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Maurice Journeau : The sonatina musical form

December 31st, 2022

Maurice Journeau's catalogue of works includes about one hundred musical works. Most of them endowed with an opus number, several ones with no opus number, but also important orchestral versions, versions for piano duets, some arrangements and transcriptions for another instrument, all of them by the composer himself and especially for his much beloved works or some with a writing considered by him as particularly interesting.

So, among Journeau's works one may find very different musical forms of classical music and already with the piano, his personal instrument. For instance, the sonatina form for piano, generally considered as a little sonata in three movements only, shorter and supposedly easier than a sonata (yet this depending in fact from the composers and also of each of their sonatinas if they wrote several ones), but also pleasant both to musicians and listeners.

Originally, Journeau did not at all intend to write a cycle of several sonatinas for piano; it was absolutely not his object. Purely and simply it was his first try with the Sonatina op. 4 as a young composer. But this pleased him and he later did it again thrice, but at different times of his life (1922, 1925, 1928, 1940) and in very different french places (Biarritz in the Basque country, Nice on the french Riviera, Paris).

The first three sonatinas were inspired to him by his loving feelings for their dedicatees. The first sonatina beautifully paying homage to his father. The second one full of his brotherly tenderness towards his youngest sister. The third one expressing his deep love for his young wife and his happiness in married life. Only the short fourth sonatina was with no dedicatee. A more modern good piano piece written later in Paris and thus of Journeau's mature years, but without that family atmosphere of the three previous ones which led us into the the intimacy of the composer.

In fact, those sonatinas, although unlike at first sight, may be finally looked at as a rather homogeneous whole, no matter if they are independantly published just like now (Henry Lemoine / Combre publisher in Paris) or later united together in a Journeau's piano sonatina-book. And it is to be emphasized that they are among the works considered by the composer as typical of his musical style. When I asked once my father in the nineties if it could be possible, in case of a sonatinas' compact-disc recording, to add the short, melodious "Divertissement en forme de sonatine" (tr: a divertimento in sonatina form) op. 25 (Henry Lemoine, publisher in Paris)? He answered that he had no objection to this musical addition.

Chantal Virlet-Journeau

(Septembre 2022)