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Oesterle, Provost, Tremblay & Luis de Pablo

Nouvel Ensemble Moderne/Lorraine Vaillancourt

Michael Oesterle Annus Mirabilis (2005)
Serge Provost Les Ruines du Paradis (2004)
Gilles Tremblay A Quelle Heure Commence Le Temps? (1999) with Michel Ducharme, baritone

Atma Classique ACD22376 UK Distributor Coda Distribution [mailto: info@codadistribution.co.uk]

Luis De Pablo:
Paraiso y 3 danzas macabras

Segunda lectura
Razon Dormida (Sleeping Reason)

Nouvel Ensemble Moderne/Lorraine Vaillancourt

ATMA Classique ACD22353

These discs have been received for review from Coda Distribution, which has newly aquired this distinguished Canadian label. Lorraine Vaillancourt's ensemble, which she founded in 1989, can be compared with London Sinfonietta or - better - with Odaline de Martinez's Lontano. It is world class, with an impressive roster of recordings on ATMA.

Provost & Oesterle were unfamiliar names. Michael Oesterle's Five Perspectives to Celebrate Albert Einstein's Year of Miracles was inspired by the centenary of the then young physicist's key discoveries culminating in the famous equation E=MC². Oesterle uses variable speeds and pulses to represent 'unruly movement of atoms and molecules'. Both Einstein and this composer were amateur violinists, came from Germany and were connected with Princeton University. The attractive, rhythmic music evolves through 'autonomy and interependence'.

Serge Provost teaches composition and musical analysis at Montreal Conservatoire and integrates technology into his work. His Ruins of Paradise was inspired by architecrural drawings and photos at the Venice Biennale 2000, and comprises variations on a 25-note sequence, growing in length progressively and 'revealing its transformative potential'. Dreamy music at first, exploring thoughts of Paradise? Hell? Fights... hope.... peace...? Both these works encourage further exploration of their composers' music.

Gilles Tremblay's Lyrical Monodrama is a substantial and demanding work requiring the bass-baritone to sing for twenty-five minutes a searching, philosophical text by Bernard Levy, treating of metaphysical questions about When does time begin? There is a two page summary by the composer, translated ably by Liz Bennet, but the sung text is unidiomatically rendered by one S. Miller-Sanchez, demonstrating the importance of translators' own national languages; e.g. Je suis éclaté becomes I have shattered ! And, quite unnecessarily, the pagination of the booklet requires unstapling to read the original and English versions in parallel alongside each other... Otherwise, the performances and recordings of these works are excellent and the 26-page booklet is well produced and fully informative.

It has been a particular pleasure to revisit the music of Luis de Pablo (b.1930), who "dragged Spain out of the cultural isolation where Francoism had buried it". There was a time when I saturated myself in this composer and friend's work, culminating in my contributing towards sponsoring his residency at the Huddersfield Festival, where his Segunda lectura had its British premiere. The vagaries which confront foreign based composers in UK are nicely illustrated by my seemingly fruitless championship of this major Spanish - and internationally famous - composer. At Huddersfield, de Pablo's music made a great effect given by London Sinfonietta, but when they returned to London with a closely similar programme, Luis de Pablo's work was incomprehensibly omitted. Another significant and very "useful" smaller work, de Pablo's Monologuè for solo viola, was premiered by Morgan Goff during the same weekend when he was Featured Composer... I doubt whether either of them has been given again in this country - other projects foundered, including one of his operas - which got as far as casting for Sadlers Wells - and now time has moved on.

This by Lorraine Vaillancourt and NEM is the third CD recording of Segunda lectura, which must say something significant, and it's maybe the best; I characterised its first recording thus: Segundo Lectura (1992) is a powerful distillation and concentration of the music of Senderos del aire (Tokyo, 1987) for large orchestra including saxophone and steel drums, and described by de Pablo as "a continuous metaphysical question mark, a stormy sonorous adventure based on the image of a grim, threatening, wind, swept landscape". Comparison of the two versions, both available on CD, demonstrates the composer's keen ear and sure command of instrumental and orchestral timbres. Razón dormida, the latest work on the Canadian disc, returns to de Pablo's fascination with the dark, 'deep pessimism' of Goya, though the vitality of this score belies that to some extent.

Luis de Pablo continues to fulfil a busy programme of commissions, composition master classes, and attendances at international premieres worldwide - excepting UK ! De Pablo's is a remarkable case of an internationally renowned senior composer, a declared Anglophile who was once regularly featured in London's long-defunct Almeida Festival but gradually became virtually ignored here. Without continuing live concert exposure and promotion, composers can quickly become forgotten; if any readers care about Luis de Pablo, I should be delighted to publish their comments.

Peter Grahame Woolf