John Pitt
New Classics (UK)

Charles Kœchlin and Joseph Jongen are two little known composers of the twentieth century who followed their own path and composed some wonderful and distinctive music. The viola music of Belgian born Jongen has an unashamed focus on the melodic line, driving the drama of his pieces forward, projecting it headlong through episodes of rapture and exquisite beauty, often interspersed with passages of great bravura display and virtuosity. The harmonic colour of his music shows a love of the French impressionist palette but is always applied with his own brush. As a communist and passionate Frenchman, Charles Kœchlin felt deeply the responsibility that he write music that was within the reach of everyman, at the same time offering pieces that were of uncompromised artistic merit and emotional truth. His mighty viola sonata bleeds with the tragedy of war-time horror and is unexpectedly gripping for a work written for the seemingly polite ensemble of viola and piano. His skill with textures, harmony and colour creates a piece of enormous emotional impact, from its initial numb desolation through cries of anguish then the desperate morse-code tap-tapping of its moto-perpetuo. Listening to this piece is a truly remarkable emotional journey. The wistful beauty of his petites pieces for Horn, Viola and Piano, show that the playful mood of pieces written in his youth can coexist with the exquisitely painful yearning for a time lost. The excellent soloists on this recording are Roger Benedict (viola) and Timothy Young (piano), with guest Ben Jacks (horn).