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Philippe CHAMOUARD (b. 1952)
Symphonie No. 1 Tibétaine (1992) [25:57]
Symphonie Mystique - Sphène (1987) [23:34]
Olsztyn State Philharmonic Orchestra/Piotr Borkowski
rec. 16-17 June 1995, Olsztyn, Poland. DDD
ORPHEE PRODUCTION OP1102 [49:31]

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Philippe CHAMOUARD (b. 1952)
Symphony No. 3 Les Jardins du Désert (1994-95) [32:37]
L'Esprit de la Nuit – extract only (1997) [5:53]
Les Figures de l'Invisible for celtic harp and orchestra (1999) [28:29]
Anna Sikorszak-Olek (celtic harp)
Lublin Philharmonic Orchestra/Piotr Wijatkowski
rec. 21-23 September 2000, Lublin, Poland. DDD
ORPHEE PRODUCTION OA1104 [66:58]

Currently unavailable.

 

Philippe CHAMOUARD (b. 1952)
Symphony No. 2 Sarajevo (1994) [33:10]
Halabja – à la mémoire des victims kurdes (1990) [15:04]
Les Voiles du Silences (1993) [15:36]
Doris Lamprecht (mezzo) (symphony)
Orchestre Régional de Bayonne-Côte Basque/Robert Delcroix
rec. 7 January 1995, l’Eglise Saint-Vincent de Ciboure, France. DDD
SKARBO 3954 [64:19]
Experience Classicsonline

I owe it to the dedicated enquiring mind of Michael Herman that I even knew of the existence of this composer and of these symphonies. That I had the opportunity to review them is due to the generosity of the composer himself, as the recordings are currently unavailable.
 
Born in Paris, Chamouard studied with Roger Boutry and made a reputation initially as a Mahler scholar. Performance of his music have taken place since 1992. He deemed his works before 1987 as unworthy and destroyed them. The unnumbered symphony Sphène is his first recognised piece. He has drawn the praise of Maurice André and Ennio Morricone. His music bridges the realms of humanism and spirituality – a mystical inscape.
 
The First Symphony, Tibetan, is in three movements: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow – each of which opens with the invocatory sound of a Tibetan bell. The first has the expressive quality of a temperate sigh. The music has the nostalgic acidity of Bernard Herrmann’s most romantic scores. Not for the first time do we hear echoes of Panufnik in his most restrained and dignified mood. The second recalls the fluttered wing-beat of the epilogue of Bax’s Seventh Symphony (4:52). The finale breathes the sweetest and faintest zephyr of breath - sanguine and mysterious.
 
Sphène is Chamouard’s very first symphony. It is unnumbered. The slightest twist of dissonance in the music of the First Symphony is here slighter still. The music is poised redolent of time held still – luminous and tender. Not a great deal happens. While this is music of a contemplative order it is not bland. It speaks of a softly sustained tension between the world below the moon where all is perishable and the realms of eternity above the moon. The final movement echoes Mahler’s famous Adagietto. This mystic symphony is his first acknowledged work; which he destroyed all his score dating from before 1987. The work ends with the gleam of high strings: intimations of immortality drifting into niente.
 
For the Second Symphony we encounter a change of mood and character. There is a more statuesque grim urgency in evidence. The music has undulant contours and no jaggedness. A grandly elegiac sense can be felt at the end of the Largo. A suddenly sprung glow of light in this movement is a memorable moment. The surreal drifting of the mezzo solo holds melancholy and no anger. There is a touch of Gorecki’s Symphony of Sorrowful Songs here.
 
Halabja - marking the poisoned gas atrocities of Saddam Hussein - at first articulates a sort of shivering urgent horror which saws and grates. This represents a sort of Pendereckian tragedy mixed with the horror of Lidice (Martinů) and Katyn (Panufnik). It ends in a slow resigned march - drained of hope amid paradoxically glistening high strings.
 
Veils of Silence takes the words of the Lebanese poet Kalil Ghibran speaking for the Sphinx of Giza: a grain of sand is a desert – a desert is a grain of sand – now let us return to silence. This ‘silence’, in Chamouard’s hands, has the piercing emotionalism of Barber’s Adagio (try 6:32).
 
The Third Symphony has in its first movement a gentle susurration – inhabiting the same world as Arvo Pärt’s Cantus. The second grumbles ominously then rises to an urgent feral stomping. It closes in louring clouds. This precedes a final movement which has the pensive mystery of bells. The extract from L'Esprit de la Nuit is dignified and taciturn. Les Figures de l'Invisible is a very succinctly expressed piece for celtic harp and orchestra. The solo instrument has none of the new age celticism we might expect. Its voice is rather ascetic apart from in the flourishes of the second movement. It otherwise recalls the koto part in Cowell’s concerto for that instrument rather than the decorative guitar like patterns in the Persian Set. The gong makes an atmospheric contribution in the first movement. The penultimate one includes an unusual – for Chamouard – stuttered fanfare. The finale ends in a dignified shiver and glow of the strings. A sense of mystic dignity is one of Chamouard’s strongest suits. In the second movement of this work we also get an unaccustomed dash of sentimentality even if it is hushed and introspective.
 
These three discs address four of Chamouard’s nine symphonies. I cannot wait to hear No.4 " The wanderer of the clouds" (2001) 38:00; No.5 "The manuscript of the stars" (2002) 40:00; No.6 "The mountain of the soul" (2005) 45:00; No.7 (2006-07) 45:00 and No. 8 (2008) 37:0 which includes a part for Scottish bagpipes. I hope that they will be recorded or broadcast soon
 
If you have a taste for Gorecki, Pärt, Macmillan, Tavener or Hovhaness then you should find much here to enjoy. It’s certainly not hard work but then neither is it facile and it certainly does not lack in individuality.
 
Rob Barnett
 

 


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