Released May 4, 2013 and available on Amazon.com
"Dear Linda, The Jongen recording is just beautiful. Your playing throughout the CD is just
beautiful and a pleasure to listen to. I wish all CD’s were this inspiring." - Sir James Galway
"I believe the performance is very elegant, refined into every detail and you play it in a beautiful intimate
way. It sounds very natural and with a lot of "joie de vivre" - Robert Waelkens
It is a conundrum of classical music that certain composers of indisputable talent, whose posthumous fame should be assured, can nonetheless be forgotten owing to changing fashions. The most famous example, of course, is the greatest of composers, Johann Sebastian Bach himself. Though Bach and some others (e.g., Charles-Valentin Alkan) have enjoyed rediscovery, still others are not yet so fortunate. With the sole exception of his organ music, the Belgian composer Joseph Jongen (1873-1953) falls into the latter category. The Jongen Project, a group of accomplished instrumentalists headed by flutist Linda Bento-Rei, has taken an important step in correcting this injustice by recording an all-Jongen CD which includes four beautiful chamber works. Conservative for their time, the Belgian's works are very “audience-friendly,” showing the influence of his countryman, César Franck, and, especially, Claude Debussy, though Jongen's musical language is consistently distinctive.
Written in 1923, the Concert à cinq, Op. 71, is scored for harp, flute, and string trio, and shows the unmistakable influence of French impressionism. Though they are largely orchestral musicians, the players demonstrate outstanding chamber music skills. In addition to Bento-Rei, violinist Jason Horowitz, violist Rebecca Gitter, cellist Blaise Déjardin (all current members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra's string section), and retired BSO principal harpist Ann Hobson Pilot all collaborate and interact with the flexibility, grace, and seamlessness of a seasoned ensemble. The largely extroverted first movement, played persuasively here, contrasts starkly with the second. Placed at the center of the larger work, the second movement's penitential tune, modal and bittersweet, is one of Jongen's exceptional creations, and the artists play it affectingly. The third and final movement's Spanish flavor and luscious harmonic vocabulary are also hallmarks of the French impressionists, but in the unexpected final bare-octaves chord where Debussy and Ravel would likely have signed off with harmony, Jongen stakes out his own territory. Yet amidst all the preceding gorgeous colors of the movement, the players' insistent rhythm, like castanets, pulls the listener along irresistibly. This enchanting work would make a fine program companion for Debussy's Sonata for flute, viola, and harp, Ravel's Introduction et Allegro, and André Jolivet's Chant de Linos—the last, in its later version, scored for Jongen's exact instrumentation.
The four-movement, 30-minute Sonata for flute and piano, Op. 77, is a major rediscovery for the flute repertoire. Though its Gallic provenance is evident, it yet retains a savor unique to Jongen. Linda Bento-Rei and pianist Vytas Baksys are expert tour guides through the many landscapes of the first movement: powerfully dramatic, playful, singing, and mysterious. The second movement is a brilliant scherzo-étude with delicious staccato passages offset by silky legato themes; in these performers' highly capable hands it is a thrilling and delicious experience. The third movement would seem to be Jongen's tip of the hat to both Ravel and Debussy. The outer sections are spare in texture—very much in Ravel's late style dépouillé (stripped-down); the central section bears more than a passing resemblance to Debussy's piano prelude The Sunken Cathedral, based on a Breton legend of a submerged cathedral that rises out of the sea once a year only to sink below the waves again. To the swirling waters and iridescent colors Baksys summons up, Bento-Rei adds flute interjections evoking seabirds soaring around the great edifice. After these sumptuous harmonies, the return to the simplicity of the movement's opening is genuinely moving. The final movement is an exhilarating jig which also regularly superimposes lyrical writing for both instruments over the compelling dance rhythm. The players' ability to conjure multiple moods is as impressive as their technical virtuosity. One hopes that many talented flutists and flute teachers will hear this fine performance and seek out this neglected masterwork.
Jongen's Rhapsodie, Op. 70 is scored for the unusual combination of piano with woodwind quintet—Vytas Baksys, piano; Linda Bento-Rei, flute; Andrea Bonsignore, oboe; Catherine Hudgins, clarinet; Patricia Yee, bassoon; and Nick Rubenstein, horn. As its name implies, the work is a loosely structured series of varying moods and tempi. The Modéré opening section introduces the individual wind instruments sequentially, punctuated by arpeggios from flute and piano in lush French impressionist style. This is followed by a sharply contrasting Moorish habanera (if such a thing were possible) whose characteristic rhythm is supplied by the piano, with a changing instrumentation playing the theme over it. The players' subtle rubato—no doubt difficult to achieve without a conductor—makes this section smoky and seductive. A third section, Molto vivo, brings us vigorously back into bright sunshine while ingeniously weaving in echoes from the two previous sections. A more moderate passage is left initially to the wind instruments only, becoming still more relaxed and lyrical when the piano reënters. Nonetheless, it builds up before long to the powerful triple-meter final section, full of jubilation. Soon enough, in keeping with the freedom of a rhapsody, the energy begins to taper off as the music seems about to drift into slumber. One last time the composer skillfully reintroduces material from the work's opening section, as if in the vague recollection of a dream, before the surprise of a final outburst of joy. Baksys, Bento-Rei, Bonsignore, Hudgins, Yee, and Rubenstein have the sound of an experienced chamber group: each individual gracefully takes and yields the spotlight as appropriate, and as a group, their intonation, balances, and ensemble are all one could wish for. This is another vividly evocative rendition and one that should arouse the interest of wind ensembles (with access to an excellent pianist!) hoping to enlarge their repertoire.
