Marcel COMINOTTO (b. 1956)
Les Tombeaux d'Alexandre for piano (2011) [18:08]
Storia per corno for horn (2013) [9:42]
À la recherche de F..... for bass clarinet (1981) [14:47]
Espaces improbables for cello (2009) [13:21]
Antithesis for tenor saxophone (2007) [9:25]
Mutations for organ (2011) [12:22]
Marcel Cominotto (piano)
Francis Orval (horn)
Jean-Pierre Peuvion (bass clarinet)
Vincent Alpaerts (tenor saxophone)
Sébastien Walnier (cello)
Edward Vanmarsenille (organ)
rec. Studio Recital (Tihange-B); Église Saint-Apollinaire de Bolland; Onze Lieve Vrouw de/in St-Trond(B) Guido Schumacher organ); no dates given
World premiere recordings

This is an intriguing programme featuring six diverse instruments in a solo role. With each, the composer explores its potential and technical possibilities, often challenging the performer to virtuosic feats of endurance in the bargain. The composer is Marcel Cominotto, born in Chênée, Belgium in 1956. His musical studies were carried out at the Conservatoire de Musique in Liège. In 1972 he was awarded a diploma for piano with the highest distinction, and two years later the Government's virtuosity prize. He then travelled to Geneva and Cologne, where Nikita Magaloff and Aloys Kontarsky put the finishing touches to his studies. He has forged himself a three-pronged career as pianist, teacher and composer. From what I have read, his solo performing career takes centre-stage, and he has made several recordings on the Azur Classical label, featuring composers such as Liszt and Schumann.

Les Tombeaux d'Alexandre, featuring Cominotto himself at the piano, is the most substantial work here, running for just over 18 minutes. The composer takes his lead from the piano music of Scriabin, exploring a range of human emotions from insanity and despair to lucidity and hope. It demands high technical skill from the performer, and this is what it gets. Cominotto’s achievement in a myriad range of tonal colour is to be marvelled at. Storia was written especially for the horn player Francis Orval in 2013. Natural micro-intervals portray a narrative line with no fixed points. Orval conjures some unusual sonorities from the instrument. Although composed as far back as 1981, À la recherche de F..... for bass clarinet was only premiered in 2006. Like the piano piece, human emotions saturate the music, which depicts an isolated landscape of grief, despair and loneliness. Sébastien Walnier, the cellist on this recording, premiered Espaces improbable in May 2009. Pushing the soloist’s technique to the limit, quarter tones again deprive the listener of anchorage points. Antithesis for tenor saxophone has an improvisatory feel, which Vincent Alpaerts delivers with freshness and imagination. Mutations for organ was composed in 2011. Cominotto took as his inspiration the Toccatas of J.S. Bach. Edward Vanmarsenille contours the ebb and flow of the music’s conflicting moods with authority and conviction. The work demands frequent, complicated registration changes and Bénédicte Massenaux and Michiel Thewis step up to the mark admirably.

The performances all benefit from first class recording quality. Each of the venues provides the ideal environment to showcase the various instruments. Added to that, each of the performers is a persuasive advocate of these highly imaginative and alluring scores. The success of this release is largely dependent on the featuring of six different instruments, each with its particular colour and singular timbre, and the variety and contrast that affords. If I had to choose a favourite it would have to be Mutations for organ, a stunning work and one to which I’ll certainly be returning.
Stephen Greenbank