Jongen: Concert à cinq, Op. 71; Sonata Duo, Op. 109; Danse lente; Adagio, Op. 22/1; Deux pièces en trio, Op. 80

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COMPOSERS: Jongen
LABELS: Cypres
WORKS: Concert à cinq, Op. 71; Sonata Duo, Op. 109; Danse lente; Adagio, Op. 22/1; Deux pièces en trio, Op. 80
PERFORMER: Ensemble Arpae
CATALOGUE NO: CYP 1632
Your best chance of knowing something by Joseph Jongen (1873-1953) is to be an organist. Otherwise this Belgian conservatoire director’s sparkling chamber music will come as an inspiriting surprise. Star item is the Concert à cinq, which sets out with string textures like Ravel’s, supple phrases and augmented harmonies like Chausson’s and an entirely personal lucidity and fleetness. Flute dominates and harp supports like a continuo, as the music forges unity out of initial diversity.

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That is the biggest work, while the Sonata for violin and cello boasts the longest single movement – a mixed blessing, since the two big waves of gathering intensity that emerge from a gentle modal opening unwind in a less interesting set of variations on a chorale-like theme. More fascinating, with its unlikely echoes of late Beethoven, if a touch dry, is the Adagio for violin and viola which, thanks to double-stopping, is ingeniously written mostly as a trio, sometimes even a quartet. The players meet its contrapuntal demands with an absorbing concentration. They sound as if they are enjoying themselves most in the quiet enchantment and eventual brilliance of the Deux pièces en trio, more demonstrative for harp and finely balanced with an easy fluency. Robert Maycock