Jolivet Piano Concerto (Premier) – Descaves, piano -André Jolivet, conductor – Strasbourg Radio Symphony
The music of Andrè Jolivet is hardly played in public and seldom heard, even on disc. A staunch defender of the school of atonality he never really endeared himself to the audience or critics who were not all that interested in challenging music. Since his death in 1974 he’s more or less faded from view, as many of his contemporaries have.
Jolivet developed an interest in the arts early in his life, taking up painting and cello lessons at the age of 14. However, he was encouraged by his parents to become a teacher, going to teachers’ college and teaching primary school in Paris (taking three years in between to serve in the military). One of his own teachers, however, believed Jolivet had a future in music, strongly encouraged him to pursue composition, and introduced him to Paul Le Flem, Jolivet’s first teacher in composition. Le Flem gave Jolivet a firm grounding in classical forms of harmony and counterpoint. After hearing his first concert of Arnold Schoenberg, Jolivet became interested in atonal music, and then on Le Flem’s recommendation became the only European student of Edgard Varèse, who passed on his knowledge of musical acoustics, atonal music, sound masses, and orchestration. In 1936 Jolivet co-founded the group La jeune France along with composers Olivier Messiaen, Jean-Yves Daniel-Lesur, and Yves Baudrier, who were attempting to re-establish a more human and less abstract form of composition. La jeune France developed from the avant-garde chamber music society La Spirale, formed by Jolivet, Messiaen, and Daniel-Lesur the previous year.
Tonights post is the world premier performance of Jolivet’s Piano Concerto, recorded in 1951 with the celebrated French pianist Lucette Descaves and the Orchestra of Strasbourg Radio conducted by the composer.
Even at this premier performance you can hear an unenthusiastic audience, and sporadic boo’s and catcalls at the end. It always seems to come with the territory when anything new is played. And in Andrè Jolivet’s case, that was a lot.
Here is that world premier broadcast via French Radio transcriptions. A little worn from the ravages of age and poor storage, but a rare and unique record which I am doubtful has been reissued. I know there was a commercial release of this recording from the French label Ducretet-Thomson, but I am not sure that was the actual world premier performance or a studio recording done shortly after the premier.