Author Topic: Jean-Michel Damase (1928-2013)  (Read 5509 times)

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Online kyjo

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Re: Jean-Michel Damase (1928-2013)
« Reply #20 on: October 03, 2018, 04:43:17 PM »
Damase's Symphonie has been one of my finest discoveries of the year - thanks to Jeffrey (vandermolen). Notwithstanding its darkly ominous opening, it is a wonderfully life-affirming score. The ecstatically glowing tread of the latter half of the first movement is simply one of the most glorious passages in music that I know. It's a real shame Damase didn't compose any more symphonies, but he has several other very delightful (if not substantial as the Symphonie) works, such as his Piano Concerto no. 2 (on the same Dutton CD as the Symphonie) and Quintet for flute, harp, and strings (on an ASV CD of his chamber music).
"Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music" - Sergei Rachmaninoff

Online kyjo

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Re: Jean-Michel Damase (1928-2013)
« Reply #21 on: December 29, 2018, 08:37:36 AM »
I simply cannot get enough of Damase’s Symphonie! I’ve made many great musical discoveries this year, but this inspiriting, endearing work is undoubtedly the finest of them, thanks to Jeffrey. The way Damase transforms the ominous, chromatic opening theme into a radiant blaze of glory about eight minutes into the first movement is a stroke of genius and one of the most thrilling moments in music I know. Not to mention the ending of the symphony where the theme from the first movement is triumphantly reprised. In short, this is a masterpiece that deserves many more recordings and performances around the world. Unfortunately, I’m sure most orchestras will continue churning out their 1000th performances of Beethoven’s 5th and Tchaikovsky’s 4th. Their loss! At least us folks at GMG are open-minded enough to not deprive ourselves of wonderful music like this that is little-known for really no reason at all. :)
« Last Edit: December 29, 2018, 08:44:12 AM by kyjo »
"Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music" - Sergei Rachmaninoff

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Jean-Michel Damase (1928-2013)
« Reply #22 on: December 29, 2018, 01:50:16 PM »
I simply cannot get enough of Damase’s Symphonie! I’ve made many great musical discoveries this year, but this inspiriting, endearing work is undoubtedly the finest of them, thanks to Jeffrey. The way Damase transforms the ominous, chromatic opening theme into a radiant blaze of glory about eight minutes into the first movement is a stroke of genius and one of the most thrilling moments in music I know. Not to mention the ending of the symphony where the theme from the first movement is triumphantly reprised. In short, this is a masterpiece that deserves many more recordings and performances around the world. Unfortunately, I’m sure most orchestras will continue churning out their 1000th performances of Beethoven’s 5th and Tchaikovsky’s 4th. Their loss! At least us folks at GMG are open-minded enough to not deprive ourselves of wonderful music like this that is little-known for really no reason at all. :)
I can't tell you how pleased I am that this has been such a success with you Kyle.

All best wishes for 2019.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline Christo

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Re: Jean-Michel Damase (1928-2013)
« Reply #23 on: March 23, 2019, 09:16:12 AM »
Acquired the most discussed cd here and am enjoying the Symphony (1952) in particular: the glorious and uplifting second half of the first movement (Moderato), after such a dark and brooding opening, is the most impressive feature, so far. Sounds more 'American' than French and reminds me a bit of Morton Gould.
… music is not only an 'entertainment’, nor a mere luxury, but a necessity of the spiritual if not of the physical life, an opening of those magic casements through which we can catch a glimpse of that country where ultimate reality will be found.    RVW, 1948

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Jean-Michel Damase (1928-2013)
« Reply #24 on: March 23, 2019, 09:38:54 AM »
Acquired the most discussed cd here and am enjoying the Symphony (1952) in particular: the glorious and uplifting second half of the first movement (Moderato), after such a dark and brooding opening, is the most impressive feature, so far. Sounds more 'American' than French and reminds me a bit of Morton Gould.


Excellent. Delighted that you are enjoying it Johan. It has been a big hit with myself and Kyle.
 :)
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline André

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Re: Jean-Michel Damase (1928-2013)
« Reply #25 on: March 23, 2019, 05:20:50 PM »
Acquired the most discussed cd here and am enjoying the Symphony (1952) in particular: the glorious and uplifting second half of the first movement (Moderato), after such a dark and brooding opening, is the most impressive feature, so far. Sounds more 'American' than French and reminds me a bit of Morton Gould.


