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AVAILABILITY Solstice Records

Edith CANAT DE CHIZY (b. 1950)
Alive (2003)a [13:05]
Wild (2002) [4:38]
Formes du vent (2002)b [9:43]
Falaises (2003)c [9:38]
Les Rayons du jour (2005)d [19:29]
Ana-Bela Chaves (viola)d; Emmanuelle Bertrand (cello)bc; Quatuor Ebèneac
Orchestre de Paris/Christoph Eschenbachd
rec. Studio La Verrière, Paris, April 2005; Théâtre Mogador, Paris, February 2005 (Les Rayons du jour)
SOLSTICE SOCD234 [56:54]

Music for stringed instruments holds a fairly prominent place in Edith Canat de Chizy’s output: two string quartets (2001, 2003), three string trios (1991, 1999, 2001), a string quintet Falaises (2003), a violin concerto Exultet (1995), a cello concerto Moïra (1998), a viola concerto Les Rayons du jour (2005), Siloël (1992, string orchestra), Lands away (1999, cimbalom and strings) as well as some miscellaneous for solo strings such as Irisations (1999, solo violin), Danse de l’aube (1998, solo double bass) and Formes du vent (2002, solo cello). This is not particularly surprising though, since the composer was trained as a violinist. What is, to my mind, still more remarkable is that she writes idiomatically for strings, while deliberately avoiding the routine. All these pieces manage to be consistently interesting, challenging and immensely rewarding, both from the player’s and the listener’s standpoints. Canat de Chizy is a beautifully equipped musician, whose poetic vision, often triggered by extra-musical stimuli, be they literary (e.g. poems by Reverdy or Emily Dickinson) or pictorial (e.g. paintings by Nicolas de Staël), is perfectly achieved through impeccable craftsmanship and sheer expressive will, as these fairly recent works amply demonstrate.
The second string quartet Alive, inspired by a poem of Emily Dickinson, is a compact work filled with energy and invention. The music alternates energetic sections with some harmonically ambiguous ones, although the music is ultimately assertive. It explores a wide range of moods and techniques, as befits a work composed for the 2003 Bordeaux International String Quartet Competition and tests the players’ technical achievement and musicality.
The composer describes her duo for viola and cello Wild as “a short didactic piece”, which may be true to a certain extent, but the music is still rather demanding, though not extravagantly so; this composer’s music never is. Its five-minute duration is packed with invention.
Formes du vent for solo cello, titled after a poem by Pierre Reverdy, is a suite of concise mood studies, each bearing a title drawn from other verse by Reverdy. The five clearly delineated sections provide for varied expression and have an improvisatory feel about them, although I suspect that everything is clearly notated. The music is again demanding, but the technical challenge is never at the expense of strong expression.
The string quintet Falaises (“Cliffs”) is for string quartet and principal cello. The title may be taken at face value, so that the piece may be experienced as a short tone poem suggesting in turn the almost motionless flight of sea gulls, the ebbing of the sea and the meeting point of verticality (the cliffs) and horizontality (the sea). Actually, cliffs might be the symbol of music itself in which vertical harmony sustains melodic lines - or the other way round.
The viola concerto Les Rayons du jour, named after a painting by Nicolas de Staël (1914–1955), that adorns the insert notes, is the composer’s third concerto for strings. This substantial work falls into three main sections played without a break, and reflecting the painter’s artistic progress (Déchirure, Mouvement, Transparence). There is absolutely nothing programmatic or descriptive about the music and it can be appreciated without any prior knowledge of de Staël’s work. The titles of the main sections give some idea of their musical content. Déchirures is rather more about blocks that clash against each other, whereas Mouvement is appropriately forward-moving. In the last section Transparence, the music progressively thins out before ending on a high isolated note. This marvellous piece of music is a worthy successor to Exultet for violin and orchestra and of Moïra for cello and orchestra, and undoubtedly one of the finest additions to the viola’s contemporary repertoire.
Performances are consistently fine, technically assured and fully committed. Emmanuelle Bertrand’s impeccable technique and musicality must be emphasised, and so must Ana-Bela Chaves’ splendid rendering of the viola concerto. The recording is very fine throughout, although I find it a bit too close in Formes du vent. This should not deter anyone from investigating this magnificent release, that – as did its predecessor – serves this composer’s music in the best possible way. In short, wonderful music superbly played and recorded.
Hubert Culot



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