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Thierry LANCINO (b. 1954)
Violin Concerto (2005) [34:48]
Prelude and Death of Virgil (2000) [25:41]
Isabelle Faust (violin)
Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg/Arturo Tamayo (Concerto)
Matteo de Monti (baritone)
Orchestre National de France/Gerard Schwarz (Virgil)
rec. live, Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris, 3 November 2005 (concerto); Auditorium Olivier Messiaen (Radio France), Paris, 2 December 2000. Radio France. DDD
world première recordings
French text & English translation included (Virgil)
NAXOS 8.573204 [60:29]

William Hedley reviewed Thierry Lancino's Requiem a couple of years ago. You can hear Lancino talking about this ambitious piece on YouTube. The site review was certainly not an encomium. Even so I was interested to hear what this French-born and US-resident composer sounded like in these two works. They are heard here in healthy, open, good quality sound courtesy of Radio France and the performances seem exemplary. The Concerto is from a concert with audience applause but no other distracting 'participation' that I noticed.
 
The Violin Concerto enjoyed a celebrity outing here. It's no mean feat to have attracted Isabelle Faust to champion this challenging work. As for the orchestra and conductor, we know them for their excellent work on Timpani - often in avant-garde music including Xenakis and Ohana. This concerto is not in an ultra-modern style. There are three successively shorter movements. The first spins a sultry web redolent of Szymanowski and Berg. The violin has a commanding muscularity and singing flight and these aspects are highlighted by an imperious positioning in what we hear. The slow moving, surreal and faintly melancholy Lent is atmospheric and is more diaphanously scored. The final Fugato treats the listener to a panoply of modern and occasionally explosive sounds but is not dissonant; more like later Bartók. There's even a twittering and buzzing section for the orchestra which recalls a similar effect at the start of Nielsen's Fifth Symphony. The smoothly plunging and at times aggressive solo 'flight' carries the impress of the rapid eldritch passages in Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1. The writing for solo and orchestra has a physical impact.
 
The Prelude and Death of Virgil is sung in French and the text is given as sung and with side by side English translation. In fact the singing is confined to one of the four separately tracked sections - the longest one. In the Prelude the brass groan quietly and there are shimmering, shivering cymbals. A nocturnal ambience is established atmosphere. It's quite eerie, alive with detail and rising to brassy rasping expostulation. The Interlude again wanders the same dark groves: tense and dense. The weave of violins predominates. ‘The Death of Virgil’ is the longest section and is sung by the mature-voiced Matteo de Monti. He is not called on to do anything outlandish but sings in an often stern and declamatory manner. The music becomes increasingly wild in the manner of some nightmare pursuit. There's a touch of Peter Pears about this singer; in fact I was reminded, more than once, of the sound of Pears in the classic Decca recording of Les Illuminations. Mercifully, de Monti lacks the other singer's braying vibrato. The final section has a hooded tone. This is music of a steadily upward boiling restlessness and although tenderness does put in appearance it is threaded with a surge doom-laden.
 
The booklet notes are in English and French as is the French sung text for the Virgil work. English translations can be found inside the booklet and also here.
 
Interesting music rather than instantly compelling. It is good that it has been recorded commercially.
 
Rob Barnett