Paul Juon (1872-1940)

Started by Symphonic Addict, January 24, 2022, 05:37:09 PM

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Symphonic Addict



I thought there was a thread for him. And this is the perfect opportunity to talk about some of his works.

I'm listening to his String Quartet No. 4 from this indispensable set IMO... I'm speechless at the singularity of this peculiar work. It's compelling, distinctive despite it sounds apparently "familiar", but not necessarily so. The very first movement doesn't seem to have a definite predictability, and that masterful counterpoint! "Tchaikovsky meets Taneyev meets Reger in the Alps" would be an apt comparison. Juon is a composer to be taken into account. I don't know many of his works, but for what I've heard so far, there is a distinctive voice here with plenty of exquisite and clever counterpoint.
Music is life, and like it, inextinguishable.

I love the vast surface of silence; and it is my chief delight to break it.

Carl Nielsen

Mirror Image

Quote from: Symphonic Addict on January 24, 2022, 05:37:09 PM


I thought there was a thread for him. And this is the perfect opportunity to talk about him.

I'm listening to his String Quartet No. 4 from this indispensable set IMO... I'm speechless at the singularity of this peculiar work. It's compelling, distinctive despite it sounds apparently "familiar", but not necessarily so. The very first movement doesn't seem to have a definite predictability, and that masterful counterpoint! "Tchaikovsky meets Taneyev meets Reger in the Alps" would be an apt comparison. Juon is a composer to be taken into account. I don't know many of his works, but for what I've heard so far, there is a distinctive voice here with plenty of exquisite and clever counterpoint.

I love Tchaikovsky and I tolerate Taneyev (far from a favorite Russian composer), but I loathe Reger, so you certainly haven't whetted my appetite for Juon's music at all, Cesar. :D
"Humility is society's greatest misconception."

My "Top 5" Favorite Composers: Debussy, Mahler, Strauss, Sibelius and Bartók


Symphonic Addict

Quote from: Mirror Image on January 24, 2022, 05:39:03 PM
I love Tchaikovsky and I tolerate Taneyev (far from a favorite Russian composer), but I loathe Reger, so you certainly haven't whetted my appetite for Juon's music at all, Cesar. :D

Likely there is much German-influenced counterpoint in here  ;), and I don't deny that, but this is not cliché music. It's really interesting because his use of harmony and sophistication in the gestures make the music rewarding more and more with subsequent listens.
Music is life, and like it, inextinguishable.

I love the vast surface of silence; and it is my chief delight to break it.

Carl Nielsen

Mirror Image

Quote from: Symphonic Addict on January 24, 2022, 05:44:38 PM
Likely there is much German-influenced counterpoint in here  ;), and I don't deny that, but this is not cliché music. It's really interesting because his use of harmony and sophistication in the gestures make the music rewarding more and more with subsequent listens.

I love Germanic music, Cesar, but this doesn't mean I like Reger's music. Hindemith and K. A. Hartmann, for example, are two composers that I hold in the highest esteem.
"Humility is society's greatest misconception."

My "Top 5" Favorite Composers: Debussy, Mahler, Strauss, Sibelius and Bartók


André

#4
Thanks for the tip Cesar. I have these quartets. Everything I've heard so far from Juon is very good. His music grows on the listener.

kyjo

#5
Quote from: Mirror Image on January 24, 2022, 05:39:03 PM
I love Tchaikovsky and I tolerate Taneyev (far from a favorite Russian composer), but I loathe Reger, so you certainly haven't whetted my appetite for Juon's music at all, Cesar. :D

FWIW, John, I find Juon's music infinitely more appealing than Reger's. For one thing, Juon could actually write good melodies. :D
"Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music" - Sergei Rachmaninoff

kyjo

Quote from: Symphonic Addict on January 24, 2022, 05:37:09 PM


I thought there was a thread for him. And this is the perfect opportunity to talk about some of his works.

I'm listening to his String Quartet No. 4 from this indispensable set IMO... I'm speechless at the singularity of this peculiar work. It's compelling, distinctive despite it sounds apparently "familiar", but not necessarily so. The very first movement doesn't seem to have a definite predictability, and that masterful counterpoint! "Tchaikovsky meets Taneyev meets Reger in the Alps" would be an apt comparison. Juon is a composer to be taken into account. I don't know many of his works, but for what I've heard so far, there is a distinctive voice here with plenty of exquisite and clever counterpoint.

