French composer Dominique Lemaître is new to me, even though he has written over a hundred works and was born in 1953. I was, therefore, intrigued by this disc and the opportunity to review it. The composer's output encompasses a great variety of music and he has acknowledged a wide range of musical influences. He is particularly fond of the cello and this shows in this very effective offering.
The first work, Orange and Yellow II - Homage to Morton Feldman, was originally written for two violas in 2013 and is part of an ongoing series of duos that started back in 2005. The work is in one movement. As the work is stereophonic in nature, yet the parts intertwine at the same time, a good sound system or stereo headphones are essential. The composer shows great skill in writing for the cello and employs many different techniques to provide a varied and interesting soundscape. The percussive plucked notes, harmonics and playing on or close to the bridge are particularly effective and the eight-minute work is never dull and is performed with consummate skill.
Listen — Dominique Lemaître: Orange and Yellow II
(track 1, 2:00-2:48) © 2020 Dan Barrett :
The second work, Thot (1994), is scored for cello and clarinet and refers to the Egyptian god of scribes and the record keeper of the relationships between things and humans. There is a sensuousness about this music as the two instruments come together, but a sense of the eternal, and timelessness as they grow apart. At times the texture and sounds make you think that more than two instruments are involved, yet at other times, an almost lunar-like emptiness makes one listen intently. This is a beautiful piece encapsulating time and space.
Listen — Dominique Lemaître: Thot
(track 2, 0:00-0:53) © 2020 Dan Barrett :
Mnaïdra for solo cello, written in 1992, takes its name from a bronze age temple situated in the south of the island of Malta. Historically it has been known as 'The temple of bees' or as 'The temple of honey'. Perhaps this is portrayed by the drawn out note that begins each phrase. The accompanying booklet gives a detailed analysis. To quote Claude-Henry Joubert, 'This is a world that has passed, a presence that has disappeared, a voice that has gone silent but of which the echo lingers on, a memory.' To me, this sums up very well this work, especially the second half of it.
Listen — Dominique Lemaître: Mnaïdra
(track 3, 5:13-6:11) © 2020 Dan Barrett :
The composer Henri Dutilleux, who died in 2013, aged ninety-eight, was known to Lemaître. Stances, homage à Henri Dutilleux was written in 2015 as a tribute to this great twentieth century composer, and also to acknowledge his important works for the cello. It also served to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of Dutilleux's birth which occurred the following year. This work is quite substantial, over thirteen minutes long and is scored for cello and piano. It is my personal favourite work on this disc, and echoes of Dutilleux can be felt throughout, in particular of Tout un monde lointain, a Dutilleux work which I also love. This strangely compelling Lemaître work is at times elegiac and at others more impassioned. Even though the work is made up of sixteen adjoined sections and three different pitch 'reservoirs' and tempi, there is a unity that connects the whole work, which is the repetition and extension of the opening note flourish on the piano.
Listen — Dominique Lemaître: Stances
(track 4, 10:18-11:16) © 2020 Dan Barrett :
Lastly, Plus Haut, composed in 2018, evokes an elevation from the earth element to one of air. It is scored for solo cello, is in three sections and is drawn from elements of an earlier concertante work for cello and ensemble that Lemaître wrote in 1999-2000 called Altius. As the work progresses, one senses a feeling of leaving the ground and ascending upwards. This is especially evident in the final section as the melodic line climbs ever higher and with increasing intensity before it dissolves into the distance.
Listen — Dominique Lemaître: Plus haut
(track 5, 8:25-9:24) © 2020 Dan Barrett :
This is a remarkably interesting CD and one that I enjoyed very much. All the artists involved, and especially cellist Dan Barrett, produce truly inspirational music making. The music itself is honest and original, and I would certainly like to hear a lot more by this composer. I hope, even if contemporary music is not your 'thing', that you give this disc a good listening. Unlike much contemporary music, it is easily accessible on first hearing and has much to recommend it.
Copyright © 24 October 2020