David LAMPEL (b.1959)
String Quartet (2002) [10:31]
Piano Sonata [6:24]
String Sextet (2002) [10:01]
Violin Sonata (2005) [9:24]
Prelude and Chaconne, Homage to Bach (2005) [8:19]
Parissi Quartet (Arnaud Vallin, Jean-Michel Berette (violin), Dominique Lobet (viola) and Jean-Philippe Martignioni (cello)), Sébastien Risler (piano), Uppsala Chamber Soloists, Régis Pasquier (violin), Emmanuel Strosser (piano), Henri Demarquette (cello)
rec. October 2005, Ivry Auditorium (Quartet), December 2005 and March 2006, Studio de Meudon (Violin Sonata and Piano Sonata), December 2004, Giresta Church Sweden (Sextet), February 2006, L'église du bon secours, Paris (Prelude and Chaconne). DDD
NAXOS 8.572106 [47:56]

David Lampel is a young Swedish composer who writes in a straightforward, tonal style, which encompasses tunes and accepted harmonic progressions. And there, in one sentence, is the whole problem with the music on this disk. There is nothing here to set Lake Mälaren on fire.

It is only fair that I explain. This music is lovely, in the same way that Ravel’s music is lovely, for it contains luscious harmonies, satisfactory and satisfying chord progressions and tunes which are quite memorable. However, it is not in the same class as Ravel’s music and, when put side by side with such an influence, I am sorry to say that Lampel’s music is found wanting. The String Quartet starts most arrestingly, but almost totally derivatively, and it fills its ten minutes quite nicely, even if there isn’t sufficient material to really engage ones attention for the alloted timespan. The Piano Sonata, however, is a different matter, for it is, according to the composer, “… a game of hide and seek with the classical form, a game which I play in all the works on the disc”. Playing games with forms, and thus with our perceptions of form, is all well and good, but a musical composition stands or falls, initially, by its material not by what the composer does with it. Therefore, this somewhat grey and overly sombre affair does not work due to the material being too easily forgettable and there being little of substance to hold the interest.

The String Sextet pays homage to Verklärte Nacht and, again, has a corrupted classical form. Here the voice is of fin de siècle Vienna, and, in a blindfold test, you’d be hard pushed to guess that this work wasn’t an original from that period rather than something which feels rather like a pastiche from a century later. Certainly Lampel has the right feel for this language, but not for convincing material nor the working out of it.

The Violin Sonata has much more in its favour for it is a gritty and powerful work, demanding much from both player and listener. It is pleasantly devoid of overt outside influence. It reminds me of a couple of pieces but I doubt that Lampel would ever have heard the works I have in mind - Douglas Lilburn’s superb Violin Sonata, for instance. Most impressive is the march which accounts for much of the development in the piece. The ending is magnificently surprising.

The Prelude and Chaconne, Homage to Bach for solo cello, is surprisingly well written and has much to commend it. This is an intelligently conceived and cogently argued, solo line which never outstays its welcome - an easy thing to do when writing for a solo stringed instrument. It actually leaves one wanting more.

All the performances are, I am sure, of the highest quality, for there is a feeling of strong advocacy in the playing. The recordings, which derive from several different sources, are uniformly clear and bright. If only I could say that all the music here was worth the effort but I really don’t feel that it is. The last two pieces are well worth investigating. The first three seem negligible for the composer is playing games and not composing music. But you pays your money and you takes your chance. I’d hate you to miss the Violin Sonata but is it worth paying the full price just for this one work? With my hand on my heart I cannot wholeheartedly recommend this disk for the reasons cited.

Bob Briggs