloom and despair. Here we find an example of Durosoir's cyclical approach to composition, with the cello's tender melody a mirrored augmentation of a motif heard originally in the opening Allegro moderato.
Durosoir's Second (1922) and Third (1933-34) String Quartets, though completed over a decade apart, are both more concentrated affairs. The main strength of the former, as with its predecessor, is the slow movement, an intensely despairing Berceuse. Its final bars, with a melody in harmonics accompanied by ensemble pizzicati, are especially touching. The last movement is brilliantly mysterious and restless, with the added surprise of a conclusion in the tonic major, offering a momentarily optimistic outlook. An utterly kaleidoscopic array of emotions is on display in the third quartet, which even begins with a hint at sanguinity in the Ferme et passionné first movement, despite its B-minor tonality. The fiery finale makes use of nearly the full list of timbres that string instruments have to offer (including sull ponticello, con sordino, and ricochet bowing) which, far from gimmicky, are adroitly employed to manufacture a captivating soundworld.
The Quatuor Diotima proves to be a superb proponent of this repertoire. That no single player stands out above the others is a virtue given that the composer's dense textures are formed of equally-fiendish intertwining parts. These are shaped with the utmost sense of direction, the quartet never allowing the music to become weighed down by maudlin phrasing. Indeed, the second movement of the third quartet (initially marked 'quite slow, dreamily) could, in fact, have been performed with greater tranquillity, here seeming a tad hurried. All in all, however, the ensemble plays these works with an overflowing profusion of dynamism and with innate musical insight.
Alpha's recorded sound has a palpable sense of urgency, marred only by some mysterious thuds in the background of the Third Quartet's slow movement. Overall presentation is excellent; the booklet includes not only Georgie Durosoir's commentary but also an evocative essay to accompany the Georges Lacombe painting that adorns the cover. These issues, however, are of secondary importance. What truly matters here is that these works - intriguing, impassioned, and intellectual - encourage the listener to make new 'discoveries' on every repeated hearing. It is this aspect of music that keeps us coming back for more.
Lucien Durosoir's music is like nothing you have ever heard before. As exemplified in this revelatory Alpha disc of his three string quartets, Durosoir's music is tonal in orientation but often so chromatic it becomes functionally atonal, contrapuntal in texture with lines so free they become virtually independent, and passionate in expression with emotions so powerful they would overwhelm the music if not for the composer's complete control of his materials. Born in 1878, Durosoir had a career as first-rank violinist before the Great War took the 36 year old into the trenches. After surviving the war, Durosoir turned to composition with a passion and produced more than two dozen works in less than 20 years. Neglected by the French musical establishment during the composer's lifetime and ignored after his death in 1955, Durosoir's music has only been rediscovered due to the energetic advocacy of his son and daughter-in-law, and this is only the second disc entirely devoted to his works. Played with amazing confidence and technical assurance by the Quatuor Diotima and recorded in clear, close sound by Alpha, this disc deserves to be heard by everyone who enjoys European chamber music written between the wars. ~
The association " Musiciens entre Guerre et Paix " was created by a need to preserve, promote and exploit the literary and artistic heritage left in particular by three artists who together lived through virtually the whole of the First World War : André Caplet, Lucien Durosoir and Maurice Maréchal. Founded by Lucien Durosoir's descendants, the association has set itself objectives and has firm plans for the wealth and diversity of its heritage.
- Lucien Durosoir, concert violinist until 1914 and called up as an ordinary soldier from August 1914 until February 1919, composed an important range of works between 1920 and 1950 (40 titles listed), covering chamber music and symphonic works in their most varied forms
b) To make known war memoirs
- The cellist Maurice Maréchal wrote his War Diaries.
- Lucien Durosoir wrote to his mother every day throughout the four years of the Great War: some 1,500 letters require editing. These letters bear strong testament to the living conditions of the "poilus", provide many details about the daily events of the war, life in the 5th Division (Mangin Division), off duty as well as at the front line, the food, the hardship, the solidarity, the life of the stretcher bearers, the pigeon-keepers, the musicians and the most dramatic events of the period.
- This correspondence talks about other artists or recounts the friendship between musicians of the same company : eye witness comments on artistic creations, concert preparations for the senior officers, and the founding of a string quartet.
- André Caplet used to write to Lucien Durosoir and their letters display their mutual interest in the arts, specifically in respect of composition. Many other letters written to other musicians complete this superb collection.
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