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Aubert LEMELAND (1932-2010)
Symphony No. 9, Op. 168 (1997) [21:02]
".....in ricordo Arturo Toscanini.....", Op. 183b for string orchestra [4:44]
Symphony No. 8 "In Memoriam", Op. 166 (1995) [21:22]
"Battle Pieces", Op. 174 for string orchestra and piano (2003) [12:58]
Jean-Pierre Ferey (piano)
Orquestra Nacional do Porto/Marc Tardue
rec. 2005, Skarbo Studios, Paris
SKARBO DSK3046 [60:27]

The French composer Aubert Lemeland (1932-2010) originated from Normandy and was prolific by any standards, with an oeuvre numbering over two-hundred works. Much of it has a commemorative tone, directed towards victims of war. He was a bit of an outsider, with a strong independent sense of purpose. He shunned serialism, which ruled musical life in Paris at the time, opting to tread a more tonally orientated course. His self-belief won out in the end and, in recent years, his music is beginning to garner recognition, support and admiration. In his student days, he professed a preference for the symphonic works of William Walton, Carlos Chávez, and Aaron Copland. A chance hearing of Prokofiev's Scythian Suite gave him a kick start to write his First Symphony (he ended up composing fourteen in all). The work was premiered by Michel Plasson and the Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse in the summer of 1975.

Twenty years later in 1995 came his Symphony No. 8 "in Memoriam", Op. 183b. It's a single movement essay lasting just over twenty minutes and marked Largo. It was written in memory of the victims of World War 11. The mood is elegiac. The woodwinds set the scene with a threnody, mournful and desolate. Soon the strings enter and the music gains momentum with the addition of percussion and timpani. The world-weary scene reminds me of one of the more severe Paul Nash landscapes. Lemeland does, on occasion, offer some brief moments of tender reminiscence.

The other commemorative work is the "Battle Pieces", Op. 174 for string orchestra and piano of 2003. It was a commission from Radio France, who premiered it in May of that same year. The title refers to a collection of poems by Herman Melville, penned during the American Civil war. Lemeland doesn't draw directly from these, but from poems by American soldiers written between 1942-1945. The solo piano, which assumes a cameo role, is played by Jean-Pierre Ferey. Three of the pieces are sombre and reflective and can be termed elegies, whilst the third and fifth move along more swiftly and offer an element of contrast.

".....in ricordo Arturo Toscanini.....", Op. 183b for string orchestra is a brief thoughtful reflection on the great Italian maestro. The idea sprang from a visit the composer made to the Largo Toscanini, a square in Milan, where there's a commemorative plaque.

The 9th Symphony was a commission by the Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse, who premiered it under the direction of Michel Plasson. Lemeland described it as the most tonal of his symphonies. Two animated movements bookend a central Largo con espressione. The opening movement bustles with unremitting energy. Beguiling lyricism sums up the slow movement, whilst the finale is notable for its verve and vigour.

The Orquestra Nacional do Porto, under Marc Tardue, offer convincing performances of these attractive scores. They’ve been captured throughout in superb sound. On the evidence, Lemeland is a composer well-deserving of more recognition.
Stephen Greenbank


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