Thanks for creating a thread for this truly individual and grossly underrated composer! Yes, his SQs are very good, but once again I must ask: do you know his piano trios, piano quartets, piano quintets, or piano sextet?? They represent Juon in his element at the absolute peak of his powers - melodic, colorful, folksy, quirky, and quite harmonically exploratory in the later works. If I had to single one work out of the bunch, it would be the magnificent Piano Quartet no. 1 Rhapsodie. What singular, dramatic, creative, utterly enchanting music!! Pay no attention to a certain Amazon reviewer who says that the piano quartets are "not tuneful or gripping" - he/she has praised much lesser works to the skies in other reviews, so I'm not quite sure what their deal is. Anyway, I can't recommend these recordings highly enough:



All of the performances across these discs are uniformly excellent, BTW. Also, YT channel "Bartje Bartmans" has uploaded many score videos of Juon's chamber music; here's the Piano Quartet no. 1: https://youtu.be/xhwtqhMFPC0
"Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music" - Sergei Rachmaninoff

kyjo

I'll repost what I said in the "Pieces that have blown you away recently thread" back in August about the 2-disc set of Juon's complete works for piano trio performed by the Altenberg Trio:

Ignore the rather trite cover art (although, come to think of it, the opening ostinato of the Piano Trio no. 1 is rather train-like)! This is a wonderfully consistent, stimulating, enchanting, and original body of work for piano trio worthy of comparison with anything by the greats. Some GMG members have commented positively on Juon's SQs, but to my mind his substantial body of chamber music with piano is his finest achievement. As a Russian-born Swiss composer, Juon's music defies easy categorization, and that is what makes is so unique and appealing to me. Only in the Piano Trio no. 1 can one detect any hints of, say, Brahms. Juon has a wonderfully distinctive voice which is characterized by an engaging sense of fantasy and formal freedom (without lack of structure or cohesion), inspired and striking melodic material, inventive part-writing, and an absolutely delightful folksy influence which can't resist to rear its head often. Oh, and fortunately the performances by the Altenberg Trio Wein are beyond reproach - aside from being technically brilliant, they are totally inside Juon's idiom and play with fire and sensitivity. The highlight of the set might even be the 13-minute Suite, op. 89, which is full of such delicious invention it made me grin from ear to ear. I urge you to hear it! https://youtu.be/X9_v-Ntijd8
"Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music" - Sergei Rachmaninoff

Symphonic Addict

#8
Thanks for the replies, gents! There is much to enjoy and discover in this quirky Swiss-Russian figure.

I'm sure André has this recording of the quartets, which I don't know at all. Both sets must complement each other, I'd consider.



Thanks for mentioning those chamber recordings, Kyle! I'm sure I've heard those pieces at least once and I've had good impressions with most of them. Do you know his symphonies? In Sterling label there are a couple of recordings if my memory serves.

The Piano Quartet No. 1 is a unique work indeed, but I struggle with it somewhat. It has a quite indecipherable form that makes it so special and crafted.
Music is life, and like it, inextinguishable.

I love the vast surface of silence; and it is my chief delight to break it.

Carl Nielsen

André

Quote from: Symphonic Addict on January 24, 2022, 08:41:59 PM
Thanks for the replies, gents! There is much to enjoy and discover in this quirky Swiss-Russian figure.

I'm sure André has this recording of the quartets, which I don't know at all. Both sets must complement each other, I'd consider.



Thanks for mentioning those chamber recordings, Kyle! I'm sure I've heard those pieces at least once and I've had good impressions with most of them. Do you know his symphonies? In Sterling label there are a couple of recordings if my memory serves.

The Piano Quartet No. 1 is a unique work indeed, but I struggle with it somewhat. It has a quite indecipherable form that makes it so special and crafted.

Indeed. I commented on the quartets last year (or the year before ?). His clarinet trio is on its way to my mailbox. I look forward to listening to it!

kyjo

Quote from: Symphonic Addict on January 24, 2022, 08:41:59 PM
Thanks for mentioning those chamber recordings, Kyle! I'm sure I've heard those pieces at least once and I've had good impressions with most of them. Do you know his symphonies? In Sterling label there are a couple of recordings if my memory serves.

The Piano Quartet No. 1 is a unique work indeed, but I struggle with it somewhat. It has a quite indecipherable form that makes it so special and crafted.

Admittedly, I haven't heard any of Juon's orchestral music yet! In addition to those Sterling discs, there's also a CPO recording of his Rhapsodische Sinfonie and Sinfonietta capricciosa. I think I'll give that one a spin today and report back! I have a hunch that his chamber output is stronger than his orchestral one, but I may be proven wrong.

Indeed, the form of his Piano Quartet no. 1 and other mature chamber works may be unique and unconventional, but it doesn't hinder my enjoyment of the music. There's so much excellent material and sense of imagination in these works that make them convincing to these ears!
"Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music" - Sergei Rachmaninoff

Spotted Horses

Quote from: kyjo on January 24, 2022, 07:09:24 PM
FWIW, John, I find Juon's music infinitely more appealing than Reger's. For one thing, Juon could actually write good melodies. :D

Reger seems to have multiple personalities. His orchestral music strikes me as too saccharine for my taste, but his chamber music can be quite succinct, particularly the neo-baroque works like the unaccompanied sonatas.

kyjo

Quote from: Spotted Horses on January 25, 2022, 06:56:11 AM
Reger seems to have multiple personalities. His orchestral music strikes me as too saccharine for my taste, but his chamber music can be quite succinct, particularly the neo-baroque works like the unaccompanied sonatas.

