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Yves PRIN (b. 1933)
Dioscures (1977/revised 1984) a Concerto grosso for flute, clarinet and chamber orchestra;
Ephèmeres (1973/revised 1992) a Capriccio for Violin and chamber orchestra;
Le Souffle d’Iris (1986/revised 1992) a Concerto for flute and orchestra
Orchestra Philharmonique de Radio France conducted by Bruno Ferrandis
Flute; Pierre Yves Artaud, Violin; Philippe Graffin, Clarinet; Pascal Post
Recorded in the Studios of Radio France, June 1997
NAXOS 8.555347 [41.03]


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Yves Prin may well be a new name to you as it is to me; therefore it is particularly enterprising of Naxos to produce this CD in their 21st Century Classics series

These are three fascinating but challenging works. You will quickly notice that each one (rather like Boulez) has been revised. Perhaps Prin makes a habit of this. You will also notice that Naxos have taken over four years to release this disc which only weighs in at 41 minutes. I wonder if the intention was to record one or more works to add to it but the composer, who is a slow worker and who has had patches of silence in his creative life, simply was not happy with the works and is intending, in time, to revise them. Perhaps Naxos gave up waiting.

As the back of the jewel case announces, Prin has also been a conductor, particularly of contemporary music, and a pianist. He has held several prestigious posts including that of guest conductor to the Nouvel Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France. Composing time, until his recent retirement must have been limited. His career is not unlike that of Pierre Boulez or possibly our own Oliver Knussen. In fact Prin started composing after a chance meeting with Bruno Maderna (1920-1973) a conductor himself (of almost entirely contemporary music) and an avant-garde composer. That is where Prin is coming from, but add to it a French sensibility and a fine ear for sonority and clear orchestral textures and you are almost there. I found myself also thinking of Henri Dutilleux from whom this quote could easily apply to Yves Prin, "I wanted to present one or more ideas in different orders and contexts so as to make them gradually change their true identities" (writing about 'Metaboles' in 1994 for the Philips recording). Prin also shares with Dutilleux the ability to think in long, lyrical lines as at the end of ‘Dioscures’. Perhaps I have been able to give the reader some idea as to what this composer is all about.

To take the three pieces in chronological order: 'Ephemeres' is for me the weakest of the three, with its over excitable and structurally problematic cadenza placed at about one quarter of the way through the piece. The work is partially based on an earlier one for solo violin and has a complicated history. The violin resorts to all kinds of ‘extra-mural’ activity to create interesting effects but to my ear, all to no avail.

With ‘Dioscures’ we are on surer ground. Its opening is gripping, with "disembodied sounds of gongs and the piano from inside, the cello entering with a rapt cantilena. The solo flute sounds a pensive rejoinder, followed by a similarly circumspect contribution from the clarinet". (Richard Whitehouse, in his clear and unpretentious booklet notes.) The music is almost oriental and builds polyphonically and most effectively over a pedal harmony. The inspiration behind this piece is complex and creates a dreamlike atmosphere.

‘Le Souffle d’Iris’ is a flute concerto which also starts with some fascinating, ‘night’ sounds. We hear the flute launching into some of its unusual effects, such as blowing directly into the instrument as if the player were warming it, flutter-tonguing, percussive key noises and whistle tones. From the beginning an elusive atmosphere is created over a gentle string tremolo and guiro, which seems to portend tension and drama.

The performers obviously know the music well and are perfectly in tune with its language and character. Their biographies are set out in the booklet, and tell us that Pierre-Yves Artaud has worked with Boulez and has played much contemporary music. Phillippe Graffin has, amongst his other achievements, given the first performance of David Matthews' Second Violin Concerto, and John-Pascal Post has recorded CDs of music by Stravinsky. Bartók and Krotenburg. A very fine group of soloists then and some superb orchestral work especially so considering that the CD was probably made with the minimum amount of session time.


Gary Higginson

 


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