WORKS: Epithalame; Cinq rechants; Le cantique des cantiques
PERFORMER: The Sixteen/Harry Christophers
CATALOGUE NO: 14802
In 1936, four up-and-coming young composers (Yves Baudrier, Jean Yves Daniel-Lesur, André Jolivet and Olivier Messiaen) formed La Jeune France as a reaction against the (perceived) superficiality of neo-classicism. The group advocated replacing the prevailing flippancy with a more spiritual approach to composition. However, La Jeune France would barely warrant inclusion in even the most comprehensive musical dictionary were it not for Messiaen’s involvement, and if the group’s aspirations were realised at all, it was the sobering intrusion of the Second World War which brought them to fruition.
This may seem like infertile ground on which to base a disc, especially when all the pieces were written after the group’s activities had ceased, but nothing could be further from the truth. The Sixteen provides an emotionally charged hour of impassioned ‘love songs’. The stunning account of Epithalame only highlights how much Jolivet’s music is currently undervalued. Daniel-Lesur’s neglect is probably more justifiable, but his setting of passages from The Song of Songs demonstrates that he could occasionally find a wonderfully rich vein of inspiration. Messiaen’s Cinq rechants is sandwiched between these two rarities and, as elsewhere, The Sixteen is both faultless and inspirational. Strongly recommended. Christopher Dingle