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Laurent PETITGIRARD (b.1950)
Les Douze Gardiens du Temple (2004) [26.29] (1)
Poème (2002) [12.03] (1)
Euphonia (1989) [28.31] (2)
Orchestre National Bordeau Aquitaine/Laurent Petigirard (1)
Ljublana Radio Symphony Orchestra/Laurent Petigirard (2)
rec. Salle Franklin, Bordeaux, 7-9 September 2005 (1); live, Ljubljana 29 May 1992 (2)
NAXOS 8.570138 [67.03] 

Laurent Petitgirard’s music has come to more prominence with the popularity of his opera Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man itself issued on Naxos. I suppose that I ought to clarify that statement, as it is Petitgirard’s concert music that is coming to prominence. He has had a parallel career writing music for TV (‘Maigret’) and Film (Otto Preminger’s ‘Rosebud’). 

Petitgirard’s style is very French-sounding in a slightly old-fashioned way. His lush scores seem to owe rather a lot to Gallic composers of the first half of the 20th century rather than Messiaen and Boulez. 

The ballet, Euphonia, was premiered in 1989 in Metz. The story is about a composer who loves a woman whom he discovers to be ‘base’. The plot is set in the future and the composer sets a trap for the woman that is triggered by music played as she dances. The end result is that the woman, and all the dancers, are crushed to death and the composer commits suicide. The musician who was conducting the music, who also loves the woman, goes mad. The tale is loosely based on a story by Berlioz. The ballet is in three movements. The first, Xilef, describes the young composer and his obsessive love for the woman, Mina. The second movement, Euphonia, seems to describe the city of Euphonia and evokes Mina’s dance of seduction. The last movement, La Piège, relates to the trap that the composer sets.

The results are dramatic and attractive though I did not actually manage to follow the plot through the score. This hardly matters, as Petigirard’s music is seductive in its own right. The Ljubljana Radio Symphony Orchestra copes very well and have become remarkably comfortable with Petigirard’s style. There are occasional small lapses but nothing that is jarring. All in all the performance is very impressive. 

The other two items were recorded in Bordeaux in 2005, by the Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine. Poème pour grand orchestre à cordes was written in 2002 and premiered by the French National Orchestra, conducted by the composer. Les Douze Gardiens du Temple was written in 2004 and premiered in Paris in 2006.

Poème is an attractive, fluid piece with some effective writing for strings. Les Douze Gardiens du Temple (The Twelve Guards of the Temple) is a long, rich piece. It uses a large orchestra - triple woodwind, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba and five percussionists (instruments including four ancient Tibetan cymbals). Petitgirard calls the piece ‘A Journey of Initiation for Full Symphony Orchestra’; the twelve temple guardians relating to the twelve notes. The journey unfolds in a leisurely manner with rich orchestration, great fluidity and variation, but harmonically the piece sounds very stable and not necessarily daring. There are many moments when the composer’s film background creeps in, but that certainly makes for an attractive and listenable score. 

The Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine do the scores ample justice and the composer as conductor is certainly a talented guide to his own music.

The music on these discs won’t appeal if you are on the look out for modernism. But if you seek lush music, attractively orchestrated and evoking the sound-worlds of, perhaps, Honegger or Koechlin, then this disc is for you.

Robert Hugill

see also Review by Hubert Culot



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