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Jacqueline FONTYN (b.1930)
On a Landscape by Turner (1992) [14:50]
Au fil des siècles (2002) [13:28]
L'Anneau de Jade (1996) [12:26]
Quatre Sites (1977) [18:33]
 Janácek Philharmonic Orchestra/David Porcelijn
rec. Philharmonic Hall of the House of Culture, Ostrava, 30 November 2006 and 16-17 December 2006
 CYBELE 860.601  [59:19]
Experience Classicsonline

Unlike the other discs of Jacqueline Fontyn's music that I reviewed recently (see review), this one presents brand-new recordings of works hitherto unrecorded. However, like the other discs, the works featured here also span some twenty-five years of Fontyn's prolific composing career. The earliest was composed as far back as 1977 and the most recent in 2002. This provides for a fair appreciation of her stylistic and musical progress over the years while also emphasising the consistency of her music-making.
 
The substantial Quatre Sites of 1977 might well be seen as Fontyn's symphony in all but name. Although she has attached a subliminal programme to it, the music is neither programmatic nor descriptive. It may however suggest places and moods of the area of Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve for whose centenary the work was commissioned and where the composer lives. The first movement Molto lento opens mysteriously and later unfolds as a Pastorale although the music is not without sharper edges. The second movement is a vivacious Scherzo suggesting buzzing university life in Louvain-la-Neuve. In total contrast, the third movement Eterico does not adhere to any particular form, but rather confronts fragments tossed to and fro. The final movement is a sort of grand recapitulation of parts of what has been heard before. Quatre Sites was awarded the Arthur Honegger International Music Prize by the Fondation de France in 1987. Quatre Sites is one of Fontyn's most substantial achievements yet has been all-too-rarely heard. It is to be hoped that this superb recording will help triggering new performances.
 
On a landscape by Turner does not refer to any specific canvas by Turner, but the music nevertheless suggests the sort of evanescent colours Turner deploys in canvases such as Rain, steam and speed. It opens with tubular bells over shimmering motifs suggesting some ambiguity. The opening section leads into a somewhat more static episode in which melodic fragments attempt to break through the mist. They eventually do so, reaching a climax followed by a delicately scored section in which vibraphone, harp and celesta are prominent. Varied restatements of earlier motifs in turn lead to the work's second climax. The appeased coda then concludes with the sound of tubular bells.
 
L'anneau de jade opens with harp and piano evoking the sound of gong-strokes heard in the Temple of the Sky in Beijing. A long melodic line slowly begins to unfold, homophonic at first but rather intricately contrapuntal in later stages. Other instruments join in with their own music, and textures become more dense. The work ends with a peaceful restatement of the opening.
 
The most recent work here Au fil des siècles was commissioned to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Orchester des Staatstheaters Kassel. Again, the music mostly juxtaposes strongly contrasting episodes leading to an assertive rendering of a motet by Johannes Heugel. The motet was composed around 1570 for what was then known as the Landgräfliche Hofkapelle Kassel. This is eventually combined with some of the earlier material making for a somewhat surreal, almost Ivesian coda.
 
These often beautiful works give ample proof of Jacqueline Fontyn's highly personal sound-world and poetic vision, both of which she has painstakingly refined over the years. Here is a composer who has things to say and who knows how to say them.
 
These superb performances recorded in the composer's presence have an unquestionable ring of authenticity. David Porcelijn conducts vital and well prepared readings and the Janácek Philharmonic obviously relishes scores that must have been new territory to them. The recorded sound is excellent even when heard on a standard stereo set-up.
 
In short, this is a splendid release on all counts and one that does full justice to Fontyn's often complex but ultimately rewarding music.
 
Hubert Culot 
 





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