Jongen: Mélodies, Opp. 25, 45 & 57; Triptyque

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Jongen
LABELS: Cypres
WORKS: Mélodies, Opp. 25, 45 & 57; Triptyque
PERFORMER: Mariette Kemmer (soprano); Monte-Carlo PO/Pierre Bartholomée
CATALOGUE NO: CYP 1635
A must-hear for Duparc and Chausson admirers, Joseph Jongen’s take on received musical language is at times incisive, at times understated, and always eloquent. His orchestral songs begin audaciously with the famous text of ‘Après un rêve’, in a Franckist and overtly sexy treatment; Fauré’s music is recalled instead in the arpeggiated accompaniment of ‘Chanson roumaine’. There’s notable finesse in ‘Les cadrans’ as the clock in Franz Hellens’s deserted city strikes for nobody.

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The high point is a discomfiting cycle of Hellens’s war poems, Les fêtes rouges, part of Op. 57, and strangely almost unknown. ‘Carnival of the Trenches’ is a searing experience in itself, a burst of savage irony and rage, while ‘Tongues of Fire’ uses Christian imagery to commend ‘just hatred’ in pursuit of freedom – Al-Qaeda-like sentiments from close to home, made more shocking by ecstatic orchestral climaxes.

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Mariette Kemmer combines bright soprano timbres with intense lyrical feeling, warmly recorded and closely accompanied. The Triptyque for orchestra is attractive enough, just a touch less fresh, constantly recalling the soundscape of La mer. Its finale virtually quotes the dawn music from Daphnis et Chloé, in an unmissable and presumably knowing way that makes it all the more enjoyable. Robert Maycock