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Christophe FRIONNET (b. 1968)
Piano Works
Études poétiques, Op.22 (1993-2004) [41:47]
Sonate éclair No. 3, Op.42 (2010) [4:00]
Barcarolle, Op.46 (2010) [5:19]
Sept clins d’œil à la lune rousse, Op.57 (2016) [3:56]
Petite étude fantôme, Op.58 (2016) [1:45]
Martine Vialatte (piano) (Op. 22)
Jérémie Favreau (piano)
Christophe Frionnet (piano) (Op. 22, No. 9 for 4 hands)
rec. 2004, Maison de la Musique de Nanterre, (Op. 22); 2018, Studio de la Beauelie, France

This is my first encounter with the French composer Christophe Frionnet. He was born in 1968 in Chatou, part of the suburbs of western Paris. He studied composition in Nanterre and Sevran with Philippe Leroux and Claude Ballif, completing his training at the National Conservatory of Music with Paul Méfano, Michaël Lévinas and Jacques Charpentier. It was the music of Xenakis, Stockhausen and François Bayle that ignited his passion for music. Influences have been American composers such as Cage, Ives and Reich, with jazz playing a big part, too. Frionnet is also a poet, and his sixty or so compositions, mainly chamber music, often explore the poetic aspects of music.

This album contains the lion’s share of the composer’s piano works, the most substantial being the 18 Études poétiques, Op.22. They took over ten years to complete and bear a dedication to the pianist on this recording, Martine Vialatte. These short études “oscillates between the abstraction of a pedagogical genre and the sensitive and expressive aura of a prelude”. The cycle opens with No.1– Étude symétrique which is angular and percussive. The glistening tendrils of No.3 – Étude transparente have a diaphanous radiance, beautifully achieved by Vialatte. In No.4 – Étude repetitive, the rhythm is relentless and hypnotic. The spiky rhythm of No.6 – Étude étrange contrasts strikingly with No. 7 – Étude fleurie, where time seems to stand still. The composer joins Viallet in No.9 – Étude à 4 mains. No.14 – Étude proliférante is quirky and capricious, whilst No.15 – Étude pour la main gauche is dark and foreboding. The final one, No.18 – Étude jazzy speaks for itself.

Jérémie Favreau is the pianist in the remaining pieces. Sonate éclair No. 3, Op.42 contrasts low depths with high peaks. Barcarolle, Op.46 moves along with gently rocking rhythms. It was written for the birth of a baby girl, and it slowly ascends throughout to a high register. In the final two pieces, Sept clins d’œil à la lune rousse, Op.57 and Petite étude fantôme, Op.58, both dating from 2016, Favreau achieves of some remarkable colourful sonorities.

These works have the benefit of being beautifully recorded. The booklet notes supply some background and context to the composer and his piano works. The music is challenging, of that there's no doubt, but it will be of interest to those willing to push the boat out and explore wider horizons.

Stephen Greenbank

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