My thoughts exactly, only I can’t pinpoint any specific influence. The web site chezdamase discussed above mentions his penchant for repeating musical motifs, in an almost  ‘obsessive’ way. That, along with the open harmonies of his melodic patterns suggests the ‘americana’ one would hear indeed in the music of Gould, Creston, Harris, Thompson etc. But how and why is a mystery. When I read that the symphony was created by Charles Munch in 1954 I thought Ahah!, a Boston commission ! But no, Munch created it in Strasbourg, so there goes my already tenuous american link... :D.

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Jean-Michel Damase (1928-2013)
« Reply #26 on: March 24, 2019, 03:14:56 AM »
My thoughts exactly, only I can’t pinpoint any specific influence. The web site chezdamase discussed above mentions his penchant for repeating musical motifs, in an almost  ‘obsessive’ way. That, along with the open harmonies of his melodic patterns suggests the ‘americana’ one would hear indeed in the music of Gould, Creston, Harris, Thompson etc. But how and why is a mystery. When I read that the symphony was created by Charles Munch in 1954 I thought Ahah!, a Boston commission ! But no, Munch created it in Strasbourg, so there goes my already tenuous american link... :D.
Interesting background info. Thanks Andre.
 :)
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Online kyjo

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Re: Jean-Michel Damase (1928-2013)
« Reply #27 on: July 17, 2019, 02:08:26 PM »
As an excuse to bump this thread, here's a review I recently wrote on Amazon of the Dutton Damase CD:



I'll start off by saying that this disc has been one of my greatest musical discoveries of all time - and I have had many! If the French composer Jean-Michel Damase (1928-2013) is known at all to the general classical music world, it is for his generally small-scale, delightful chamber works featuring the flute and/or harp. But over his long life he produced a sizeable catalogue of works which cries out for greater exposure. The disc at hand features what is one of his most substantial works - his Symphonie of 1952 - along with three succinct concerti.

How to describe Damase's style? The other reviews here should give you a good idea, but I'll add a few remarks. Damase paid no heed to the avant-garde trends of the time - which may account for his neglect; his music is steadfastly tonal and melodic. He stands in the tradition of Poulenc and Françaix, and I enjoy his music as much as, if not more than, that of the former and quite a bit more than that of the latter. Although his music has a characteristic Gallic elegance, it never descends into frivolty or inconsequentiality; in fact, it often has an underlying gravity to it that is quite affecting, especially in the case of the Symphonie. One may even been occasionally reminded of the profound lyricism of certain English composers such as Vaughan Williams or Rubbra. Yet I do not want to over-emphasize these comparisons - Damase has an instantly recognizable and compelling individual voice. If I was forced to formulate one small criticism of Damase’s music, it is that he often reuses similar ideas and gestures across his works - but then a lot of composers could be accused of that!

The three concerti featured here - the Piano Concerto no. 2 (hopefully no. 1 gets recorded at some point!), the Flute Concerto, and the Concertino for piano and string orchestra - are all rather similar to each other, and certainly none the worse for that! They all radiate exuberance and an endearing, life-affirming quality that makes them stand in sharp contrast to some other music written around the same time. Many more pianists and flautists ought to take these works up in their repertoire.

Immensely enjoyable as these works are, they do not prepare you for the awe-inspiring masterwork that is the Symphonie of 1952. Written when Damase was only 24 years old, it’s a work of astounding maturity and emotional impact that makes one regret that Damase did not compose any more symphonies throughout his long life. The first movement is a captivating journey from darkness to light (rather reminiscent of Honegger in his 2nd and 3rd symphonies and Christmas Cantata). It opens with a shadowy, ominous, chromatic theme in the woodwinds which eventually gives way to a gloriously simple, “rolling” theme in the violins, accompanied by an undulating horn figure. These “dark” and “light” episodes keep interrupting each other and a little more than halfway through the movement, it seems like darkness is going to prevail. The music builds to a grinding, dissonant climax when out of nowhere the horns burst through the texture with a glorious, major key version of the opening chromatic theme. The final few minutes of this movement are some of the most gloriously uplifting in all of classical music - I’m not exaggerating! The movement ends in a warm sunset glow and comes to rest on a simple C major chord. Perhaps the remaining two movements could easily be a let-down after such a magnificent first movement, but Damase keeps the inspiration burning high throughout the work. The second movement is peaceful and sometimes mysterious with its distant trumpet calls. There are some echoes of Vaughan Williams (particularly the 3rd and 5th symphonies), but the music is never derivative. In the finale, Damase juxtaposes jaunty, rhythmic episodes with quieter, lyrical ones. Again, there is some great horn writing and imaginative orchestration overall. The work ends with a triumphant recapitulation of material from the ending of the first movement. That final C major chord will bring you to your feet in exaltation!

