Pierre BARTHOLOMÉE (b. 1937)
Oraisons (2007)a [9:47]
Zigzag (2006)b [6:14]
Wintry Day (2007)b [6:00]
Face à face (2009)c [8:46]
Livre d'orgue (2008)d [39:19]
Ophélie Gaillard (cello)a; Francette Bartholomée (harp)b; Dominica Eyckmans (viola)c; Jean-Philippe Merckaert (organ)d
rec. no information available
APARTÉ AP014 [70:06]
As the collective title of this release makes it clear, this is a selection of recent and fairly short works for unaccompanied instruments. The sole noteworthy exception is the substantial and large-scale Livre d'orgue. All these pieces were composed over the last four years or so and add to a long list of works composed after Bartholomée's official retirement. That said, he still conducts and teaches occasionally.
The most remarkable thing about these pieces, again with the exception of Livre d'orgue, is that they do not aim at exploiting the instruments' technical possibilities in any extravagant way. Rather they focus on the expressive register of each of them. This does not mean that they are easy to play, far from it, but the final impression is a deeply expressive one.
Some of these works have been composed for the musicians who play them in this release. This is the case for the Oraisons (cello) and Face à face (viola). The two études for harp, Zigzag and Wintry Day, were commissioned as test pieces for some instrumental competitions. They are played here by Francette Bartholomée. Livre d'orgue is dedicated to Bernard Foccroulle, fellow organist and composer. Foccroulle, during his tenure as the manager of La Monnaie in Brussels commissioned Bartholomée's first opera œdipe sur la route and encouraged him to compose his second opera La Lumière Antigone.
As such these pieces do not call for detailed comment; the music speaks for itself. Suffice to say that these works are devised to bring off the expressive possibilities of each instrument without stretching its technical range to extremes. The commitment of these performers bears ample proof to the music’s strongly communicative power.
The very title of Livre d'orgue may suggest Messiaen's similarly titled organ work - one of his most intractable works, at least as far as I am concerned. The Bartholomée is quite different. Indeed although it is fairly complex and technically demanding it is ultimately generously rewarding. Jean-Philippe Merckaert's most convincing performance fully bears this out. It comprises six clearly delineated and strongly contrasted movements with titles that might suggest descriptive music, which this work is definitely not. However, these titles (Déserts, Météores, Lune, Carrousel, Visage and Poussières d'abîme) may help the listener through the colourful, richly varied and at times stormy music heard in this imposing work. It is one of Bartholomée's finest recent achievements.
As already mentioned earlier in this review all the performances are superb and are not likely to be bettered, Even so, I wish that other instrumentalists would soon pick these beautifully crafted pieces. Each of them is a highly rewarding addition to the instruments' repertoire.
No information concerning the recording dates and venues is given. However, one may suppose that Livre d'orgue was recorded in the Abbey Church of Maredsous in Belgium since Jean-Philippe Merckaert plays on the Abbey's recently restored Westenfelder organ.
In short this is a very fine release indeed. It offers a survey of Bartholomée's recent works in excellent performances and in very fine recordings. As such, it is a generous addition to his discography. This is also a release for all those who enjoy communicative and expressive contemporary music by a composer for whom expression is paramount.
A superbly played and nicely recorded survey of recent works by Bartholomée.