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Florent NAGEL (b. 1979)
Livre pour piano
Florent Nagel (piano)
rec. 2017, Studios Cantus Classic, Gangnam, Seoul

This isn't my first encounter with the music of Florent Nagal. Last year I reviewed his Alice in Wonderland for two pianos and narrator, a highly original piece transporting the listener on an imaginary journey. Nagal was born in 1979 and studied at the Conservatory in Lille, France. Later he took tuition from Vladimir Soultanov at the Moscow Conservatory and Christine Sieffert-Marchais at the École Normale de Musique de Paris, picking up prizes along the way. He works as a composer, pianist and teacher.

The series of pieces entitled Livre pour piano were written between May and September 2016, and premiered by the composer on 12 November 2016 at the Cantus Forum Festival, organized by Nicolas Bacri, at the CRR, Paris. In fact, the cycle was born following exchanges between Nagel and Bacri earlier that year.

All of the pieces, each dedicated to a particular individual, are of brief duration, lasting between one and four minutes, and can be considered as studies based on counterpoint and rhythm. Each explores a different aspect of piano technique. The musical material is stripped down to its bare essentials and developed within the individual piece. The fugues, for instance, are based on music laid out in their respective preludes. Nagal is eager to emphasize that the work need not be heard only as a cycle, but each piece can stand alone. As a set, the pieces naturally gravitate into sections based on intervals. Just some examples are: Seconds - Hommage à Ligeti et Rautavaara; Fifths – Quintets; Sixths - Bagatelle en ut; Tritones - Invention toccata, Fugue en fa.

I'll single out some of the main attractions and highlights. The bare, sparse open chords of the opening Prélude en fa grow in intensity as the piece progresses, its fugue a busy and animated affair. Burlesca is forthright and determined, whilst Ostinato en la growls from the piano's depths with insistent rhythmic determination. Virtuosic coruscations add brilliance to Octaves, in contrast to Prélude Antica, whose rippling, fluid figures generate a soothing balm effect. Calm and introspection permeate the Prélude en sol, whilst its fugue is spiky and angular. Quintets has a light-hearted buoyancy, Hommage à Ligeti et Rautavaara is outspoken and assertive. Prélude en re is geared towards percussive brilliance, whilst the fugue’s initial luminous sonorities eventually take on a more dogged course. Determined and resolute, Annexe- Pour le Dos completes the cycle in grand style.

I'm very much taken by the superb quality of this recording, with the piano sound displaying both clarity and presence. There's no doubt in my mind that Nagel is a force to be reckoned with, and none of his highly original music will disappoint.

Stephen Greenbank

Prélude en fa [3:42]
Fugue en fa [2:14]
Quartes [1:02]
Glissements [1:35]
Burlesca [1:13]
Ostinato en la [2:41]
Étude giratoire [1:00]
Octaves [2:21]
Prélude Antica [2:00]
Fuga Antica [4:02]
Invention toccata [1:02]
Prélude en sol [2:42]
Fugue en sol [1:29]
Canon [2:31]
Quintets [3:12]
Bagatelle en ut [1:06]
Fugue en ut [1:46]
Hommage à Ligeti et Rautavaara [2:19]
Prélude [1:13]
Fuga ricercata [5:39]
Invention en mi [1:27]
Fugue en mi [1:29]
Prélude en re [1:27]
Fugue en ré [3:33]
Annexe- Pour le Dos (Exercises) [2:18]

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