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Régis CAMPO (b. 1968)
Piano Concerto (1998/9)a [28:02]
Music to Hear (1999)b [13:02]
Pop-Art (2001/2)c [10:36]
Jay Gottlieb (piano)a; Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Pascal Rophéa; Musicatreize, Roland Haraybèdianb; Ensemble des Lauréats du Conservatoire, Kanako Abec
rec. (live) Salle Olivier Messiaen, Maison de Radio France, October 2000 (Piano Concerto) and February 2001 (Music to Hear); and Salle Cortot, Paris, October 2003 (Pop-Art)
AEON AECD 0529 [51:40]

Born in Marseilles in 1968, Régis Campo first studied composition at the conservatory of his own town as well as philosophy in Aix-en-Provence. He continued his studies at the Paris conservatory with the late Gérard Grisey, also meeting Denisov and Dutilleux. He often mentions Mahler, Stravinsky, Ives and Messiaen as composers he admires. This certainly shows in his music from time to time, although he manages to plough his own furrow regardless of trends and fashions. He is his own man in whatever he undertakes, as the three very different pieces heard here generously demonstrate.

The Piano Concerto, completed in 1999 and dedicated to Jay Gottlieb, is in two movements of equal length played without a break. The first movement Les Horloges (lumineux et souple) opens softly, almost mysteriously, and freely unfolds over the insistent ticking of a pair of metronomes. The regular beat of the metronomes is constantly contradicted by the supple, almost independent piano part. This is not as prominent as one might have expected, for the piano is more a partner blending with the orchestra than an opponent battling against it. The music often relies on repetitive patterns that might remind one of Reich or of Ligeti’s "clockworks". That said it is Ravel who most often comes to mind - principally his Piano Concerto in G major. The first movement leads straight into the second movement Rondo incorporating a long, improvised cadenza capped by a short restatement of the Rondo’s opening music. Campo’s Piano Concerto is a really fine piece that deserves to become part of the repertoire, as a welcome addition to Ravel’s G major Concerto or Prokofiev’s Third which it also faintly echoes.

Music to Hear is scored for seven voices (three sopranos, two altos and two tenors) and five instruments (clarinet, bass clarinet, alto saxophone, cello and double bass). It sets bits and pieces from some of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, but the piece is rather after Shakespeare than on. The composer chose and arranged fragments from the Sonnets more for their sonic potential than for their actual meaning. This is particularly evident in O! From What! (track 10, after Sonnet 150) in which a few words are chosen and repeated at length; or in Slight Air (track 6, after Sonnet 45) that vividly imitates a breath of air. So, too, in Alack (track 7, after Sonnet 103) and in Which which (track 9, after Sonnet 147), subtitled First homage to The Beatles and Second homage to The Beatles respectively. Music to Hear also presents another side of Campo’s music, displaying playfulness and humour. He does not neglect lyricism either, as in When to the sessions of sweet silent (track 8, after Sonnet 30) or the concluding Music to Hear II (track 10, after Sonnet 6), the latter providing a beautiful conclusion to this very entertaining piece of resourceful and imaginative choral writing.

Pop-Art, the most recent work here, is scored for a Pierrot Lunaire instrumental ensemble (flute, clarinet, piano and string trio). It displays yet another facet of Campo’s music-making, in that the composer calls for various sound productions, from "instrumental noise" à la Lachenmann to "normal sound". The music also has a minimalist ring, of the rough-hewn sort heard in Louis Andriessen’s music. Add to this considerable raw energy, not heard in the other pieces on this disc.

This excellently produced CD introduces this young composer’s music. He happily blends formal and instrumental mastery with refreshingly unpretentious straightforwardness. This is happy music-making of the highest order, which does not mean that it is either easy or slight. I simply mean that here is a composer who does not take himself too seriously and who enjoys writing music likely to surprise in one way or another. I look forward to hearing more of Campo’s music. Warmly recommended.

Hubert Culot



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