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Various Artists | René De Castéra: Chamber Music, Vol. 2

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Déodat de Séverac Isaac Albéniz Vincent d'Indy

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René De Castéra: Chamber Music, Vol. 2

by Various Artists

Pupil of Diémer at the Paris Conservatoire, then of Albéniz and d'Indy at the Schola Cantorum, René de Castéra (1873-1955) has produced a body of work that is a subtle mixture of refinement and imagination, imbued with the atmosphere of his native Landes.
Genre: Classical: Chamber Music
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Concert: 1. Paysage
Lucian Rinando, Dean LeBlanc, Samuel Magill & Linda Hall
11:35 $0.99
2. Concert: 2. Intermède - Lent et grave
Lucian Rinando, Dean LeBlanc, Samuel Magill & Linda Hall
12:11 $0.99
3. Concert: 3. Rondeau Varié
Lucian Rinando, Dean LeBlanc, Samuel Magill & Linda Hall
9:58 $0.99
4. Sicilienne for Cello & Piano
Samuel Magill & Linda Hall
5:14 $0.99
5. Trio En Ré Op. 5: 1. Lent-Animé-Lent
Elmira Darvarova, Samuel Magill & Linda Hall
14:13 $0.99
6. Trio En Ré Op. 5: 2. Divertissement
Elmira Darvarova, Samuel Magill & Linda Hall
4:44 $0.99
7. Trio En Ré Op. 5: 3. Assez lent
Elmira Darvarova, Samuel Magill & Linda Hall
9:34 $0.99
8. Trio En Ré Op. 5: 4. Très animé
Elmira Darvarova, Samuel Magill & Linda Hall
9:30 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
A musician with many gifts, René de Castéra (1873 – 1955) was witness to a world in radical mutation. During half a century his name was synonymous with elegance and distinction.
The three sons of Dax magistrate Amand d’Avezac de Castéra, grandsons of 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 songs of Gascony heard in Angoumé and the farmsteads around, René attended the Catholic college in Dax.

Recommended by the virtuoso Francis Planté from the Landes, the young man attended Louis Diémer’s classes at the Paris Conservatoire. In 1892 he was struck by Gregorian plainsong, performed by the Chanteurs de Saint-Gervais. As a new friend of Charles Bordes, he was one of the first nine pupils at the Schola Cantorum, created in 1894. Along with Déodat de Séverac, de Castéra proved to be the best pupil of Isaac Albéniz. Under the tutelage of d’Indy, Guilmant, Gastoué, de Serres, de la Tombelle, and de Bréville, he gradually made a name for himself, composing songs, a Serenata for piano, and a symphonic poem, Jour de fête au Pays Basque. Influenced by Franck as much as by Schumann, these works with their lively charm are proof of his clear mastery.

In 1905, one of his works aroused the enthusiasm of Vincent d’Indy: “Ah ! Castéra, I have had a look over your Trio; I love your first movement: it is entertaining in structure; only at the end, one has the impression of being in the subdominant tone 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, wich will be difficult to do and it will be in your interest to make a change in the Finale as well […]. Your Scherzo is very amusing.”
Its premiere took place on March 9 1905 in Brussels, in an Audition de Musique Nouvelle, performed by Emile Chaumont, Henri Merck, and Blanche Selva.

