Laurent PETITGIRARD (b.
1950) Les Douze Gardiens du Temple (2004) [26:29] Poème pour grand orchestre à cordes (2002) [12:03] Euphonia (1989)a [28:31]
National Bordeaux Aquitaine/Laurent Petitgirard
Ljubljana Radio Symphony Orchestraa/Laurent Petitgirard
rec. Salle Franklin, Bordeaux, France, September 2005 and
(live) Ljubljana, May 1992 (Euphonia) NAXOS 8.570138 [67:03]
and composer, Laurent Petitgirard is a versatile musician.
He regularly composes for films, but also writes for the
concert hall. I suspect that in many French-speaking countries
he may best be known for his atmospheric, somewhat nostalgic
score for the Maigret TV series. He has also composed quite
a number of orchestral works, works for voice and orchestra
as well as two operas, of which the first, Joseph Merrick
The Elephant Man has already been recorded (Naxos
8.557608/9 - see review). The present release offers three
substantial orchestral scores composed over the last twenty
or so years.
earliest one is the suite from his ballet Euphonia.
The libretto is based on the eponymous fantastic short story
by Hector Berlioz. The story is about a futuristic musical
city Euphonia in which a jealous composer Xilef (anagram
of Felix) sets a musical trap to destroy the woman who spurned
him and her lovers. The argument is further described in
the insert notes, so that I need not go into any details
about it. Anyway, the ballet’s argument provides the composer
with many opportunities for colourful illustrative music,
often of considerable imagination and energy. No doubt that
Petitgirard’s experience gained in writing for films has
helped, but there is nothing derivative about this very fine
score. The music, here as in the other works, has a distinctive
tone. I hear harmonies, turns of phrase and orchestral sounds
also heard in the Maigret score, which says much – I think – for
Petitgirard’s stylistic coherence.
stylistic coherence is further displayed in the more recent
works. Les Douze Gardiens du Temple is in effect
a tone poem, that ultimately pays homage to Debussy. The
title might suggest an allusion to the twelve tones, on which
any music is generally based; but the music is certainly
neither atonal nor serial, although it is packed with invention
and is superbly scored by a master orchestrator. The piece
opens with an arresting gesture, a sort of call-to-arms,
to rivet one’s attention. The music then unfolds rather rhapsodically
in a series of contrasting sections that make-up what the
composer describes as a “journey of initiation”. This is
a very fine piece indeed, maybe just a bit too long for its
own good; but the music is often very fine and strongly expressive.
This is really the sort of work, that might reconcile “unbelievers” with
well-crafted, accessible contemporary music.
fine as these works are, the real gem in this attractive
release is the imposing Poème pour grand orchestre à cordes completed
in 2002. This compact piece “corresponds to a desire for
fluidity, after the darkness of the opera Joseph Merrick” (the
composer’s words). Beautifully scored for large string orchestra,
the music unfolds almost effortlessly throughout its twelve-minute
span; but the musical substance is such that you might be
forgiven for thinking that the piece actually lasts much
longer. I am in no doubt about it: this marvellous work is
a minor masterpiece that clearly deserves wider exposure.
Actually, this very fine release would be worth having, for
the Poème alone.
music does not break any new ground, and clearly belongs
to what is generally referred to as the 20th century
mainstream. His models are Debussy, Ravel, Honegger and – at
times – Dutilleux or Messiaen; but make no mistake about
it: the music is highly personal, superbly crafted and – most
importantly – strongly expressive. Certainly it is too fine
to be ignored. I hope that Naxos will record more of his
concert music soon. There is anyway much to enjoy here.
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