“Portraits” – Volume 2:
Théodore Dubois: Symphony N° 2 in B minor  – Sonata for Piano in A minor  – Messe pontificale  – Panis angelicus – O Solutaris – Ave verum – Ave Maria – O Salutaris – Ave Maria  – Symphonie française in F minor  – Quartet for Violin, Viola, Cello and Piano in A minor 
Chantal Santon  (Soprano), Marie Kalinine  (Mezzo-soprano), Jennifer Borghi (Mezzo-soprano), Mathias Vidal  (Tenor), Alain Buet  (Baritone), Romain Deschames  (Piano), François Saint-Yves [3, 4] (Organ), Giardini Quartet: Pascal Monlong (Violin), Caroline Donin (Viola), Pauline Buet (Cello), David Violi (Piano) , Soloists of Brussels Philharmonic [3, 4], Flemish Radio Choir [3, 4], Brussels Philharmonic , Les Siècles Orchestra , Hervé Niquet [1, 3, 4], François-Xavier Roth  (Conductors)
Recording: Palazzetto Bru Zane, Venice (February 9 & 10, 2012 , March 28 & 29, 2014 ); Auditorium Parco della Musica, Rome (April 13 & 14, 2012 ); Scuola Grande di San Rocco, Venice (April 15, 2012 ); Church of the Jesuits, Heverlee (April 23 & 24 , June 14 & 15 , 2012);La Monnaie, Brussels (May 2 & 3, 2012 ) – 192’48
3 CDs Ediciones Singulares # ES1018 (Distributed by Naxos of America) – Book in French and English
Championing the oft neglected, Palazzetto Bru Zane continues marching forward with its second volume of the “Portraits” series featuring respectful selections from several genres by Rosnay-native, Théodore Dubois. Uniquely targeting musique romantique française between the years 1780-1920, the Venice concern has captured a nicely tailored snapshot of Dubois’ compositions including a mass, six motets, two symphonies and a piano quartet and sonata. Though a majority of classical music enthusiasts will be unfamiliar with this Frenchman, Dubois’ accomplishments are extensive, and they, at the very least, deserve a glance or two.
Garnering numerous prizes for Harmony, Fugue and Organ in 1854 helped launch Dubois’ career as organ assistant to César Franck at Sainte-Clotilde which shortly thereafter landed him the Prix de Rome in 1861. It was his studies while in Rome that led to Dubois’ fascination with Roman Antiquity and Italian Renaissance, the foundational underpinnings of the works that are representative in this collection.
Somewhat startling inside the Symphony N° 2 in A minor are the woodwinds’ opening bars of the “Allegro con moto”, a brusque reminder of Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain (1867), but the nanosecond reminder is fleeting with its degree of modernity. Dubois, an unbridled traditionalist, still managed moments of surprises of Wagnerian input, Saint-Saëns’ pulsating grandeur from the horns, reminiscences of Delius’ sweeps inside Walk to the Paradise Garden and largely rich, eloquent hints of Wolf-Ferrari.
Romain Descharmes’ proffering of the Piano Sonata in A minor engages the listener within this three-movement composition: his Chopinesque runs inside the “Allegro moderato con fuoco” are silky and eloquent while straddled with occasional abruptness. Descharmes’ interpretation broadens with elegiac cantabile lines in the middle section while his “Largo – Allegro focoso” tussles with snarly runs and melodic injections.
Dubois, deeply religious, composed sublime sacred music. Likewise, Ediciones Singulares’ cherry picking yields several examples, one being the beautiful Messe pontificale (1895.) The rich tapestry of Schubertian flair is encapsulated with impeccable Latin by the Flemish Radio Choir. A protégé to César Franck, it’s no surprise to hear the same degree of loftiness in Dubois’ own Panis angelicus. Hervé Niquet manages this seraphic piece with exquisite harp runs and ending on a most beautiful High G.
There’s a Franck pervasiveness (ref: Symphony in D minor) inside the Symphonie francaise’s first movement, “Largo – Allegro” with richly soaked moody strings with François-Xavier Roth’s beautiful legato. The terminating “Allegro con fuoco” possesses grand punctuation without overstatement. Dubois even nudges at his terra firma by announcing two notions of La Marseillaise but devoid of pompousness. The concluding bars render glances of Chabrier impishness.
Influences by César Franck were especially strong when Dubois composed his Piano Quartet in 1907. The use of “cyclic-form” clearly develops within the “Allegro agitato.” David Violi establishes a wonderful sense of thematic tone that’s constantly running with mocking spirit between sprite bowstring runs by Monlong, Donon and Buet. Monlong’s nicely sustained high A closes the composition with amazing grace.
Théodore Dubois’ name will escape many, but these works are worth exploring, particularly because of his fervent belief in upholding classical musical values during the late Romantic Era that were under assault by the turn-of-the-century’s avant garde influences.
A superb collection on all fronts.
Ediciones Singulares’ Thérèse
Ediciones Singulares’ Le Mage
Ediciones Singulares’ Théodore Gouvy œuvres
Ediciones Singulares’ Les Barbares
Palazzetto Bru Zane Website