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CD: Harmonia Mundi

Régis CAMPO (b. 1968)
Les Heures Maléfiques (2005, rev. 2007) [19:38]
Ombra Felice (2007) [22:37]
Quatuor à cordes No.2 (2006) [14:52]
The Life and Soul of His Imagined Landscape (2009) [7:01]
Quatuor Diotima
rec. Radio France, 4-6 December 2009

Experience Classicsonline

First of all I must make it clear that in spite of the size and format of the jewel box this is a CD; definitely not a DVD. It offers Régis Campo’s first three string quartets. In the meantime he has composed a fourth Energy/Fly, completed in 2010.
A few years ago I reviewed another disc entirely devoted to Campo’s music (Aeon AECD 0529). It made me willing to hear more of his music which I then found superbly crafted and quite accessible although it was not as straightforward as it might at first sound. His first three quartets were composed in fairly quick succession between 2005 and 2007, although the first, composed in 2005 was revised in 2007.
The First String Quartet Les Heures Maléfiques opens with lively, almost minimalist rhythms made of repeated notes and bouncing gestures. This dynamic mood prevails for some time, even when the music seems to calm down or thin out. It then halts briefly before resuming its initial impetus, albeit with dynamic variations. There is then a rather mysterious section in which the music pauses although the rather troubled mood persists under the apparently calm surface. After this ambiguous episode the music alternates slow and fast, mysterious and assertive episodes. The whole amounts to a colourful, often capricious kaleidoscope that eventually ends rather abruptly.
The title of Campo’s Third String Quartet Ombra Felice comes from the opening words of an aria from Mozart’s Arsace K.255. Unlike the first and second quartets, Ombra Felice is in two movements, a long Notturno and a somewhat shorter Adagio tranquillo. The opening Nocturne is quite beautiful. The music appropriately enough begins in nocturnal mood before gaining momentum and irrupting in a more animated section. It quickly dissolves and the opening mood is resumed. The second movement, too, opens calmly. The music unfolds slowly in a more appeased mood than that of a preceding Nocturne that is not without inner tension. Although consisting of two primarily slow movements the Third Quartet displays enough variety throughout to catch and hold one’s attention from first to last. This is the finest work in the disc and one that generously repays repeated hearings. I sincerely hope that many other string quartets will have this marvellous work in their repertoire soon.
As already mentioned, the Second Quartet is in one movement. This opens with a near-quote from Mozart. There will be some more in the course of the work although the reason for their inclusion is not explained. However, the result is that the music exhibits some playfulness, not without a pinch of irony. The music then goes on alternating contrasted episodes often full of surprises before petering out like an out-of-tune music box. This is decidedly music that does not take itself too seriously, a comment that I made in my earlier review.
The curiously titled The Life & Soul of His Imagined Landscape is a short, extrovert work for three string quartets. Given the absence of any relevant information it may be assumed that it was recorded using multi-tracking. Neither is there any information about the piece as a whole, let alone its somewhat enigmatic title. As might be expected each of the three string quartets has its own material and the three layers are then superimposed or opposed thus creating a pleasant impression of lively activity. This is a very attractive work but which is not likely to receive many performances, which makes this recording most welcome.
Diotima’s readings of these often demanding, though ultimately rewarding works are unlikely to be bettered. The four musicians play with technical assurance and real commitment, thus making the best of Campo’s attractive music. The recording, too, is very fine. My only caveat - and a perfectly subjective one - about this otherwise most desirable release concerns the booklet notes. These are the very model of what booklet notes should not be, were it only because they tell us very little about the works and the music. From thus point of view they fail the average music lover. This should not deter anyone willing to investigate this most rewarding release. Campo is a most endearing composer whose personal sound-world is worth much more than the occasional hearing.
Hubert Culot 









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