Vincent Paulet was born in 1962 in Reims, where he began studying music, before attending the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris. There he studied with Jean-Claude Raynaud (harmony), Jean-Claude Henry (counterpoint), Michel Merlet (fugue), Serge Nigg (orchestration), and Claude Ballif (analysis) and won first prize in each of these disciplines.
Initially, Paulet's career was as an organist, after he trained with Gaston Litaize at the Conservatoire National de Région in Saint-Maur. But in his early thirties he abandoned performance to concentrate on composition.
There only appears to be one other composition by Paulet in the current catalogue - his Le grand Stellaire
played by Trio Controverse (on Triton 331127) - so the appearance on Hortus of this lovely collection of small and intense chamber music, La Ballade des Pendus
, is particularly welcome. Each of the six works is beautifully played, unselfconsciously, penetratingly, with great technical acuity by this handful of musicians. Each of them takes as read the persuasively adept musicality of a striking composer who is otherwise not as well known as he should be.
The works here all date from Paulet's early years, the years, indeed, during which he found his musical voice: everything except the Sonatine
was written between 1987 and 1996. The piano, played to great effect by Jean-Michel Dayez, is central to the feel and substance of this CD. It's Paulet's second instrument.
La Ballade des Pendus
itself is the most substantial item on this CD; it sets Villon's Epitaph
and is performed here with real sensitivity combined with … excitement. Seemingly an odd combination, the players' enthusiasm is nevertheless highly successful. Very appealing. Mezzo, Isabelle Soccoja, sings with real insight into the music; while never relying on the inherent musicality of Villon's words, she communicates every nuance both of the texts and Paulet's empathy with them.
arose out of an equally unlikely-sounding juxtaposition: the stage and a lullaby. Again, it's a testament to Paulet's incisive vision and the skill and perception of the players that this works as well as it does. Although the piano is treated as a melodic instrument, its colours are quietly recognised and the virtuosity of Dayez's playing is not overlooked; there is nothing showy or gratuitous. By now, listeners new to Paulet's work and world will have an unambiguous sense of just how substantial his music is.
was written for the dedicatee of the piece, Pascal Ravez, initially without the piano; Paulet soon saw the need to reinforce his ideas harmonically. It won the first prize at the International Flute competition in Kobe (Japan) and is regarded as Paulet's first mature and acknowledged composition. Marion Ralincourt's playing is immediate, suave and highly communicative.
The Sonate pour violoncelle et piano
lasts almost as long as the Ballade
. It's both impressionistic and full of variety. Although nodding in the direction of the styles of the Second Viennese school, and Webern in particular, in its fragmentation, the Sonata is strikingly holistic in its tonal centre and in emphasising the instruments' sonorities yet not relying on them. Gagnepain and Dayez's playing is penetrating as it demonstrates togetherness in their sense of line and adherence to the rhythms that move the piece forward.
The Sonatine pour violon et piano
and Sur un nuage
are both short and condensed. They, too, show the influence of Bartók. There are autobiographical elements in each - if in no other sense than that they convey yearning and unease. There were obviously compositional challenges to make as much of the shortness into which Paulet condensed his ideas. They are challenges to which he rose very well indeed. The results are memorable and highly pleasing.
All these performers, then, start by being demonstrably in full accord with the spirit and quite precise compositional aims of Vincent Paulet. Irony is underplayed. Pathos is not dramatized. Subtlety (in evocation of night or stasis, for example) is left nuanced, yet is not too subtle as to be a mirage. The gentleness and tension of this music go hand in hand and demand a precision which is delivered throughout the hour and a quarter of music on this CD. By its end, one longs for more music by this composer, who shares Messiaen's spiritual richness, the delicacy of Debussy and Chausson and even the flair and warmth of Iberian culture. Paulet has lived and worked in Barcelona.
The disc comes with a full, informative and very communicative set of essays by Paulet and brief biographies of the performers. The recording quality is excellent, and the acoustic close and supportive of the music. If this is the kind of musical enterprise that either intrigues or piques your curiosity and/or you want to be left satisfied by new and exciting music, this is definitely one you should be looking at closely.