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Hubert Culot
MusicWeb International, November 2007

The earliest work here, the somewhat hybrid Le Légendaire for violin, chorus and orchestra, was completed in 1984. The chorus sings words in Esperanto, all “touching upon the idea of legend” (the composer’s words), although these words do not form a text as such. (Incidentally an alphabetical glossary of the words is printed in the insert notes, but it is not always easy to hear which words the chorus is singing, so that I would be tempted to think that they are mostly used as pegs to hang the music on.) The work is in one single movement unfolding through a variety of moods, “from confrontation to communion”, as the composer has it. It opens with hieratic brass fanfares giving way to more reflective, melodic solo lines. The first entry of the chorus is followed by an animated, almost angry section with angular solo lines and sombre brass with percussion, leading into a rather desolate section. This in turn is followed by a dramatic episode alternating strongly contrasted, almost conflicting moods that are eventually reconciled in the glowing, appeased and assertive coda. According to the composer, the piece is about “the one coming from somewhere else, whether he be Peter Pan, E.T. or Buddha. It is the story of a visit.” In fact, the composer leaves much to the listener’s imagination; but what comes clearly through anyway is some warmly lyrical and generous music of great communicative strength.

Petitgirard’s Cello Concerto, completed in 1994 and dedicated to Marcel Landowski, does not bear any literary or poetic title. “Its only subject is the exaltation of this marvellous instrument”. It is laid-out in three movements of roughly equal length : a moderately fast first movement with several contrasting episodes that ends quietly, preparing for the mostly reflective slow movement that concludes with an unresolved crescendo. In spite of some rhythmically alert episodes, the final movement does not entirely dispels the elegiac mood that prevailed during the preceding movements, neither does the angrily dismissive final gesture. Petitgirard’s Cello Concerto is a rather tense and intense work, partly inspired by the sudden death of one of the composer’s friends. This often gripping and moving work is undoubtedly a strongly personal utterance on the composer’s part.

Dialogue for Viola and Orchestra is the most recent work here. It was completed in 2002 and dedicated to Jesse Levine who was the soloist for the first performance in 2003. The title rather aptly suggests a discussion, in which partners constantly confront each other, disagree and – at times – agree, rather than a real concerto, in which the soloist battles against larger forces. The tone is in turn light, angry, sorrowful and impassioned; and the music reaches some forceful climaxes. The work, however, ends with a beautiful, appeased coda. Neither the Cello Concerto nor Dialogue are programmatic works. Rather they are abstract pieces of music, in which emotion and communication are paramount.

Laurent Petitgirard’s music may not be strikingly original but it is eminently personal. It is characterised by a formidable orchestral and instrumental mastery as well as a remarkable stylistic consistency; for Dialogue or Les Douze Gardiens du Temple (on Naxos 8.570138 that I reviewed here some time ago) are obviously from the same pen as the score for the Maigret TV series.

These performances played by top-rank soloists, who obviously relish the composer’s generous music, and conducted by the composer are really very fine. These recorded performances of the Cello Concerto and Le Légendaire were released some time ago, but still sound remarkably well. Anyone who has heard and enjoyed Petitgirard’s opera Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man or the orchestral works recently released by Naxos will need no further recommendation to get this most appealing release, whereas anyone enjoying accessible contemporary music will find much to enjoy here.



Hubert Culot
MusicWeb International, November 2007

The earliest work here, the somewhat hybrid Le Légendaire for violin, chorus and orchestra, was completed in 1984. The chorus sings words in Esperanto, all “touching upon the idea of legend” (the composer’s words), although these words do not form a text as such. (Incidentally an alphabetical glossary of the words is printed in the insert notes, but it is not always easy to hear which words the chorus is singing, so that I would be tempted to think that they are mostly used as pegs to hang the music on.) The work is in one single movement unfolding through a variety of moods, “from confrontation to communion”, as the composer has it. It opens with hieratic brass fanfares giving way to more reflective, melodic solo lines. The first entry of the chorus is followed by an animated, almost angry section with angular solo lines and sombre brass with percussion, leading into a rather desolate section. This in turn is followed by a dramatic episode alternating strongly contrasted, almost conflicting moods that are eventually reconciled in the glowing, appeased and assertive coda. According to the composer, the piece is about “the one coming from somewhere else, whether he be Peter Pan, E.T. or Buddha. It is the story of a visit.” In fact, the composer leaves much to the listener’s imagination; but what comes clearly through anyway is some warmly lyrical and generous music of great communicative strength.

Petitgirard’s Cello Concerto, completed in 1994 and dedicated to Marcel Landowski, does not bear any literary or poetic title. “Its only subject is the exaltation of this marvellous instrument”. It is laid-out in three movements of roughly equal length : a moderately fast first movement with several contrasting episodes that ends quietly, preparing for the mostly reflective slow movement that concludes with an unresolved crescendo. In spite of some rhythmically alert episodes, the final movement does not entirely dispels the elegiac mood that prevailed during the preceding movements, neither does the angrily dismissive final gesture. Petitgirard’s Cello Concerto is a rather tense and intense work, partly inspired by the sudden death of one of the composer’s friends. This often gripping and moving work is undoubtedly a strongly personal utterance on the composer’s part.

Dialogue for Viola and Orchestra is the most recent work here. It was completed in 2002 and dedicated to Jesse Levine who was the soloist for the first performance in 2003. The title rather aptly suggests a discussion, in which partners constantly confront each other, disagree and – at times – agree, rather than a real concerto, in which the soloist battles against larger forces. The tone is in turn light, angry, sorrowful and impassioned; and the music reaches some forceful climaxes. The work, however, ends with a beautiful, appeased coda. Neither the Cello Concerto nor Dialogue are programmatic works. Rather they are abstract pieces of music, in which emotion and communication are paramount.

