A new label to me, which appears to specialize
in contemporary French compositions, and, at least in this recording,
to be closely tied to the activities of Radio France. Based on
this release, I will look forward to hearing more from them —
but it appears that they do not cater to the faint-of-heart when
it comes to modern music.
Flashes consists of five short portraits, each of a city: Tokyo, Cairo, Paris,
Warsaw, and New York City. According to the notes - which read
as if written by the composer, though that is not indicated
explicitly: “This is an homage to the mixing of architectural
styles, the historical stratification, the promiscuity of different
classes and ethnic groups, and the magnificent impurity that
the contemporary metropolis presents.” Tokyo begins with a glassy,
on-edge string intro (daybreak?) before launching into a frenetic
rush led by marimba and followed by brass heralds, ending in
a Bolero-like climax. Cairo continues the energy, punctuated
by downward-sliding chords that hint at motifs from Mahler’s
sixth symphony. A few interspersed sinuous clarinet figures
lead a presumptive Arabic air. Paris is calmer and flute-heavy,
though the agitation still remains far higher than anything
that could be called impressionistic. Warsaw continues the emphasis
on woodwind accents while pursuing a Ligeti-like ethereality,
interrupted near the end by a crushing string ostinato. New
York serves as the work’s “Great Gate of Kiev,” triumphant and
cheerful brass and string writing carrying us through until
the piccolo chirps “good-bye.” One can draw connections from
the music to its program, but they would not be at all apparent
without guidance — this is best appreciated as abstract music.
Studies for a Crucifixion was inspired
by a triptych of paintings of the same name by Francis Bacon
- a twentieth-century artist, though distantly related to the
Enlightenment philosopher. This painting - which can be seen
- was a response to the horrors of Nazi Germany and World War
II. Compared to the paintings, and to the previous work on this
disc, Zavaro’s music here is darkly quiet, though maintaining
an anxious tension: strings that grumble in the bass and keen
in high-pitched outbursts. The third movement “Froid et pulse”
features successive outbursts from percussion and brass before
returning to its quieter rumblings.
listening to Metal Music, two images came to my mind:
skeletons dancing energetically in a midnight graveyard (the
percussion) while a jazz band trumpets fanfares (the brass).
Near the end of the piece everyone is exhausted, so the brass
trails off slowly, elegiacally. It’s chaotic, but in a way that
is fun and infectious.
Music consists of two string quartets
sending fragments of austere, mournful, world-forsaken melody
back and forth. The final Presto con fuoco continues
in the same spirit, only with intensely frenetic agitation.
Though contemporary, the ghosts of Shostakovich and Bartók lurk
in the shadows of this piece.
achieves accessibility not through neo-classicism nor neo-romanticism.
One will find no sonata forms nor catchy tunes here; rather,
uncommon talent at using complex rhythms to perfect effect.
He began his musical life as a “marimba virtuoso”, according
to the notes, so a deep passion for rhythm and a fine sense
of the physicality of sound are not altogether surprising.
few words from the composer himself before closing this review:
“Living in the shadow of skyscrapers, in crowds and ceaseless
traffic, that’s where I feel at home, within city walls. A world
of standardized objects, synthetic materials and automatons
where multiple forms of music are present everywhere, is the
setting that nourishes music and its dramatic art.” The music
proves that these are meaningful, rather than idle words. Zavaro
shows a passionate devotion to communicating with the listener,
making this contemporary music worth hearing.