“ This Trio is full of promise”, affirmed Charles Van den Borren in L’Art Moderne; “it shows that its composer already has a developed technique and has made 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. ” Alfred Cortot sent his elogious compliments: “I found there excellent things. This is from a very remarkable musician. ” Jean Huré himself wrote: “I must compliment you for this truthful music with a rustic scent which has nothing Parisian about it. From a purely musical point of view, there are fine melodies that I like very much, sharp and happy rhythms, sound gems (harmonic discoveries, to use a technical phrase)…. And as I do not want to appear to be flattering you, I will tell you bluntly that I sensed some little spots… at least some appearances, for me inexplicable modulations, rhythms without enough relief, some sharp sonorities, maybe also a lack of unity in the thought and in the style (in its inner unity, as all this is outwardly reasonable); but surely I must be mistaken. I do not tell you all those severe things for you to take under consideration, but to prove to you the sincerity of my admiration… ”
The introduction of the first movement : Lent, animé, lent in 4/4 time, with its pianistic formula reminding the opening of Roussel’s Trio, Op 2 of 1902, sets out an ascending generator theme, all within a single octave. A theme in A major, deliciously rhythmic and joyous, soars upward with a feeling of space and the youthful ardour that always characterises his music. During the development, the fluidity of the discourse is matched by the refinement of the melodic invention. It has a feeling of the sea, wich is so evident in the music of such French composers as Chabrier (Gwendoline, 1886), d’Indy (L’Etranger, 1902), Decaux (La Mer, 1903), Debussy (L’Isle Joyeuse, 1904).
The 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 (5/8: a Basque dance) in B major. 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 (1903-04), Canteloube’s Dans la Montagne (1904-05) and Roussel’s Rustiques (1904-06).

Managing a pause between two movements overflowing with vitality, the Assez Lent in D major with its uninterrupted lyricism links refinement and nostalgia. The violin presents a thoughtful and singing phrase. The lamentation shifts softly into several variations. Castéra colors it by a modal borrowing (in A and F sharp minor) before a central episode recalling the themes of the initial movement. In classical fashion, a development and re-exposition precede the peaceful conclusion.

Thus, the finale Très Animé makes its effect by contrast and connects again with the exuberance of the opening. The violin embarks on a phrase in D minor that is passionate and superbly rhythmical. A second Idea is more slowly expressed in a melodic A major. 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. The final re-exposition, full of energy, concludes with panache. Its 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 marks a turning point in the life of René de Castéra, winning him his spurs as a composer.

Castéra continued to serve others and to neglect his own works. 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 and 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 of Maurice Denis, who made several portraits of the composer. A 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.

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 civilization: a universe was collapsing. In 1920, the peasant unrest in the region of Bas-Adour (Dax) disturbed the peaceful running of the family estate.

Completed in 1922, the Concert pour piano, violoncelle, flûte et clarinette - for which the themes were written in the trenches in 1915-1916 , themes which inspired the deeply tragic feelings impressed into the Lent et grave – was premiered for the Société Nationale de Musique, at the Conservatory on Saturday, April 28, 1923, by the pianist Blanche Selva with the flutist Louis Fleury, clarinetist Louis Cahuzac and the cellist Jean Witkowski.

The Guide du Concert dated April 27 published the following analysis: “The work is comprised of three parts:
The first, Paysage, as of its preamble, is an evocation of the countryside of the Landes, where the pine forests are sprinkled with lakes. A kind of call arises and takes shape to become the first idea (a) - a masculine idea in the Scholist expression-in the sonata form of this movement. The flute and the clarinet express it while the cello brings up the second idea in E major (b) - called feminine.
There follows the development in two stages then the re-exposition.
The second part has a definite Basque character; the rhythm of Zortzico of the interlude is followed by the chant Lent et Grave (c) given to the cello. The piano then develops a fragment of the idea (b). A light clear touch is highlighted in this somber scene as the clarinet recalls (a). Then (b) is taken up again by the flute and the cello ends in the grave mode.
The third part is a varied Rondeau with four refrains going back to the key, but with variations. It can be divided in three major parts: The exposition [first refrain (d)] theme of a march coming closer, and first stanza (play of rhythms); the middle (second varied refrain, second stanza using the trio from the interlude; the theme (c) taking a pastoral character and the “Paysage” evocation of the Landes brings the third refrain, this time expressively; The re-exposition (in the third stanza, composed of the same elements of the first time and by the fourth refrain, a march dying away).”
The Courrier Musical dated Mai 15 reviewed it with interest: “with a popular countryside character, calling to mind the Basque country with grace and nonchalance […], this work is composed of four parts; the third […], expressed with melancholy by the cello, and the Rondeau conclusion, of an agreeable variety, is the most appreciable. Perhaps on the whole we could reproach this Concert for its color, which is a little too uniform […]: the tone color oppositions might not be accented enough, but this does not detract from this composition”. Imbued with his native country’s poetry, his Concert for four instruments presents an understated mix of expertise and imagination.

