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Jean-Paul DESSY (b. 1963)
Requiems [26:46]
Semper gaudete [10:17]
Isaïe [9:47]
Jean-Paul Dessy (cello)
Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
Tallin Chamber Orchestra/Risto Joost
rec. live, 27 January 2018, Flagey, Brussels (Requiems); 2018, Arsonic, Mons
Full texts provided with English and French translations
CYPRES CYP4652 [46:52]

If, like me, you’re coming to the music of Jean-Paul Dessy for the first time, he deserves a brief introduction. He's a Belgian composer, conductor and cellist, born on February 8, 1963. He studied music at the Conservatoire Royal in Liège, but is largely self-taught as a composer. His music is imaginative, adventurous, embracing diverse aesthetics and creative styles, and isn't afraid to cross borders. His output includes symphonies, chamber music, electronic music and an opera, Kilda - l’île des hommes-oiseaux, which was performed under his direction at the opening of the Edinburgh Festival in 2009.

The composer, who supplies the liner notes, says of Requiems that they are "an invitation, an introduction to rest, to the intangible peace that inhabits the depths of life". They draw on texts chosen and grouped by the writer, theologian, Orthodox priest and philosopher Jean-Yves Leloup, and derive from the great traditions of Sanskrit, Arabic, Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek and Latin. Full texts and English and French translations are provided. Requiems is divided into seven sections, and begins and ends with great tidal breaths, which envelop the listener. Dessy is a master of imaginative orchestration, and the ethereal sparse textures have a potent effect. The choral writing is equally adroit, and the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir are well-rehearsed and display flawless ensemble. The balance struck between choir and orchestra cannot be faulted, allowing delineation of lines to emerge with pristine clarity. The music is meditative, restful and reverential.

Dessy is a fine cellist, as evinced in the Two pieces for cello solo: Semper gaudete (Be ever joyful) and Isaïe (A voice crying in the desert: “prepare the way of the Eternal” (Isaiah 40:3)). Both pieces maintain the prayerful and meditative mien of the Requiems, surfing an array of emotions, with light and darkness making a play for centre stage. What I particularly like are the myriad colours, and diverse rhythms Dessy employs to convey the music's powerful messages. This invests the pieces with contrast and diversity. Burnished sonorities alternate with luminous textures, and the effect is both powerful and visceral.

At just under 47 minutes, this disc offers distinctly short measure in terms of playing time. However, in mitigation, the quality of the music and class of the performances should, in no way, deter potential purchasers.

Stephen Greenbank

 



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