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Anthony GIRARD (b. 1959)
Les Quatre Saisons - 4 Caprices for Violin (1999-2007) [24:26]
L'Étoile Aldébaran for 2 Violins (2004) [12:25]
Lucky Ways - 4 Études for violin (2007[4:20]
Partons, ô mon âme - Caprice for Violin (1994) [15:11]
Jean-Luc Richardoz (violin)
Patricia Reibaud (violin 2)
rec. 2014, Chapelle des Carmes-Déchaussés du Conservatoire à rayonnement
départemental de Vannes

Although his music has featured on such labels as Naxos, Pavane and Harp and Company, this is my first encounter with the French composer Anthony Girard. What of his music? Well, throughout his career it has remained on the margins of the second half of the 20th century, eschewing dissonance in favour of consonance. The styles he's drawn from are medieval music and traditional music from India. He's not averse to dipping his toe into minimalism from time to time either. Poetry and mystical texts are an abiding influence. Maybe his mantra is 'light, joy and simplicity'.

He was born in New York in 1959 and was a graduate of the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique in Paris, where he was the recipient of several prizes. He also studied musical history at the Sorbonne. Since 2012 he has been teaching orchestration and musical analysis in Paris. With an impressive roster of around 150 compositions under his belt, the violin has held a significant presence.

Les Quatre Saisons are 4 Caprices for Violin, penned between 1999-2007. The fourth was actually composed first and dedicated to Alexis Moschkov. The other three were written for the violinist who performs them here, Jean-Luc Richardoz. The poetry of Boris Pasternak is the source of inspiration. Each focuses on a particular aspect of technique. Spring employs double stops, whose gentle and soothing waves of sound depict hope and reawakening. The rapid string changes in Summer convey something of the joy and good humour of the season. Autumn alternates scurrying passages with more pensive moments and, for me, the left hand pizzicatos conjure an image of leaves falling. The double harmonics of Winter speak of chill and bleakness.

Jean-Luc Richardoz is joined by Patricia Reibaud for L'Étoile Aldébaran for 2 Violins. Dated 2004, it grew from a love of the sky by two violinist friends of the composer. For me, it's the highlight of this disc. The surging luminous harmonies portray the celestial vastness and the effect is, at times, quite hypnotic. Towards the end, the star's mercurial activity adds spice to the mix.

Cast in the key of D major, the four brief études  Lucky Ways (2007) are, as their title suggests, upbeat, playful and, at times, reflective. These delicious cameos exploit the violin's technique in a variety of ways. So too does the last piece on the CD, Partons, ô mon âme - Caprice for Violin of 1994. Translated, the title means "Let us Leave, O my Soul", from a poem by Walt Whitman. Rhythmic buoyancy and diaphanous sonorities result in a scintillating fusion. Richardoz's kaleidoscopic colours add vibrancy and vitality to this compelling score.

Although this is a new release, the recordings were made back in April 2014. These are highly effective performances which, it’s to be hoped, will win some followers. The booklet notes give a good overview of the individual works.

Stephen Greenbank

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