Joseph Canteloube began piano lessons at the age of six, but he was in his mid-20s before he started serious composition, although he was already the published composer of several small piano pieces. The walks he took with his father through the mountains of the Auvergne were the greatest influence on his future development as an artist, inspiring his lifelong appreciation for folk music, embodied in his most popular work, the elaborately and lovingly arranged Chants d’Auvergne.
It is perhaps not surprising that, as a sort of musical nationalist, he spent World War II in Vichy, France, continuing to work with folksongs. He composed little during the war after 1940, but in 1946 wrote Rustiques on a commission from the French government. Rustiques is in many ways like a miniature, voiceless reduction of the Chants d’Auvergne: enormously sophisticated reharmonizations and intensely colorful and idiomatic scorings of folksongs. Most of these can found in Canteloube’s own five-volume anthology of French folksongs, and range across the whole country, not just the Auvergne. Canteloube worked multiple tunes into each movement of Rustiques, some quite fragmentary, and the result is a quick moving, zesty celebration of French musical roots, something immediately appreciated in the aftermath of the war.
– John Henken