Darrell Ang / Malmö Symphony Orchestra

Vincent d'Indy: Médée; Karadec Suite; Saugefleurie

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Incidental music never gets a fair shake on recordings and in concert programs, even when it's written by, say, Beethoven, and when it comes from the likes of Vincent d'Indy, it is quite obscure. There is absolutely no reason this should be true. Incidental music was the direct predecessor to film music, probably the best-selling genre of contemporary classical music, and for a composer like d'Indy, for whom theater was an essential part of his frame of reference, it is often quite characteristic. Consider the pair of suites here: Médée (1898) comes from music for a treatment of the Greek myth by Catulle Mendès, and Karadec (1890) was for a Breton-themed play by André Alexandre. Although d'Indy was the perfect French Wagnerite, totally French tunes break into the texture given the slightest chance, and in incidental music the combination is fresh and evocative. The requirement to provide music for short scenes avoids a certain heaviness found in d'Indy's larger works, and there are any number of delightful moments here. Sample the highly tuneful "Pantomime" from Médée, which indicates that Vaughan Williams (annotator Dominic Wells notes the resemblance) might have studied the work. The tone poem Saugefleurie remains closer to and even quotes Wagner, but there is still something French about how it evokes the fairy tale that provides its program. The Malmö Symphony Orchestra under conductor Darrell Ang, not known as a French music specialist, provides lively readings that breathe.

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