Sauget Vocal and orchestral works

Author: 
Arnold Whittall

Sauget Vocal and orchestral works

  • Sonate d'église
  • Garden Concerto
  • (L') Oiseau a vut tout cela
  • Sonate d'église
  • Garden Concerto
  • (L') Oiseau a vut tout cela

Henri Sauguet (1901-89), the protege of Satie and friend of Milhaud, continued to compose into old age. These three works all belong to his later years, and all are most successful when demonstrating that Sauguet's music has its serious, melancholy side.
The cantata L'oiseau a vu tout cela (1960), setting a poem by Jean Cayrol, is serious throughout, since what the bird sees, and what the poet muses on, is a man hanging from a tree. It's a rather convoluted text—no English translation is given—which needs a melodic line more sharply defined in character, but Sauguet's setting has its moments of animation leading to a deeper sense of tragedy in the final section, and Michel Piquemal is a responsive, well-varied soloist.
The Garden Concerto (1969)—'Garden' after its dedicatee, Claude Garden, as well as its pastoral tone—is for most of its length a lighter affair. It was originally conceived for harmonica and orchestra, and the less penetrating tone of that solo instrument might well suit the music better. Here the recorded sound is over-bright, and the orchestra plays rather heavily, underlining the tendency for Sauguet's generally winsome, flowing ideas to acquire too much harmonic padding for their own good. The best movement is the short finale, which contains a lively dance episode, and has a passage of touchingly simple reflectiveness near the end.
Simple reflectiveness is even more effectively employed at the end of the Church Sonata for organ and strings. This is another well-fleshed, fairly rambling piece, not flamboyant enough to be a concerto, and impressing when touches of Satie-esque austerity and asperity ruffle its otherwise easy-going surface. The recording of what seems to be a good performance captures the flavour of the Commignes organ without letting it swamp the orchestra. The notes tell us that the music is meant to be religious in spirit but, Sauguet being Sauguet, the odour of incense is never oppressive, and the aim is to charm rather than to preach.'

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