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Ren de Castra: Chamber Music 1

Ren de Castra: Chamber Music 1

  • By Diane Andersen
  • Release 18/03/2014
  • Media Format CD
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Price: €21.56

Product Notes

A sensitive son of Gascony The three sons of the Dax magistrate Amand d'Avezac de Castéra and grandsons of the senator Charles de Corta, all enjoyed artistic careers. Carlos and Gaston were under the tutelage of Saint Luke, while the youngest placed himself under the protection of Saint Cecilia. Sensitive to the melodies which filled the family home as well as the Gascon songs which were to be heard in Angoumé and the farmsteads around, René (born in 1873) attended the Catholic college at Dax. Recommended by Landes virtuoso Francis Planté, the young man followed Louis Diémer's courses at the Paris Conservatoire. He was overwhelmed on Gregorian plainsong, performed by the Chanteurs de Saint-Gervais in 1892. On becoming a friend of Charles Bordes, he was one of the first nine pupils at the newly created Schola Cantorum in 1896. Déodat de Séverac and Castéra proved themselves the best pupils of Isaac Albéniz. Under the tutelage of d'Indy, Guilmant, Gastoué, de Serres, de la Tombelle and de Bréville, he gradually established himself with songs, a Serenata for piano and a symphonic poem Jour de fête au Pays Basque. Influenced by Franck as much as by Schumann, the lively charm of this work is proof of an established mastery. In 1909 one of his works aroused d'Indy to enthusiasm: "Ah! Castéra, I have looked over your Trio. I love your first piece, it is entertaining in structure, only at the end one has the impression of being in the sub-dominant, because your key of D minor has not been sufficiently prepared for, something might be added. The Finale goes very well; your idea for the Andante is very good but there will be double chords on the cello, which will be difficult to do and it will be in your interest to alter, in the Finale as well [...]. Your Scherzo is very amusing" 'You don't think, Master, that there is something that should be cut?' 'But no, on the contrary, since I'm telling you that perhaps one should add something to the first piece. But I'm very fond of your ideas' . It's premiere took place on 9 March 1905 in Brussels, in an Audition de Musique Nouvelle, performed by Emile Chaumont, Henri Merek and Blanche Selva. 'This trio is full of promise,' affirmed Charles Van den Borren. 'It shows that it's composer already has a developed technique and has made a detailed study of the masters, past and present, especially Bach and d'Indy. Bach from the point of view of polyphonic structure and d'Indy from the point of view of rhythmic niceties. Monsieur de Castéra is from a good school.' Gustave Samazeuilh found it 'by turn, curiously rhythmic and gently dreamy, well and clearly constructed, full of freshness and melodic breadth'. Taking into consideration the judicious observations of Francis Planté and Jean Huré, Castéra soon revised this work, first removing seventy bars before completely re-writing the third movment Assez lent in 1908; to do this, he re-used a movement of sonata that he had begun in 1901 as a composition exercise. Much later, he altered it again, correcting details and cutting seventy-six bars from different places, in order to come to a definitive version. The introduction of the first movement lent, animé, lent, whose pianistic formula looks forward to the opening of Roussel's Trio, Op 2 of 1902 - advances an ascending generator theme, all within a single octave. A theme in F major, deliciously rhythmic and joyous, soars upward with a feeling of space and the youthful ardour that will always characterise his music. During the the development, the fluidity of the discourse is matched by the refinement of the melodic invention. It has a feeling of the sea, which is so evident in the music of such French composers as Chabrier (Gwendoline, 1886), d'Indy (L'Etranger, 1902), Decaux (La Mer, 1903), and Debussy (L'Isle Joyeuse, 1904). Divertissement is in rondeau form, where the refrain, originating in the opening theme, always returns to the original key, but each time in a different form. This arch-like construction contains a central verse (a basque dance), where the general mood is akin to the atmosphere of the village festivities as portrayed by Edvard Grieg. As so often in Bordes, this 5/8 balance is also made use of by his fellow-pupil Roussel in Danse au bord de l'eau. The feeling of the open air that permeates this movement is of the same period as Ravel's Miroirs (1904),de Séverac's En Languedoc (1903 - 1904), Canteloube's Dans la Montagne (1904 -1905) and Roussel's Rustiques (1904 - 1906). In the Assez lent, based on the first theme, youthful enthusiasm has calmed down to introduce a dreamy pause between two movements that exude vitality. Thus the Très animé finale makes it's effect by contrast and connects up again with the exuberance of the opening. The violin embarks on a phrase in D minor that is passionate and superbly rhythmical. The development combines the themes presented in the Trio, bringing them together in a virtuosic manner that makes full use of their resources, employing a language that has been totally mastered, as well as a rich invention and a most alluring use of harmony. It's cyclical construction, following Franck and dedicated to his master Vincent d'Indy, is a youthful work - like Samazeuilh's Quartet - and contains pages that are full of promise and a touching beauty. The style makrs a turning-point in the life of René de Castéra, winning him his spurs as a composer. Appreciated by Pablo Casals, Romain Rolland and Alfred Cortot, it was performed regularly. Castéra continued to serve others and to neglect his own work. Extremely energetic, he devoted himself to an ideal defined by d'Indy, was secretary of the Schola, founded the Edition Mutuelle and published works by his colleagues, composers such as Albéniz, Bordes, de Bréville, Canteloube, Cras, Le Flem, de Lioncourt, de Polignac, Tournemire and Vreuls. A seasoned critic, an occasional ghost-writer for Willy, he knew Debussy and Ravel, was close to Chausson and Roussel, was an intimate of the Rouart and Lerolle families, as well as Maurice Denis, who made several portraits of the composer. The friend of Colette, Paul-Jean Toulet, Sacha Guitry, Paul Dukas, Albéric Magnard and Joseph Canteloube, he frequented the salons of the Princess de Polignac and Marguerite de Saint-Marceaux. This multi-talented musician also performed on the organ in concerts, as well as taking up the conductor's baton. In the tradition of the Poème des Montagnes (d'Indy) and the Chant de la Terre (Severac), Castéra's Sonata in E minor (1909), dedicated to Paul Poujaud, seems inspired by the Landes forest in which he enjoyed long walks. It's premiere took place on 11 March 1911 in the hall of the Paris Conservatoire, performed by Firmin Touche and Blanche Selva. 