I have some catching up to do. In the next few weeks I will have precious little time to listen and keep up the diary. First I just want to make a note of some cursory listening I did last Friday. As I was impressed by Jean Martinon's rendering of Ibert's Divertissement (and also of Debussy's Boite à Joujoux, of which more anon), I did some internet research to learn more about this French conductor. And so I discovered that he was not alone a successful conductor but also a notable composer in his own right. I was particularly intrigued by a reference to his Symphony nr. 4 'Altitudes', which drew its inspiration from the activity of mountaineering. It's in three movements, each of which is labelled by a suggestive title: La Porte des Etoiles (Allegro agitato), Les Jardins Verticales (Adagio misterioso) and La Traversée des Dieux (Tempo di scherzo). I found a recording accessible via the internet which I listened to on my computer. I can't say I was particularly enamoured by the piece which comes in an angular, expressionistic idiom. The connection with the mountain world is maybe reflected in the music's jagged contours. Anyway, it likely warrants repeated listening.
The work was written for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, of which Martinon was chief conductor at that time (1963-1968, following in the footsteps of the redoutable Fritz Reiner). There has been an RCA recording with Martinon and the CSO, where Altitudes is coupled with Peter Mennin's Symphony nr. 7. I aurally scanned that too via Youtube. It's quite a bold an attractive work, matching the Martinon symphony in its uncompromising stridency, but formally and harmonically it seems to yield more easily to the ear. I have one recording of Mennin's Eighth and Ninth symphonies (on New World Records) in my collection. Clearly, this is a symphonist with a very serious mien. The Seventh has certainly picqued my interest.
Finally, I made an interesting discovery in the personality of Marcel Landowski, a French composer which was all but unknown to me (1915-1999). I listened to his Symphony nr. 3 'Des Espaces' on Youtube, a recording with the French National Orchestra under Georges Prêtre. This seems to be a captivating work that seemed to connect readily to the lush soundworld of his colleague Henri Dutilleux. Warner has issued a 9-CD set which collects a significant number of symphonic works (4 symphonies and a number of concertos). I will not hesitate to add that to my collection.