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François GLORIEUX (b. 1932)
Complete Works for Piano and Orchestra

Manhattan for piano and large orchestra [21:25] *
Divertimento for piano and strings [16:53] **
Mouvements for piano, percussion, and brass [19:15] *
* Francois Glorieux (piano)
Munich Radio Orchestra/Kurt Eichhorn
** Tobias Koch (piano)
Kiev Chamber Orchestra/François Glorieux
rec. 4 October 1974 (Manhattan), May 1994 (Divertimento), 16 April 1971 (Mouvements)
TALENT RECORDS DOM 2910 504 [58:12]

 

Francois Glorieux, of Belgium, was a name I did not know before this recording came up for review. From the results of this recording, I’d be interested in hearing more. His website (http://www.francoisglorieux.com/) mentions that he has over 300 compositions to his credit, including several works for euphonium. Known especially as an improviser, he has appeared as conductor and performer. He has led various master classes. According to his bio, he was a protégé of André Cluytens. Various CDs of his are available showcasing his work as composer, performer and conductor, and he shows up in all three roles on this disc.

Manhattan is scored for piano and large orchestral forces, including siren and electric guitar and attempts to capture the brash wildness of New York City, starting with the chaotic bustle of the opening movement, entitled First Impressions. This seems to go in all directions and has moments of great surprise hidden in all its bustle, including an uneasy quiet section for piano solo that recalls Prokofiev at times, Shostakovich’s Jazz Suites at others. A feline saxophone slinks over the queasy strings before larger orchestral forces take up the second theme. The second movement, entitled Broadway is intended as the scherzo and doesn’t leave the listener stuck in Times Square. We go from there to Chinatown, through Jewish precincts, and on through various other areas of town, including the discothèques. Though done with humour, this movement gets to be a good deal too much of a good thing for this listener. The great success of the piece is the third movement, By day in Central Park, which is a fully enjoyable jazz movement with a smart theme treated to variations. Where the Broadway movement provoked a wince or two with its stereotypical ethnic treatments, Central Park shows itself a savvy and slick representation of a stroll through the winding lanes. Thoroughly enjoyable. The final movement, entitled Adventures in Mystery, Passion, Love and Fight begins with much cinema noir swirling mist and tension. Electric guitar and piano lead the orchestra into the main theme, which sounds rather like chase music for a Jazz Western movie at times. The "love" part of the movement has an engaging swing to it. The fight scene, with its siren, again lapses into the overly dramatic, but the piano writing rescues things before things get out of hand for too long. Overall, a rather interesting and engaging score, if a bit "all-but-the-kitchen-sink" at times.

Glorieux moves from the piano stool to the front of the Kiev Chamber Orchestra to direct the next piece, the Divertimento. Here Tobias Koch is at piano. As with Manhattan, the piece holds humour, but is more successful - with its more modest forces - in keeping things from getting too over-the-top. All of the movements are quite brief, with a gregarious Introduction, followed by a chuckling Polka that has the piano working mostly in octaves on the theme that the orchestra plays. The central movement is a rather regretful bossa nova, with the piano providing the rhythmic chordal support to the cello before taking over the thematic material. This same general introductory formula is used in the Slow movement, with the strings muted - a particularly pretty moment. The final movement of the piece takes us on a playful romp through a folk-inflected tune before the piano throws in some jazz riffs.

We have quite a different mood brought in with the concluding piece, the Mouvements for piano, percussion, and brass. The indication Lento drammatico for the opening movement says it all. It is quite monolithic in tone and scope. One can easily picture a Lawrence of Arabia-type panorama before the piano creeps in timidly, gaining in gravity and outspokenness as the piece progresses. One certainly detects an affinity with Bartók in this work. We do have intensity here, and it flirts with moving over the line of restraint, but still manages to hold itself in check This work has more of a serious-minded quality in contrast to the light-heartedness of the others. It holds interest, certainly.

My ears detected a couple of awkward edits over the course of this last piece; though they are not a great distraction from the music. Considering the age of the recordings, the clarity holds up quite well, and manages to escape the overly-wide stereo separation fashionable at the time. Certainly worth a listen.


David Blomenberg



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