Aureole etc.




Golden Age singers

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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Georges LENTZ (born 1965)
"Caeli enarrant..IV" (1991/8)
Birrung (1997)
Nguurraa (2000/1)
"Caeli enarrant...III" (1990/6)a
Ensemble 24; Michael Donovan (boy soprano)a; Matthew Coorey
Recorded : Eugene Goossens Hall, Sydney, March 2000 and February 2001
NAXOS 8.557019 [58:33]


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"God’s ways are impenetrable", as the saying goes (at least, in French), and one might add that recording companies’ ways are often as impenetrable as the Lord’s. With three recordings of his music released over the last few years and with the present disc, Georges Lentz’s complete current published output is now available in commercial recordings. I hasten to say that there is nothing wrong with this, for Lentz’s music is well worth having and repays repeated hearings.

His output, so far, consists of several works, all parts of his ongoing cycle Caeli enarrant... of which the second and sixth panels are still works-in-progress; and are, to the best of my knowledge, still unfinished at the time of writing. The collective title of the cycle comes from Psalm XIX and reflects the composer’s interest in astronomy as well as his religious concerns, though Lentz is no Messiaen, in that he often questions some religious dogmas. A section from Caeli enarrant...IV is titled Te Deum Laudamus (it is also available as a short piece for string orchestra) though the composer keeps asking if "it does make sense to praise God while the TV is showing pictures of Iraq, Rwanda, the Balkans and the Middle East". So, no saintliness here, but a contemporary man’s meditation and questioning of life and death, the present world and (maybe) the hereafter. There is, however, nothing narrowly parochial in Lentz’s music either, even if it has moments suggesting the timelessness of plainchant as in the end of Caeli enarrant...III or that of Caeli enarrant...IV.

In total contrast to the first panel (available on LGNM’s Anthologie de musique luxembourgeoise – Volume 5 review ) scored for large orchestra, Caeli enarrant...III is sparsely scored for a small string orchestra, percussion and a boy soprano (in the beautiful, hymn-like third movement), and is on the whole more austerely meditative though it has its weightier episodes. Caeli enarrant...IV, for string quartet and four cymbals, moves in still more rarefied air though it too has some louder episodes. It opens with a tense, arresting gesture (the four strings, as it were, trying to find their way out of the forcefully reiterated central note on which the whole work is centred). The music, in spite of many long, expectant pauses and thinly scored passages, progressively gains momentum before eventually reaching its ethereal conclusion.

Mysterium (or Caeli enarrant...VII), apparently, is the final instalment of a cycle of which four panels have been completed so far. Ngangkar and Guyuhmgan (both for orchestra) are available on ABC CLASSICS 472 397-2 reviewed in September 2002, and the two panels recorded here, Birrung (Aboriginal word for "star") for small string orchestra and Nguurraa ("Light") for clarinet, violin, cello, piano and percussion. Birrung and Nguurraa are both predominantly contemplative pieces in much the same way as the orchestral panels of Mysterium. Their instrumental settings, however, enhance the meditative mood of most of the music, particularly so in the beautiful Birrung, a short movement of ecstatic beauty.

Lentz’s quantitatively few but qualitatively high output is the expression of an honest and sincere creativity reflecting deeply personal experience. Lentz’s voice is definitely distinctive - one to be reckoned with. The present performances serve the music well. I enjoyed Coorey’s urgent reading of the often austere Caeli enarrant...IV (an earlier recording on TALL POPPIES TP 035 with the composer as one of the violins plays for an extra four minutes). Warmly recommended.

Hubert Culot



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