ALBUM TITLE: I’Indy Orchestral Works, Vol. 5
WORKS: Orchestral Works, Vol. 5: Symphonie sur un chant montagnard Français, Op. 25; Fervaal – Prelude to Act I; Saugefleurie, Op. 21; Médée, Op. 47
PERFORMER: Louis Lortie (piano); Iceland Symphony Orchestra/Rumon Gamba
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN10760
Referring to d’Indy’s opera Fervaal, Debussy spoke of the composer ‘doing his duty’. It’s easy to see why this work wasn’t to Debussy’s taste, and the ‘Prelude’ wears its Wagnerian credentials quite openly, specifically from the opening of Das Rheingold, with an F sharp pedal replacing Wagner’s E flat. But it flows with a fine assurance, leaving one keen to hear more of a work that made quite a splash in 1897, but then faded from view. The Symphony on a French Mountain Song, however, speaks to me of ‘duty’, and Debussy again comes to mind, enjoining composers to leave folksongs alone, saying more or less ‘they’ve never done you any harm’. The over-generous acoustic doesn’t help, reducing the double-dotted bass rhythms at the start to a blur and distorting balance elsewhere. The triumphant apotheosis surely represents a victory of will over taste.
Médée, based on incidental music to a play starring Sarah Bernhardt, is far more impressive – but where are the two unaccompanied cymbal strokes near the end? For me, the palm goes to the delightful and generally ignored Saugefleurie, where duty bows before inspiration. Throughout, the playing is warm and unfussy.