Pierre-Andre Valade

Joël-François Durand: La terre le feu

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While Joël-François Durand's music developed from various influences of the avant-garde -- most notably from the serialism of Brian Ferneyhough and the textural experiments of the spectral school -- it is transparently organized, attractively colored, and surprisingly accessible, though without compromise or reactionary pandering. For all their surface complexity and elaborate internal processes, Durand's works are never opaque or obfuscatory, but always clearly laid out, so even the lay listener can understand his intentions and appreciate the music's logic without recourse to theoretical justifications. The bright timbres of Durand's oboe concerto, La terre et le feu (1999), the impressive contrasts of Les raisons des forces mouvantes for organ (1996), and the delicate traceries of La mesure des choses III and La mesure de la terre et du feu for oboe and viola (1999), all reveal Durand's meticulous craftsmanship and draw attention to his exceptional orchestrational skills. But Athanor for orchestra (2001) is this disc's most significant work, a broad-brushed essay of layered textures and a slowly evolving, elegiac melody that conveys a deep sense of tragedy, almost with Romantic force. The BBC Symphony Orchestra, under Pierre-André Valade, delivers this monumental score with great clarity and strength. Mode's recording is splendid, carefully balanced to make volume adjustments unnecessary between tracks.

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