I generally agree with this, but my favorite Reger work by a long shot is his atmospheric 4 Tone Poems after Böcklin which generally avoids the "academic", somewhat "labored" feeling that I get from most of his other works. I used to like his two sets of orchestral variations (Hiller and Mozart), but upon revisiting them recently I wasn't as enamored as before. I like his 3 "neo-Bachian" suites for solo cello reasonably well, but most of his other chamber music that I've tried has left me cold.
"Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music" - Sergei Rachmaninoff

kyjo

Quote from: kyjo on January 25, 2022, 06:47:37 AM
Admittedly, I haven't heard any of Juon's orchestral music yet! In addition to those Sterling discs, there's also a CPO recording of his Rhapsodische Sinfonie and Sinfonietta capricciosa. I think I'll give that one a spin today and report back! I have a hunch that his chamber output is stronger than his orchestral one, but I may be proven wrong.

Earlier today, I listened to this disc:



....and it turns out my hunch was correct! These are two of Juon's final works, both composed in 1939. The Rhapsodische Sinfonie is a huge, 55-minute construct, and let's just say I didn't have any desire to continue with it after the rambling, unremarkable first movement. ::) The Sinfonietta capricciosa was better, with a particularly entertaining finale, but it still suffers from lack of memorability. It's amazing how uneven some composers can be! Has anyone heard the two Sterling discs of Juon's earlier orchestral works? Are they any good?
"Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music" - Sergei Rachmaninoff

Symphonic Addict

Quote from: kyjo on January 25, 2022, 07:08:43 PM
Earlier today, I listened to this disc:



....and it turns out my hunch was correct! These are two of Juon's final works, both composed in 1939. The Rhapsodische Sinfonie is a huge, 55-minute construct, and let's just say I didn't have any desire to continue with it after the rambling, unremarkable first movement. ::) The Sinfonietta capricciosa was better, with a particularly entertaining finale, but it still suffers from lack of memorability. It's amazing how uneven some composers can be! Has anyone heard the two Sterling discs of Juon's earlier orchestral works? Are they any good?

You and I definitely have a similar vision and feeling for music. Indeed, the Sinfonietta has better humour, and the Rhapsodic Symphony is meandering and few interesting 1st movement, but the subsequent 2nd one is full of gracefulness and certain perky personality.

And the timing for the Rhapsodic Symphony is about 38 minutes long, not 55!  :o
Music is life, and like it, inextinguishable.

I love the vast surface of silence; and it is my chief delight to break it.

Carl Nielsen

kyjo

Quote from: Symphonic Addict on January 25, 2022, 07:12:32 PM
You and I definitely have a similar vision and feeling for music. Indeed, the Sinfonietta has better humour, and the Rhapsodic Symphony is meandering and few interesting 1st movement, but the subsequent 2nd one is full of gracefulness and certain perky personality.

And the timing for the Rhapsodic Symphony is about 38 minutes long, not 55!  :o

Glad we're in agreement here! ;) Oops, you're right about the timing. I accidentally counted the first movement of the Sinfonietta towards the total.
"Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music" - Sergei Rachmaninoff

Symphonic Addict

#16
Just relistening to the awesome Sinfonietta Capricciosa. Gorgeous and glorious stuff.

A soulful and moving slow movement is sandwiched between two eminently cheerful outer movements. Even there are moments where I seem to hear Brahms or Dvorak. Masterfully recorded and performed, what else do others of you need to hear this extraordinary score?  :)
Music is life, and like it, inextinguishable.

I love the vast surface of silence; and it is my chief delight to break it.

Carl Nielsen

kyjo

Cross-posted from the "blown away" thread:

Juon: Octet in B-flat major for Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon & Horn (1905)

https://youtu.be/yWS1lpkTw4s

This magnificent creation confirms Juon as one of my very favorite composers of chamber music. In fact, I'd put him right behind Dvorak and Brahms in that regard! It's an unabashedly joyous and sunny work for a delicious combination of instruments, with melancholy only appearing in the slow movement. Juon's melodic inspiration never ceases to amaze me, also I adore that charming rustic touch that makes his music so distinctive. For example, witness the theme at 2:20 in the first movement: it's so f*#&$*%^ catchy!! Also, the swooning, ultra-romantic theme at 26:20 in the finale is enough to make Tchaikovsky or Rachmaninoff green with envy! Fortunately, the performance in the above video (not sure if it's a commercial recording) does full justice to the work. Cesar, Andre, Andrei, et al. need to hear this!!
"Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music" - Sergei Rachmaninoff

André


kyjo

Quote from: André on February 23, 2022, 12:05:54 PM
Is it only on YT, Kyle ?

I couldn't find a commercial recording of it, André. But the performance and sound on YT are fabulous. Don't hesitate to hear it!
"Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music" - Sergei Rachmaninoff