Every work featured on this disc (particularly the Symphonie) is absolutely first-rate and the neglect they have suffered over the years has been completely undeserved. How about orchestras start programming these works (and numerous others by worthy lesser-known composers) instead of just endlessly recycling the same old “warhorses” by Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Mahler, etc.? I am sure any audience would fall in love with Damase’s music if they were simply exposed to it. Major kudos to Dutton Epoch, conductor Martin Yates, pianist Ashley Wass, flautist Anna Noakes, and the BBC Concert Orchestra for filling this important gap in the catalogue. The performances these musicians give throughout the disc are consistently excellent, which is very fortunate since we are not likely to receive more recordings of these works anytime soon.

In summary, this disc receives my utmost highest recommendation not just for specialists in obscure music or French music, but for all classical music listeners. Damase’s wonderful music demands to be heard!
"Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music" - Sergei Rachmaninoff

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Re: Jean-Michel Damase (1928-2013)
« Reply #28 on: July 17, 2019, 02:49:40 PM »
A superb review, Kyle! I found the Symphonie more than satisfying and very good when I listened to it. I recall it like "music from a fairy land", undoubtedly luminous and very well written. And once again I share your views about the mainstream being performed to tiredness. As great as those warhorses are, concert halls need to have more variated programs (yes, even more so!) that include magnificent works like the Damase and other akin works. I could imagine people getting crazy by works of composers like Tubin, Braga Santos, Respighi, Szymanowski, Suk, Glazunov, etc. The concert halls would be on fire!

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Jean-Michel Damase (1928-2013)
« Reply #29 on: July 17, 2019, 10:54:19 PM »
Yes, I second Cesar's comments. Excellent review Kyle and I was very interested in your Honegger comparison which I think is rather apt.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Online kyjo

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Re: Jean-Michel Damase (1928-2013)
« Reply #30 on: July 19, 2019, 09:25:21 AM »
Thanks, guys. I knew I could count on you to echo my remarks! ;D
"Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music" - Sergei Rachmaninoff

Offline Christo

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Re: Jean-Michel Damase (1928-2013)
« Reply #31 on: July 19, 2019, 10:08:14 AM »
Let me echo your remarks too:  :D
In summary, this disc receives my utmost highest recommendation not just for specialists in obscure music or French music, but for all classical music listeners. Damase’s wonderful music demands to be heard!
… music is not only an 'entertainment’, nor a mere luxury, but a necessity of the spiritual if not of the physical life, an opening of those magic casements through which we can catch a glimpse of that country where ultimate reality will be found.    RVW, 1948

Online kyjo

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Re: Jean-Michel Damase (1928-2013)
« Reply #32 on: October 18, 2019, 10:00:37 AM »
This great Frenchman never ceases to delight me! Lately I've discovered two more works of his:

Serenade for flute and strings: This three-movement work from 1956 shows Damase exploring some of the same darker, chromatic waters found in the first movement of his Symphonie, which are of course relieved by those oases of bright-eyed lyricism so typical of his style. It's included in this recent Nimbus release:



There's also a recording on YT featuring Jean-Pierre Rampal:

https://youtu.be/rFdShSZI0KY


Rhapsodie de Printemps for piano and orchestra: Dating from 1957, this work is sheer joyous bliss from beginning to end. Too much of a good thing, maybe, but who could resist? The sound quality in the below YT video isn't ideal, but it doesn't prevent the gorgeousness of this music from shining through. Hopefully it gets commercially recorded soon!

https://youtu.be/2VQdM61L_gc
"Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music" - Sergei Rachmaninoff

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Jean-Michel Damase (1928-2013)
« Reply #33 on: October 18, 2019, 11:48:11 AM »
This great Frenchman never ceases to delight me! Lately I've discovered two more works of his:

Serenade for flute and strings: This three-movement work from 1956 shows Damase exploring some of the same darker, chromatic waters found in the first movement of his Symphonie, which are of course relieved by those oases of bright-eyed lyricism so typical of his style. It's included in this recent Nimbus release:



There's also a recording on YT featuring Jean-Pierre Rampal:

https://youtu.be/rFdShSZI0KY


Rhapsodie de Printemps for piano and orchestra: Dating from 1957, this work is sheer joyous bliss from beginning to end. Too much of a good thing, maybe, but who could resist? The sound quality in the below YT video isn't ideal, but it doesn't prevent the gorgeousness of this music from shining through. Hopefully it gets commercially recorded soon!

https://youtu.be/2VQdM61L_gc
Great stuff Kyle! Thanks for the links.
 :)
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).