The Danse lente, Op. 56, stands somewhat apart from its discmates, not merely for its date of composition—1918 vs. 1922-1924—but also for its simplicity and general feeling of introspection. The composer created a version for flute and harp, and another, only slightly modified, for flute and piano. Bento-Rei and Baksys give us the latter in a simple, direct reading that is the more moving for its avoidance of “interpretation.” Given the work's date, one might expect a dirge for war-torn Europe, but aside from one expansive climax, the prevailing mood is of a bittersweet, gentle yearning. (It is worth noting that the piece was written in London, where Jongen lived in exile during World War I.) The final harmony is particularly evocative of unfulfilled desire for resolution: the piano forms a minor seventh chord while the flute adds the ninth to it, but neither seventh nor ninth resolves as expected to the tonic chord, as if the composer were telling us that sometimes we simply have to learn to live without what we yearn for.
In my view, this recording is a resounding success on all counts. Its performances are passionately committed and beautiful; the selection of repertoire enables the listener to hear Joseph Jongen's musical influences but also the aspects of his music that make it uniquely his; the excellent program notes by Steven Ledbetter are helpful to connoisseur and layperson alike; and the sensitive engineering of Antonio Oliart has resulted in exemplary sound quality, both sumptuous and transparent, detailed and atmospheric. I hope this is Volume 1 in a series exploring the chamber music of this composer so unjustly neglected.
-Geoff Wieting, The Boston Music Intelligencer
The Jongen Project/Linda Bento-Rei: CD Review
Jun 1, 2015 by The Flute View
Linda Bento-Rei has recorded a fascinating CD of chamber works for flute by the Belgian composer Joseph Jongen (1873-1953). While not as well known today, Jongen was one of the best known Belgian composers of the early 20th century. His music is conservative for the time, influenced by late 19th century French tradition, although his music was later influenced by newer music including Stravinsky and the composer’s of “Les Six."
There are three large chamber pieces for flute on the recording: the Concert a Cinq for harp, flute and strings, Opus 71, the Sonata for flute and piano, Op. 77 and the Rhapsodie, for piano and wind quintet, Op.70. These three works were all written between 1922 and 1924. They are beautifully crafted works with singing, soaring flute lines and interesting harmonic choices as the composer starts to absorb the radical changes in musical language going on at the time the pieces were written.
Bento-Rei has put together an excellent group of chamber collaborators and she plays each piece with superb tone, rhythm and musicality. It’s a pleasure to listen to this lovely CD, and it’s a great opportunity to get familiar with Jongen’s music and perhaps add a piece or two to one’s flute repertoire!!
The CD is beautifully packaged, from the gorgeous cover art using a painting- La Pointe du Rossignol by Theo van Rysselgerghe (1904) to the thoughtful and extensive program notes on the music, composer, and performing artists. The CD is very thoughtfully put together and beautifully played.
Netherlands Flute Society
The Jongen Project. Music of Joseph Jongen (1873-1953). Linda Bento-Rei fluit. Concert à Cinq op. 71, Sonate pour flûte et piano op. 77, Rhapsodie voor fluit, hobo, klarinet, fagot, hoorn en piano op. 70, Danse Lente pour flûte et piano op. 56. Opname in beheer van het Worcester Symphony Orchestra 2013.
Deze Amerikaanse cd omvat werkelijk een ‘project’: alleen kamermuziekwerken met fluit van de Belgische componist Joseph Jongen. Jongen heeft van veel kanten invloeden ondergaan: Belgische, Duitse en Franse (Debussy en Ravel!), wat zijn muziek een geheel eigen karakter geeft. Zelfs Stravinsky en de ‘Six’ zijn te horen in sommige speelse gedeelten. De drie grote werken op de cd zijn ontstaan tussen 1922 en 1924, deDanse Lente in 1918 in Engeland, waar hij naartoe gevlucht was vanwege de Eerste Wereldoorlog. De uitvoering van deze toch wel gecompliceerde muziek is heel mooi, alle uitvoerenden zitten op één lijn met hun expressie en klankkleuren. De fluit is niet zozeer het solo-instrument, maar meer ‘one of the guys’, met een warme persoonlijke toon, die zich snel kan aanpassen aan de muzikale omgeving. Hoewel er iets voor te zeggen zou zijn om Joseph Jongen als een meer Frans-georiënteerde componist te beschouwen (de Sonate is opgedragen aan René Le Roy), laten deze Amerikanen horen dat ze zich historisch goed geïnformeerd hebben.
The Jongen Project. Music of Joseph Jongen (1873-1953). Linda Bento-Rei flute. Concert à Cinq op. 71, Sonate pour flûte et piano op. 77, Rhapsodie for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, French horn and piano op. 70, Danse Lente pour flûte et piano op. 56. Recording under the management of the Worcester Symphony Orchestra 2013.
This American cd is really a project: only chamber music pieces including the flute, by the Belgian composer Joseph Jongen. Jongen was influenced a lot from many sides: Belgian, German and French (Debussy and Ravel!) which results in a music with a completely particular character. One can even hear Stravinsky and the ‘Six’ in some of the playful movements. The three main works on the cd date from 1922 to 1924, the Danse Lente from 1918 in England, to where he was escaped because of World War I. The performance of this rather complicated music is very beautiful. All performers are one with their expression and color of sound. The flute is more ‘one of the guys’ than a solo-instrument, with a warm personal tone which adepts to the musical environment. One could say that Joseph Jongen is a more French-orientated
Composer (the Sonate is dedicated to René Le Roy) but one can hear that these Americans are historically well informed.
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