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Claude LEDOUX (b. 1960)
Sanaalijal (2006)a [13:03]
Bell(e)…S (2004)b [12:00]
Les Ruptures d’Icare L. (1993)c [19:03]
Torrent (1995)d [23:46]
Berten D’Hollander (flute)a; Nao Momitani (piano)b; Jean-Paul Dessy (cello)d; Quatuor à Cordes de l’Ensemble Musiques Nouvellesc; Ensemble Musiques Nouvellesabd/Jean Thorelab; Patrick Davind
rec. Auditorium Abel Dubois, Mons, Belgium, 5-6 January 2007 (Sanaalijal); (live) Théâtre Marni, Brussels, 16 March 2004 (Bell(e)…S); Studio 1, Flagey, Brussels, June 2003 (Les Ruptures d’Icare L.) and RTBF, Conservatoire Royal, Brussels, 31 May 1995 (Torrent)
CYPRES CYP 4627 [68:06]
Experience Classicsonline

Now in his late forties, Claude Ledoux has asserted himself as one of the most imaginative composers of his generation. His output is sizeable and varied and includes orchestral and chamber music as well as a chamber opera Ricciolina (1985). There’s also a substantial and impressive Passio secundum Lucam for soprano, chorus, organ and live-electronics (2007). After obtaining a scientific diploma, he studied painting at the Fine Arts School. He is also a gifted painter and a selection of his paintings may be accessed through his website. His music studies were pursued at the Liège Conservatory where one of his circle was the late Jean-Louis Robert. Later he had composition courses with Philippe Boesmans and met Henri Pousseur. He also researched electronic music at the CRMW in Liège. Further studies and seminaries followed abroad, among others with Ligeti and Xenakis. He is currently Musical Analysis professor at the CNSM in Paris and Composition teacher at Conservatoire de Mons (Belgium).

The works recorded here span some ten years of his compositional career and offer a fairly comprehensive survey of his output and of his musical progress. From the early stages he proved himself a master orchestrator with a real feeling for telling orchestral sound. This is generously displayed in his early Evanescences (1985), his violin concerto Frissons d’Ailes (2004) and his recent orchestral piece De mémoire et d’oubli (2005). His music displays a fascinating and successful blend of intellect and feeling that never fails to impact on listeners in spite of its technical complexity. It is hugely demanding but ultimately generously rewarding, although I must admit that there was a time when technical concerns seemed to have the upper hand over expressivity. His most recent works, however, display a new warmth that makes his music more readily accessible although it remains complex and exacting, particularly for performers. Another important facet of Ledoux’s music-making is his lifelong interest in things oriental as he admits in his insert notes accompanying the present release. This is often reflected in allusions to eastern musical traditions that – almost inevitably – appear in his music. That said these allusions are often transformed beyond recognition. Indeed all four works recorded here have some connection with eastern Asia which the composer has visited on several occasions.

The earliest work here is Les Ruptures d’Icare L. for string quartet. It was completed in 1993. This is his first string quartet. Since then he has composed a second string quartet Play Time (2004) and a third, Las Lagrimas de un Angel (2007/8) first performed in Brussels March 2008. The very title of the work betrays the hand of Pousseur. Several of Henri Pousseur’s works have "Icare" in their titles. The writing of this piece was triggered by a trip to northern India and by his study of Indian ornamentation "filtered by his own musical sensitivity". The first three movements reach a "state of rupture" whereas the final movement attempts to offer a possible solution to transcend the state of rupture. As already mentioned earlier in this review, the music never quotes from Indian music. Rather it alludes to its characteristics by way of microtonal and spectral harmonies that are a recurrent feature of Ledoux’s stylistic palette.

Similarly the cello concerto Torrent was inspired by a journey through the Himalayas although the results are by no means programmatic. The title, however, may suggest the unpredictable course of water rushing down hill through rocks, which the music certainly reflects without depiction. The writing of the work was preceded by two pieces for solo cello: Le songe trouble de l’orchidée (1994) and Book I of twelve studies for solo cello in which the composer fully explores the whole technical and expressive range of the instrument. The resulting cello concerto exploits all facets of cello playing in a highly virtuosic manner yet retains a song grip on expression. The fiendishly difficult solo part is remarkably realised by Jean-Paul Dessy who enjoyed a close working association with the composer.

The title of the piano concerto Bell(e)…S dedicated to Nao Momitani (the composer’s wife) alludes both to "bells" and "belle". The starting point, so to say, is Japan although the composer had still to visit the country when he started composing the piece. The music is again purely abstract without any attempt at picturesque cliché. The piano is perfectly suited to suggest the bells that are such an important feature of Japanese temples and shrines. The work is in fact a short piano concerto with a tremendously virtuosic solo part that moves along at great speed through hugely varied episodes and rushes to an abrupt, inconclusive close.

Sanaalijal is a Mongolian word meaning "memory". It is the title of the most recent work in this release. The work was composed as a personal reaction to a not-all-together glorious event that happened in Belgium. Belgian authorities expelled a Mongolian journalist (and her young child) who was persona non grata in her own country because of her denunciation of corruption and violation of human rights. The actual music bears very little relation to this event, but again contains allusions to eastern musical traditions such as a traditional pentatonic song. These are once again filtered and transcended by the composer’s own sensitivity. The demanding solo part was tailored to the multi-faceted talents of Bert D’Hollander who plays superbly and demonstrates remarkable technique and musicality throughout. This often beautiful and deeply-felt work is one of the finest examples of that new expressive warmth I mentioned earlier in this review. Intelligently enough it is placed first in this release. One could not dream of a better "teaser".

Claude Ledoux’s music is certainly not easy. It is quite exacting and demanding both for the player and the listener. As such, it needs repeated hearings to yield all its riches, which discs fortunately allow us. This sincere and committed music-making is ultimately generously rewarding.

Hubert Culot


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