D'Indy was a contemporary of Debussy and Ravel, and a pupil of César Franck. With an eclectic style strongly influenced by Beethoven and Wagner, d'Indy particularly excelled in orchestral composition. He wrote Symphonie italienne in his late teens, and as the title suggests, it is strongly inspired by his travels in Italy. D'Indy composed the symphonic suite Poème des Rivages, his late orchestral masterpiece, in 1919 - 21. The orchestral forces, including four saxophones, create an almost visual impression of light and atmosphere, in the manner of Claude Monet.
"Rumon Gamba evidently has the measure of this elusive yet powerful work, encouraging a subtlety and finesse from the Iceland Symphony Orchestra...The spacious though detailed sound is arguably the best yet from this source" -International Record Review
"Certainly, the truly excellent Iceland Symphony Orchestra is an ensemble of international standard; Rumon Gamba achieves some highly responsive playing from them, while the richly atmospheric Chandos recording is state-of-the-art." -Gramophone Magazine
More music you should from a neglected French master
If the music of Vincent d'Indy (1851-1931) is receiving a bit of a revival, as it seems to be in Europe, then the excellent series of recordings by Rumon Gamba and his Iceland Symphony Orchestra is helping this cause a great deal. For many years, the music of d'Indy was, indeed, neglected and nearly forgotten about and very unjustly. d'Indy had a couple of major disadvantages in the career promotion department. One was - although he clearly admired and learned from Debussy a great deal - he was a composer living in France at the same time as the much more widely known master. The other was, as a young man, d'Indy joined the French military to help his country just before World War I and right at a time when many of his contemporaries were just going off to academies and universities to ply their trade and hone their skills. It must also be said that - by and large - d'Indy's music is pretty unique, carrying a distinct sound that is neither the very definable whole tone based Impressionism of Debussy but neither a familiar neo-Romanticism, such as another countryman, Cesar Franck. So that leaves - for most people - a handful of works that are somewhat familiar; most probably his "Symphony on French Mountain Airs" (really as piano concerto) Listening to this new Chandos release, the d'Indy edition #4 by Gamba and the excellently prepared Iceland musicians should absolutely make you want to go get the first three discs in the series. This disc is but two large and fascinating works, the "Poeme des rivages" and the "Symphonie italianne". Both are very fine pieces and wonderfully performed. The "Poem des rivages" (seashores) is divided into four movements intended to reflect the composer's reactions and impressions to seascapes and locales with which he was very fond of: Agay on the Mediterranean, Miramar de Mallorca on the Mediterranean, Falconara on the Adriatic Sea and the "Great Coast" on the Gulf of Gascoyne. Three of these movements are mostly "picturesque" in their sound and orchestration; very "sea pictures" like in a manner we used to hearing as in Britten or Debussy. In fact, both the Agay and the Great Coast do owe something stylistically to Debussy (as is also described in the very fine booklet notes by Andrew Thomson) However, the "Horizons" movement (depicting the Adriatic Falconara) depicts a bit of anticipation on a train ride into the town. Both some very "locomotive like" sounds are heard (think "Pacific 231" by Honegger) as well a swelling orchestral sweep that might be the sense - or the actual glorious view - as our passengers get closer. As for the "Symphonie italienne" this is another overtly programmatic work that divides its four movements into famous Italian locations and a musical glimpse into the culture and regional feel one experiences in Rome, Florence and Venice. The one departure from the approach is actually the finale which, rather than pick another location that seems emblematic of Italy, uses an idiomatic folk dance - the saltarello - to wrap up the work in an exciting way. In classical works inspired by the beauty and culture of Italy, the most recognize are probably the Mendelssohn "Italian" Symphony and the Tchaikovsky "Capriccio italien". d'Indy's contribution - even with that saltarello finale - is not as "cliched" as those other more famous masterworks. Like most of his music, there is a sophistication or some would say slight abstraction to the entire sound that does feel more complex and more 'impressionistic' than those, placing him in the true context of his time and place. Some can view d'Indy as the "lesser" of the big early twentieth century French masters or you can listen to this and decide that - in many ways - d'Indy is d'Indy and well worth getting to know!
Submitted on 04/06/11 by Dan Coombs