JACQUES HÉTU (1938-2010): Wind Quintet, Op. 13, 4 Miniatures for Oboe, Clarinet and Bassoon, 4 pièces for Flute and Piano, Op. 10, Aria for Flute and Piano, Op. 27, Nocturne for Clarinet and Piano, Op. 26, Lied for Horn and Piano, Op. 29, Prélude et danse for Piano, Op. 24, Élégie for Bassoon and Piano, Op. 31, Incantations for Oboe and Piano, Op. 28.

Catalogue Number: 11W052

Label: Atma

Reference: ACD2 2792

Format: CD

Price: $16.98

Description: Hétu was prized in his native Canada as a highly trained and skilled musician and academic - he studied with Messiaen and Dutilleux, among others - and the craftsmanship in his music is unmistakable. He was essentially a traditionalist as composer, preferring established forms and ensembles (symphony, string quartet and the like), and he never abandoned tonality, though embracing a good deal of dissonance, the extent of which tended to be obscured by the strong lyrical strain in his music. These works are all relatively early. The substantial quintet is an ideal study in balance and timbre, with French elegance, in traditional forms - sonata-allegro with a slow introduction that sets out the thematic material for the work, which recurs throughout and provides a strong feeling of cohesiveness, a sparkling, scampering scherzo, a lyrical slow movement in song form, and a lively rondo. The Nocturne, from the late 1970s, eleven years later, is more individual in style, a powerfully atmospheric work in dark, shadowy hues, as is the Aria from around the same time, which blends impressionistic atmosphere with emotional turbulence, and so, especially, is the powerful bassoon Elegy. The first and last of these are the composer’s transcriptions of the slow movements of his concerti, which explains the full-textured, intricate piano parts. The horn aria is also a rather dark, almost lugubrious work, tragedy-haunted; here as elsewhere the flexible and expressive piano part is notably an equal partner in the musical argument. The early Pieces for flute show the already highly accomplished composer exploring form and expression in four varied miniatures; the scherzo and rondo sparkle with wit and sardonic humour. Despite the misleadingly unassuming title, Prélude et Danse is a serious, dark and dramatic work; a thread of melancholy runs through the works from the late 1970s, and this piece represents its most vehement descent into tragedy, though the Incantation from the previous year, as well as the Elegy, run it a close second. From a decade earlier, the Miniatures lighten the mood of the program in four little sparkling Gallic gems. Pentaèdre, Philip Chu (piano).


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