'I like the openness and simplicity of your themes, ' said Paul Dukas. 'Their popular charm and the whole rhythmic suppleness of their development. And I am very happy to be able to assure you, without exaggeration, of the pleasure I have experienced in seeing your personality taking musical form, and it so reminds me of our friend Bordes (2)." The first performance in Belgium of Opus 13 took place at the Libre Esthétique on 2 April 1912, in the presence of Queen Elisabeth, who congratulated the composer. Modéré: the piano, followed by the violin, develops in an imaginative way, a rhythmic motif, on which is based the energetic play of the alternating of subtly produced rhythmic combinations. The second theme is in a calm G minor, characteristic of a nostalgia enveloped in a subtle harmonic shimmer. The initial theme reappears brusquely at the beginning of the development. Assez lent: the G minor tonality recalls the theme before a mood of unusual melancholy makes itself felt. At number 27 in the score, Father Franck's 'mystic' key rises up : the F sharp major, which takes us into an amazing spatialisation of different sound levels: the piano, as it were, develops a base of semiquavers, from which emerge motifs like echoes of some far-off festivity, deadened by a bed of pine-needles, against the violin's extended, meditative phrase. An evocation of a lost, legendary era, which could be from Le Grand Meaulnes, for there is something of the fairytale in this rapt contemplation. The second movement captures the immense and oppressive solitude of the silent Landes. The Modéré takes up a unfying theme. The assez vif in 5/8 is a close relation of Czech dance forms. The alternating 5/8, 6/8 and 3/4 display an accomplished use of alternating variations. The 12/8 in F major provides an interlude in the form of a court dance (berceuse). The recall of the second theme of the preceding movement, moves smoothly ahead of the reprise of the interlude and the return of the 5/8 in E minor. The final cadence is a fine send-off. The numerous corrections, crossings out and markings on the score, bear witness to the fact that the perfectionist musician altered his Sonata before publication. It is full of unexpected rhythms and harmonic novelties. With the unexpectedness of the modulations and the splendid inspiration of the final movement, one can feel the influence of Bordes. It is that which affirms that Castéra is a musician of line and rhythm. During the first War, he took part in the bloody battle of Notre-Dame-de-Lorette before being transferred to vehicle service. The conflict dealt a fatal blow to traditional French civilsation: a universe collapsed. In 1920, the peasant unrest in the region of Bas-Adour (Dax) disturbed the peaceful running of the family estate. The last great chamber work - the Concerto of 1922 - was given it's premiere on 28 April 1923, at the Société Nationale de Musique, in the hall of the Conservatoire, by it's dedicatee Blanche Selva (piano), Louis Fleury (flute), Louis Cahuzac (clarinet) and Jean Witkowski (cello). The following year, the composer adapted the Lent et grave for cello and piano; it's almost religious character, in the Basque nature, conceals itself under an appearance of healthy and virile gaiety. In 1923, the dishonesty of a 'confidence trickster" managed to overwhelm the d'Avezac de Castéra family. From then on, inspiration originated in a nostalgia for a vanished world (Sicilienne), a retreat into his roots (Chansons populaires des Landes), enlarging the choral repertoire (Berouyino, Lou Merlou) and the defence of the canticles, whose quality he wished to maintain in spite of the increasing disaffection of the faithful for religion. Little inclined to compromise as regards the esthetic of entertainment above all and the movements of the Popular Front, as one who was the enemy of mediocrity, Castéra stated in 1929: ' 'Politics first' applied to art is as odious as disastrous. ' The salons both at Angoumé and at their villa at Capbreton, distilled the nectar of an intense artistic life. The organiser of local activities, in 1935 he established the society Les amis de la Musique et des Belles-Lettres, and invited the most celebrated artists and writers to Dax. After the deaths of de Severac, Ravel and Bonnal, the last composer of this region increasingly retired from the unrest of a society of which he no longer felt a part. Loÿs Labèque, the bard of the Marensin, managed one last time to arouse him from his melancholic lethargy with the Chansons et Rondes des Landes (1938). But the composer preferred isolation and to wander freely in reverie. From his 'shed for music', from which he would gaze out over the Pyrenees, he would harmonize a melody from the Landes, unhurriedly fashion a Messe Brève or re-work the compositions of his youth, like the Trio. The heir of Bordes and brother of Séverac, skilled in simple melody, preferring allusion to emphasis, with their luminosity, René de Castéra's innovations hide under the grace of a curb whose unequal rhythms sustain the progression of the music. Permeated with the poetry of his native land, this distinguished artist wrote his masterpiece, Nausicaa, a ballet with chorus, completed in 1914, which has not yet been performed, and his heroic opera - Berteretche - based on a Basque legend - has been lost. René de Castéra died in 1955, along with the world of elegance and refinement, in which he had lived: 'And thus may my soul, your humble musician, be thus now and for ever' Damien Top translation : Edward Morgan.

Details

Title: Ren de Castra: Chamber Music 1
Release Date: 18/03/2014
Label: CD Baby
Media Format: CD
UPC: 5425003920752
Item #: 1303001X
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