Laurent Petitgirard’s music may not be strikingly original but it is eminently personal. It is characterised by a formidable orchestral and instrumental mastery as well as a remarkable stylistic consistency; for Dialogue or Les Douze Gardiens du Temple (on Naxos 8.570138 that I reviewed here some time ago) are obviously from the same pen as the score for the Maigret TV series.

These performances played by top-rank soloists, who obviously relish the composer’s generous music, and conducted by the composer are really very fine. These recorded performances of the Cello Concerto and Le Légendaire were released some time ago, but still sound remarkably well. Anyone who has heard and enjoyed Petitgirard’s opera Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man or the orchestral works recently released by Naxos will need no further recommendation to get this most appealing release, whereas anyone enjoying accessible contemporary music will find much to enjoy here.



8.557602
Classical Lost and Found, August 2007

French composer Laurent Petitgirard (b. 1950) writes music with emotional rather than intellectual appeal, and his Dialogue for Viola and Orchestra (2002) certainly demonstrates that. In one movement lasting just over twenty minutes, it has no formal structure, yet the melodic milieu the composer creates and dramatically colorful orchestration hold your attention. You may find it's most effective when played at night with the lights out. The performance by violist Gerard Causse and the Bordeaux Aquitaine National Orchestra under the composer is totally committed.

The cello concerto (1994) is in three movements, which makes this piece a bit more formal than the previous one. While it's definitely not atonal, there's a strange arbitrary angularity about the opening theme that smacks of dodecaphonism. But a sense of key is quickly established with the entry of the cello, which during the course of the first movement exerts a lyrically calming influence on the otherwise highly volatile orchestra. The next movement is darkly introspective with a central cadenza for the soloist and an ending that has the finality of a guillotining. The finale is for the most part agitated and fatalistic with a couple of passages reminiscent of Sergei Prokofiev. Except for what sound like a couple of intonational anomalies, cellist Gary Hoffmann and the Monte Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra under the composer deliver an enthusiastic performance of the concerto.

While Le Legendaire (1983-84) is a bit of an oddball, being a concerto for violin, chorus and orchestra with a text in Esperanto, it's a highly original work definitely worth hearing. In a single movement lasting about twenty minutes, it's about an earthly visitation by some unidentified spiritual or extraterrestrial figure who delivers a message of peace to mankind, and then departs (shades of the 1951 film The Day the Earth Stood Still). Glaringly dissonant chords from the orchestra introduce the violin, which proceeds to spin out a highly lyrical melody that introduces the chorus. The singing soon subsides and the violin returns with the orchestra hammering out a repeated rhythmic pattern. This prefaces a Last Judgement-like brass fanfare followed by sustained notes on the horns and trombones that sound like something out of a Tibetan religious ceremony. The violin then makes a rhapsodic return followed by the chorus and orchestra as periods of relative calm alternate with highly dramatic forte passages. The work concludes peacefully except for one final dissonant outburst from the orchestra. Violinist Augustin Dumay, the Polish Radio Choir of Cracow and the Classical Polish Philharmonic conducted by the composer give a supercharged performance of the piece.

The overall sound on this disc is certainly acceptable, particularly for repertoire as rare as this. But it must be noted that the concerto and Le Legendaire, which were recorded back in 1997 and 1986 respectively, and originally appeared on the Chant du Monde label (no longer available), sound a bit dry.



David Denton
David's Review Corner, July 2007

Laurent Petitgirard has enjoyed the dual career as a major conductor and a prolific composer of film and concert scores, his recent appointment as the Music Director of the Orchestre Colonne one of a series of prestige posts. The Dialogue for Viola and Orchestra dates from 2002, but like much of Petitgirard's output it stylistically could have been written fifty or more years ago, its structure based on tonality, clashing harmonies and robust colours adding a modern dimension to the score. Though it was the composer's intention that the work should emerge as a concertante score creating a dialogue between the ‘soloist' and orchestra, on disc that does largely depend on the balance engineer, and here the viola is placed well to the fore. It is far from easy and requires a soloist with the technical command of Gerard Causse - generally regarded as today's outstanding French violist - the music going to the extremes of the instrument, and requires a stunning display in the short cadenza. I suspect this is the world premiere recording, though the disc makes no such claim, and with the conductor on the rostrum we can take it as the benchmark performance. The remaining tracks have already been available on a Chant du Monde release. The Cello Concerto dates from 1994 and has no programmatic content though the first two movements arrive at a dark finale that was coloured by the death of a fiend. Composed with Gary Hoffman in mind, the cello required to sing in long phrases, and, as here recorded, is more of a dialogue than the viola score. It is a work where many thoughts seem to have passed through Petitgirard's mind and have found a place in the score. The performance has tremendous conviction and an abundance of virtuosity from Hoffman. Le Legendaire is scored for solo violin, chorus and orchestra, the sets to music a story of the visit to earth of the Legend, his activities there expressed in words, the language used being Esperanto. It was dedicated to Augustin Dumay and completed in 1984. I presume the recording is a live performance as no specific date is given, the orchestra placed a little backward, but still capturing plenty of detail, while the chorus sing with much confidence. Like the previous two works the nature of the score is rhapsodic, as fluid ideas flow into one another. In sum a modern music disc with a difference.






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12:02:05 AM, 19 April 2015
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