Bart VISMAN (b. 1962)
Septet (1999) [13:31], New Heaven! (2003) [13:09], Sables, Oxygène (2008) [34:23]
Barbara Hannigan (soprano)
The Gents/Peter Dijkstra; Schnberg Kwartet, Het Trio
Limburgs Symfonie Orkest/Ed Spanjaard
rec. 13 December 2003 , 26 October 2003 , 26 April 2008 [3-7]. DDD
ETCETERA KTC1378 [61:08]
The Septet begins with alluringly dark colours, with bass clarinet and viola setting a sombre mood. Brighter colours emerge later, with violin and piccolo providing contrast of sound. The slow opening gradually erupts in faster material in which punchy rhythms and scalic movement are prevalent. In the informative and well presented sleeve-notes, the composer comments that this work “is the account of a battle between intellect and intuition in which he gradually came down on the side of the latter”. As such, the compositional style is different from more recent works, with a large part of the writing process pre-planned and intellectually conceived. The final section, during which the more intuitive side of the process took over, is calmer and makes use of fewer ideas, but is no less successful; the harmonies are more static but there is time to reflect on the scalic patterns which emerge and return to the texture of repeated notes. This work is a wonderful opening to the disc. Its thirteen and a half minute duration seems to fly by, and the textures and instrumentation that Visman uses are constantly evolving through the work. The playing is exceptional throughout.
New Heaven! is a 2003 work for male chorus, performed here by The Gents and Peter Dijkstra, who commissioned the work. The change of acoustic is obvious between this and the previous piece, but it does not cause alarm, since the more reverberant acoustic of this recording suits the work well. Visman’s work is joyful and celebratory in tone and once again makes use of the textural variety available within an ensemble of this kind, from solos over sustained pedal notes to hymn-like chordal writing and contrapuntal sections. The choral sound from The Gents is beautifully balanced with an impressive sense of blending and ensemble. This is a highly enjoyable piece which has some beautiful moments and rich, luscious harmonies.
The final work on the disc is Sables, Oxygène, a large-scale work for soprano and orchestra composed in 2008. Using a tonally-based language, this work features imaginative and well-conceived orchestration and a wonderful sense of acoustic space between the soprano and the orchestra. The first song in the cycle, Chatres is hauntingly beautiful, from the opening soprano lines to the organ-like final orchestral chord. Semences is more tonal in its language and feels warmer, with Ravelian waltz-style writing emerging in the orchestral accompaniment. Marine is darker and becomes increasingly static and desolate. The mood lightens considerably in Volcans, while the final movement, Fruits, is spacious and brings the work to a dramatic close. Saskia Macris’s texts are sung with the utmost expression, poise and delicacy by Barbara Hannigan.
Visman’s music is a delight; his language is accessible without being overly saccharine or patronising, and the music has much to offer in terms of emotional impact.