Notes and Editorial Reviews
SWISS SYMPHONIC COMPOSERS, VOL. 2
Emmanuel Siffert, cond; Italian Swiss O
GALLO 1234 (75:26)
Le Voyage de printemps
; Concerto No. 2 for Chamber Orchestra,
Chamber Symphony No. 1.
I know my dislike for compilation CDs is irrational—perhaps something to do with filing issues. And yet it barely budges even when faced with occasional beauties, such as the second volume of Swiss Symphonic Composers on the Gallo label. Aloÿs Fornerod’s (1890–1965) neoclassical
Le Voyage de printemps
, with vaguely impressionist touches that betray French influences (like his composition teacher, Vincent d’Indy’s), provides 13 enchanting minutes. His upbeat Second Concerto for Chamber Orchestra, too, has brevity (about 15 minutes) and vivacious appeal on its side. The gay, infectious runs of the closing “Mouvement perpetual” give every wind instrument its moment to shine.
Jean Balissat’s (1936–2007) short and tangy Intermezzo with its gentle shrieks, violent brass outbreaks, oboe-painted question marks, suspenseful crescendos, and twinkling ending is precisely that: an entertaining intermezzo leading up to the highlight.
Because what makes this four-composer collection, irreproachably performed by the Italian Swiss Orchestra under Emmanuel Siffert, so truly special is Fabio Maffei’s
Le Petit Prince
. The work is simply a masterpiece, which is also how the jury at the 1995 Young Composer’s Competition of the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra saw it, giving it first prize. Ten short musical pictures accompany the 10 chapters of the book; Maffei says he simply wrote what he felt. Not surprisingly, music that is
sounds very different from music that is thought or constructed. And the result is a work so unabashedly charming, it is difficult to believe that a 28-year-old composer had the guts to write it and not fear being accused of being derivative.
He’s not, but that doesn’t mean the music can’t remind us of composers we know, anything from Korngold to Messiaen, actually … and plenty of gorgeous intimations of the latter. Similarities between the final chapter in Maffei’s
, “L’Étoile,” and
Des Canyons Aux Étoiles
exist, but they are not intentional. Asked about the likeness, Maffei said, “Not only didn’t I know that work back then … I wasn’t even fond of Messiaen’s music at the time. [But I should] point out that more distinctly Messiaenic flavors [can] be found in my more recent works, and that both Messiaen and René Gerber, my composition teacher, studied in Paris in Paul Dukas’ class.”
Even had he liked and used Messiaen then, Maffei’s 20-minute orchestral “illustration” sounds inspired, not copied, and it is all I need to know to eagerly keep my ears and eyes wide open for any future instance of Maffei.
Maffei isn’t the youngest composer given an outing on this sampler; Laurent Mettraux (b. 1970) beats him by a couple years. The more I listen to the latter’s one-movement Symphony No. 1 for Chamber Orchestra, the more attractive it becomes. The string glissandi (reminding of Gloria Coates), the discordant fanfares, the hulking low growls, the melodic bassoon lines of Wagnerian beauty over an extended pedal point—it all adds up to something thoroughly appealing. Because of my collecting habits, I would never have picked this disc up myself; what a blessing then that it has been sent to me for review. Such beauties—modest and miraculous alike—I would have loathed to miss.
FANFARE: Jens F. Laurson
Works on This Recording
Intermezzo, for chamber orchestra by Jean Balissat
Date of Recording: 08/2005
Venue: Lugano - Auditorio Stelio Molo
Length: 6 Minutes 52 Secs.
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