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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



CYPRES


Benoît MERNIER (born 1964)
Clarinet Quintet (1998/9)a
Les Niais de Sologne (1999)b
Les Idées Heureuses (1996/7)c
Intonazione (1995)d

Jean-Michel Charlier (clarinet)a; Quatuor Danela; Ensemble Musiques Nouvellesb; Fabian Panisello (conductor)b; Ictus Ensemblec; Georges-Elie Octors (conductor)c; Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio Franced; Michaël Schønwandtd
Recorded: Corroy-le-Château, September 1999 (Quintet); Studio Dada, Brussels, March 2001 (Les Niais), May and June 2001 (Les Idées Heureuses); Salle Olivier Messiaen, Paris, November 1997 (Intonazione)
CYPRES CYP 4613 [66:37]

 

Benoît Mernier, now in his late thirties, is one of the most interesting young Belgian composers of his generation, and this well-planned selection offers a comprehensive survey of his output so far. (CYPRES have also released another CD [CYP 4612] of his music including his recent Mass for chorus and organ which obviously points towards some new stylistic development.)

The works recorded here were all written over the last six years or so, and the earliest of them is the superb Intonazione of 1996 (the title obliquely refers to organ pieces by Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli) which is a colourful, subtly scored orchestral showpiece, the idiom of which is sometimes redolent of late Berio. To my mind, this is, with his beautiful Blake Songs (1992/4) for voice and orchestra, one of his finest works so far.

Les Idées Heureuses, completed in 1997, is scored for two pianos and percussion. It alternates short movements of different instrumental groupings, the whole ensemble playing only in the outer sections. The global impact of the piece is closer to Berio’s Linea than to Bartok’s Sonata for two Pianos and Percussion. (The title is borrowed from François Couperin.)

The Clarinet Quintet (1998/9) was originally written to accompany a silent film (Amore Pedestre by Marcel Fabre – 1914). The film was about a woman, her lover and her jealous husband; but the director’s trick was that you could only see the feet of the characters and that you had to imagine what was going on. This may explain the playful, extrovert nature of this delightfully colourful and engaging score.

Les Niais de Sologne (the title, this time, is borrowed from Rameau) is a short piece for mixed ensemble. In Rameau’s times, a ‘simpleton from Sologne’ was some sly fellow pretending to be a simpleton only to cheat others more easily. In fact, the music here goes its own way playing some Hide and Seek game by blurring the outlines of the sections of the piece and by maintaining a good deal of ambiguity in the harmonic progress throughout the piece.

Mernier mentions his teacher Philippe Boesmans and Magnus Lindberg as potent influences on his musical thinking. (He actually never studied with Lindberg whose scores he studied thoroughly.) As some other young Belgian composers (e.g. Claude Ledoux and Luc Brewaeys), Mernier has been interested in ‘spectral’ music, but this technique is often discreetly and discriminatingly used in his music. And true his music often recalls Boesmans, Lindberg and – to the present writer, at least – Berio with whom he shares a pronounced liking for fine instrumental or orchestral sounds.

Mernier’s music is well served by the present performers who have often performed it in concerts, and the recorded sound (including that of the live performance of Intonazione made by Radio France) is quite superb.

Mernier is a most endearing composer whose attractive music is a delight and the present release is warmly recommended.

Hubert Culot


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