The booklet note for
this disc of orchestral works by the
relatively young French composer Jean-Louis
Agobet, states that he is ‘freed of
all national references. And also free
of any dogma and belonging to no coterie
Try as one might, it
is not really possible to hear any direct
influence on Agobet’s music from any
particular source. His language and
approach are strikingly individual at
a time when contemporary music can become
almost predictable. His music could
certainly not be labelled as specifically
‘French’. The four works premièred
on this disc are performed by the Orchestre
Philharmonique de Strasbourg for whom
Agobet was composer-in-residence between
2001 and 2004, and two of the works,
Feuermann were commissioned jointly
by the orchestra and Radio France.
There is a strong sense
of tonality amongst this repertoire
as well as aspects of atonality that
pervade Agobet’s music. There is also
much virtuosity within these works,
with rhythm and orchestral colour playing
a vital role. Structure is strong –
any weakness in compositional technique
would be easily and immediately noticeable
in this idiom.
The only entirely orchestral
work here is Phonal. It displays
a shrewd knowledge of and talent for
orchestration. While the most substantial
of the four compositions is the Ritratto
Concertante in one movement, the
most instantly outstanding and notable
is Feuermann. This is the shortest
work on the disc. Feuermann is
intended as the first movement of a
three-movement cello concerto to be
completed in the future. It is fiercely
virtuosic and Xavier Phillips presents
a focused and self-assured interpretation.
The longer Ritratto Contertante
is described as a ‘portrait of the instrument
and performer’ and was written with
the impressive Alexandre Paley in mind.
The opening work, Génération,
is in three movements and harks back
to the Baroque structure of the concerto
grosso, with a dialogue between the
three solo clarinets and the orchestra.
This is, however, as far as the link
goes; the Baroque influence not extending
to the overall form of the work or to
the harmonic and rhythmic language.
The three clarinettists in this recording
– Michel Portal, Paul Meyer and Alain
Billard – are extremely musical and
precise, each tackling their challenging
roles with equal conviction.
The performances are
of a high standard throughout, in this
complex and demanding music. François-Xavier
Roth directs his players skilfully and
there is a resounding confidence about
the finished result. The recorded sound
is mostly clear, but certain sections
of the orchestra are often a little
distant, in particular the brass.
Olivier Erouart writes
a sincere note on the composer, while
Agobet himself gives us an insight into
both himself and the music.
Supporters of contemporary
music who may have not heard any music
from this composer should certainly
give this disc a try – thoroughly recommended.