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Darkness
Henryk GÓRECKI (b. 1933)
Kleines Requiem für eine Polka Op.66 (1993) [24:36]
André LAPORTE (b. 1931)
Litanie con epitaffio (1994) [9 :12]
Stéphane VANDE GINSTE (b. 1971)
Darkness (2006)a [18 :09]
Greet Samyn ; Koen Monserez (narrators)a 
Emanon Ensemble/Raf De Keninck
rec. Salle Philharmonique, Liège, 22-24 July 2007
PHAEDRA 92053 [52:15]
Experience Classicsonline


The Emanon Ensemble is a fairly young grouping with a wide-ranging repertoire. They have a strong emphasis on contemporary and specifically contemporary Flemish and Belgian music. Their first disc (Mystery – Phaedra 92037) was entirely devoted to the works of four Flemish composers from various generations and musical horizons. The disc under review is their second release, and the outlook is now somewhat wider, although the bulk of it consists of two works by Flemish composers.

Górecki’s Kleines Requiem für eine Polka is probably the best known work here. The title may be a bit ambiguous since the word ‘Polka’ alludes both to the well-known dance form and to the Polish woman, which – to a certain extent – certainly connects with the word ‘Requiem’. The work as a whole is an epitaph, although it may not be completely clear whom the music mourns. The music is vintage Górecki with allusions to ancient polyphony, old Polish church music and Polish peasant culture, the whole cast in the composer’s personal blend of Minimalism. The piece is in four movements, actually two developed slow movements framing two shorter quick ones, although the latter also have slower sections. The third movement is a short dance-like interlude with obstinate, forcefully hammered-out rhythms and sharper dissonance. Tubular bells heard in soft dialogue with the piano at the outset of the first movement again open and conclude the fourth movement thus bringing the piece to a rounded conclusion.

André Laporte is one of the foremost Flemish composers of his generation with a substantial and varied output to his credit, including a large-scale opera Das Schloss after Kafka. I will soon tell you more about this composer in a somewhat more extended review of a four-CD boxed set released last year. His Litanie con epitaffio is a short work for small ensemble (flute, bass clarinet, string trio, percussion and piano) written as a tribute to four deceased composer friends: Karel Goeyvaerts (1923–1993), Raymond Baervoets (1930–1989), Louis De Meester (1904–1987) and Norbert Rosseau (1907–1975). The very title of the piece “Litanies with Epitaph” clearly alludes to the four Litanies composed by Goeyvaerts, although the music never quotes from any of the four composers’ music. Although the music is – appropriately enough – elegiac in mood, it nevertheless has some more animated moments. It is a beautiful, deeply-felt homage to dear friends that makes its point without any fuss but with subdued eloquence.

Stéphane Vande Ginste’s name and music are new to me. This still young composer was a pupil of André Laporte. His work Darkness is scored for instrumental forces similar to Górecki’s work, although Vande Ginste calls for a more varied percussion - the Polish composer’s work has tubular bells only - with the addition of two narrators. The text is drawn from two strongly different literary sources: Lord Byron’s eponymous poem prompted by the eruption of the Tambora volcano in Indonesia, the aftermath of which was felt across the world and had severe repercussions for the world’s climate; and from Hinkel’s speech in Chaplin’s film The Great Dictator. These texts may at first sight seem rather strange bedfellows; but the poem by Byron, hinting as it does at the possible disappearance of the human race on the earth, may also connect to wars and genocides that have been – and sadly still are – part of the world’s history. This may seem a bit far fetched for some; but I am in no doubt about Vande Ginste’s honesty and utter sincerity. Though mostly dark and ominous, the music displays remarkable variety and – more importantly – a considerable inner and stylistic coherence. I certainly look forward to hearing more of this young composer’s music.

Excellent performances in very fine recordings that do these rewarding works full justice. I hope that the Ensemble will be able to continue along the same lines. In short, a very welcome release that clearly deserves much more than the occasional hearing.

Hubert Culot

Further information on this and other Phaedra records may be found on www.phaedracd.com. All discs are downloadable.

 


 


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