, January 2009
The Symphony was composed (in 1985) in the wake of the civil war in the Lebanon and is a powerful, tragically arresting work, laid out in four fairly traditional movements. But it is without any kind of conventional development of ideas; is essence it is a kaleidoscopic set of brief variants. Even more than the vividly scored symphony, the three shorter works rely a great deal on orchestral textures, with contrasting sonorities, dynamics, mood and colouring, all skillfully manipulated to give an illusion of forward movement (rather than development). The brass scoring is emphatic, with exuberant use of the horns. The restless symphonic meditation, Hill of Strangeness (‘Colline del’étrange’) ‘is a journey through a fog pierced by glimpses of light’ and is concerned with ‘solitude and the struggle of the light to come through dark clouds’. It is certainly enigmatic. Harmonies crépusculaires was written in memory of the conductor Pierre Dervaux and is essentially valedictory in feeling, but the finality of death is powerfully conveyed by more shattering brass interruptions, with an answering tolling bell. The dream-like Wine of the Clouds (‘Le Vin des nuages’) ‘is a confrontation between silence and the violence of nature’, opening impressionistically and ending with a torrent of sound, including the composer’s characteristic horn glissandi.