In 1923, the dishonesty of a “trusted financial adviser” managed to overwhelm the d’Avezac de Castéra family. From then on, inspiration originated in a nostalgia for a vanished world, a retreat into his roots (Chansons populaires des Landes), enlarging the choral repertoire (Berouyino, Lou Merlou), and the defense of the canticles, whose quality he wished to maintain in spite of increasing disaffection for religion on the part of the faithful. Little inclined to compromise as regards the esthetic of entertainment and the movements of the ‘Front Populaire’, and as one who was the enemy of mediocrity, Castéra stated in 1929: “ ‘Politics first’ applied to art is as odious as disastrous. ”

Edwige Bergeron solicited composers to write for her instrument. She called upon Castéra in October1928. He composed a Sicilienne for cello and piano in his villa ‘Pax’ in Hossegor on July 30, 1930. “It is beautiful with a very pretty color, said the cellist. “I will show it right away to Pierné […]. I hope you will agree to do the orchestration? ” She also said: “It is a pity that there is not an ending such as a little Basque 5 beat, some sort of zortzico. This would provide a wonderful contrast with the melancholy of the Sicilienne! ” This was a pertinent suggestion but Castéra never really went back to work on it. The initial indication comes to the point: “sung and with a good rhythm.” The work can be typically divided in three parts: a start in the tonality of E minor, whose lowered second degree confers a modal and nostalgic color. A more upbeat second theme developed in C minor. The median development very ably combines the two themes in E major: the cello sings the second while the piano superposes the first. Then the soloist takes over the first theme in F sharp minor, leaving to the piano the magnification of the second theme. The re-exposition opens strongly in the principal tonality. Then the second theme is reintroduced in B minor and the head of the theme in high octaves is presented pianissimo, like a last salute in the distance. Toward the end of his life, Castéra retouched his score, with his trembling hand improving here and there some harmonies. All composed of nuances and balance, the Sicilienne reflects a spidery web, expressing a sight as through a veil, the memories of a lost past. The work was played first at the Société Nationale on May 2 1931, interpreted by the dedicating artist and the composer, “who played the piano with his usual mastery and was lengthily applauded. ”

The salons, both at Angoumé and at their villa at Capbreton, distilled the nectar of an intense artistic life. 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 Séverac, 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 wandering freely in reverie. From his ‘shed for music’, which allowed him to gaze out over the Pyrenees, he would harmonize a melody from the Landes, unhurriedly fashioning his Messe brève. (Missa brevis)

The folklore of the Landes, of Béarn, and of the Basque country--with its famous five-beat zortzico--permeates the music of this heir of Bordes and brother of de Severac. Skilled in simple melody, preferring allusion to emphasis, René de Castéra’s innovations with their southern luminosity hide under the grace of a curve whose unequal rhythms sustain the progression of the music. Associating the Concert, the Sonata and the Trio, Adolphe Piriou wrote: “He himself gave birth to his themes, even the most popular ones; they are not borrowed from the traditional songs of which they preserve the flavor. ” His masterpiece, the ballet with choirs Nausicaa, finished in 1914, has not yet been presented in public and his historic Opera in seven scenes, Berteretche --from a Basque legend-- remains lost. René de Castéra disappeared along with the world of elegance and refinements in which he lived:

“And so be my soul, your humble musician,
From now and for ever… ”

Damien Top

Translation: Jean-Paul and Kathryn Klingebiel



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