Jongen Complete Works for Viola and Piano

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COMPOSERS: Joseph Jongen
LABELS: Fuga Libera
ALBUM TITLE: Jongen
WORKS: Complete works for viola and piano
PERFORMER: Nathan Braude (viola); Jean-Claude Vanden Eynden (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: FUG586

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The music of Jongen was never going to set the world on fire. Like the man, it is not revolutionary in spirit. An admirer of Debussy and Ravel, his spirit is closer to Fauré in its quiet determination and eschewing of flashiness. As with Fauré, the younger generation dismissed Jongen after his death nearly 60 years ago, but this Belgian master’s music has been passionately kept alive by devotees such as the performers here.

Several of the recital pieces here were written as test pieces for the Paris Conservatoire, but these are far from arid pedagogical exercises. The Allegro appassionato that opens this disc is reminiscent of Franck in turbulent mood, while the first part of the Introduction et Danse has a transcendent lucidity that brings to mind Vaughan Williams’s The Lark Ascending. These disparate pieces, supplemented by two solo piano works, make for a surprisingly effective recital. Nathan Braude knows when to give full rein to his richly nuanced tone and when to nudge the music along, sensitively partnered by Jean-Claude Vanden Eynden. Finely judged, stylish performances.

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Christopher Dingle