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Pascal DUSAPIN (b.1955)
Watt (1994)a
Galim (1998)b
Celo (1996)c
Sonia Wieder-Atherton (cello)c; Juliette Hurel (flute)b; Alain Trudel (trombone)a
Orchestre National de Montpellier/Pascal Rophé
Recorded: Corum Hall, Montpellier, September 2002
MONTAIGNE MO 782153 [49:51]

Now in his mid-forties, Pascal Dusapin is one of the most distinguished composers of his generation. He has a quite impressive body of works in almost every genre including several substantial string quartets, choral and chamber music as well as operas (e.g. Medeamaterial). He is however at his best when writing for large orchestral forces such as in La Melancholia (on Montaigne MO 782124) or in the three concertos recorded here. His music, while not afraid of using some modern techniques, aims first and foremost at direct communication and is very often of great expressive strength. This is particularly evident in the earliest work recorded here, the trombone concerto Watt composed in 1994 and superbly played by Alain Trudel. It opens with a sorrowful cry, a forceful, rasping call to arms unleashing a powerful orchestral response. This mighty score abounds in arresting textures such as in the slow section, about halfway through the piece, when the player sings a sad song into his instrument while holding a B flat pedal doubled by the piccolo (a really magical moment, this). The player also briefly switches to alto trombone. The music progressively thins out, and the deeply moving, desolate and affecting coda is again played by the trombone and the piccolo in an eerie duo. The lonely, grief-laden trombone, however, has the last word in its lowest register. This gripping score is a magnificent achievement that undoubtedly deserves wider exposure.

Galim (Hebrew for "wave") for flute and strings, though written as a test piece for the finals of the 1998 Concours de flûte "Jean-Pierre Rampal", is a beautifully moving elegy of great restraint and understatement. It stands in total contrast to the more dramatic trombone concerto. In his excellent and detailed notes, Harry Halbreich rightly describes this deeply felt piece as a modern equivalent of Gluck’s Dance of the Blessed Spirits. A perfectly proportioned miniature of great communicative and expressive power.

The deliberate ambiguity of the title of Dusapin’s cello concerto Celo (Latin for "I keep silent") is however made clear by a quotation from Cicero prefacing the score I wished my face to mask the pain I felt, and my silence to keep it secret. Dusapin’s cello concerto is in three movements of fairly equal length. In the first movement Très sombre, pesant et profond (‘Very dark, weighty and deep’), the cello strings must be rinsed with alcohol and played with a bow without rosin, which results in subdued dynamics, whereas the player reverts to a ‘normal’ bow for the second and third movements. The first movement is a brooding prelude of some sort leading into the predominantly slow second movement. The latter falls roughly into five lined sections climaxing in the third section. This is followed by a cadenza leading into the final section mirroring the mood and music of the first section. The third movement néanmoins assez libre (‘Nevertheless fairly free’) is more dramatic, though allowing for a quieter episode before the abrupt, forceful conclusion.

These beautiful scores amply demonstrate that Dusapin is first and foremost a lyricist and that his music strongly communicates by the sheer force of its utter sincerity and honesty, no matter how technically complex or demanding it may be. They are superbly well served by all concerned and warmly, naturally recorded. In short, major works by a most distinguished composer whose often gripping music will never leave you unmoved or indifferent. Incidentally, do not be put off by the rather unattractive, though apt cover, for this is a really magnificent release that I heartily recommend. My record of the month in any case.

Hubert Culot

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