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Jérôme COMBIER (b. 1971)
Essere fumo (2005) [5:27]
Heurter la lumière encore (2005) [5:08]
Interlude 1 [2:30]
Feuilles des paupières (2005) [5:11]
Interlude 2 [2:32]
Bois sombre (2006) [9:19]
Essere neve (2005) [5:56]
Essere pietra (2004)a [6:03]
Interlude 3 [2:12]
Respirer l’ombre (2005)a [6:19]
Ensemble Cairn/Guillaume Bourgognea
rec. Espace de Projection, IRCAM, Paris, 24-25 February 2007
AEON AECD0754 [50:59]
Experience Classicsonline

Now in his late thirties, Jérôme Combier first studied with the composer and conductor Hacène Larbi. In 1997 he was at the CNSM in Paris where his teachers were Emmanuel Nunes and Michaël Levinas. 1998 saw him appointed composer-in-residence at the Royaumont Foundation where his studies were further continued with Brian Ferneyhough and Antoine Bonnet. After a two-month residency in Japan, where he won further distinctions, he entered IRCAM to study computer-assisted composition. In 2002 his orchestral work Pays du vent, les Hébrides was awarded a prize at the UNESCO International Composition Rostrum. A scholarship allowed him to stay at the Villa Médicis in Rome from 2004 to 2006 where he composed his instrumental cycle Vies silencieuses and met the artist Raphaël Thierry who was to realise the visual installations for that work.
Vies silencieuses is a cycle of seven short works for the Ensemble Cairn founded by Jérôme Combier who is also its joint musical director with Guillaume Bourgogne. The instrumental set-up is as follows: viola, piano, flutes (one player), percussion (one player), cello, clarinet and guitar. However all but one of the pieces call for smaller instrumental combinations: Essere fumo (flute, viola and cello), Heurter la lumière encore (guitar, percussion and piano), Feuilles des paupières (flute, clarinet, percussion and piano), Bois sombre (solo viola), Essere neve (clarinet, guitar and cello), Essere pietra (guitar, percussion, piano, viola and cello) and Respirer l’ombre (the full ensemble). All but two of the seven (Essere pietra and Respirer l’ombre), are without conductor. Although the composer’s insert notes do not necessarily make it absolutely clear, it seems that he later added three electronic interludes using the sounds of stone, sand and wind as recorded by Raphaël Thierry. The seven pieces were obviously conceived as a cycle since they often share material, and the overall effect is remarkably coherent. Combier evinces remarkable instrumental flair and a real liking for subtle and refined sounds. The music is inventive and imaginative in its handling of small instrumental combinations.
In his insert notes, the composer comments on his concern with the work of Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964) and Giuseppe Penone (b. 1947) - terra incognita to me. A quick internet search gave me a rough idea of their work, although I am not much the wiser for that. However, the titles of some of the pieces in the cycle of seven come from Penone, who apparently used to title his works with a verb in the infinitive and a noun such as Essere fumo (“To be a smoke”), Essere pietra (“To be a stone”) or Respirare l’ombra (“To breathe the shadow”). The common threads involve aspects of Nature and the ‘mineral’ sound-world all imaginatively evoked and conjured. I suppose that this facet of the cycle is still more evident when heard in conjunction with the visual realisations by Raphaël Thierry; but the music alone speaks for itself, enough so, anyway, to make its point in a fairly direct way.
Jérôme Combier’s music was new to me. It impressed me through its sheer invention and its assurance. I now look forward to hearing more of it some day. I would be particularly interested to know if Combier’s music can work in longer time-spans than in these relatively short instrumental works. Certainly a name to watch for.
Hubert Culot



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