Susanna Mälkki

Philippe Manoury: Fragments pour un portrait; Partita No. 1

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Philippe Manoury (born 1952) is an unashamed modernist, but his works have an immediate sensual and intellectual appeal that should make them of interest to broad audiences. His rhythmic vocabulary, while not simple, is straightforward and easy to follow, and his harmonic language is richly chromatic but not grindingly dissonant. Most importantly, his works have a comprehensible dramatic arc; this is music that is telling a story, one compelling enough to demand the interest of listeners paying close attention. Each of the movements of Fragments pour un portrait, 7 pieces for a mixed ensemble of 30 instruments, is strongly differentiated, with a distinctive sound world and narrative direction. Its suggestive titles are clear enough to put the listener in a particular receptive mindset, but vague enough to leave it up to the listener to figure out how the title relates to musical content. The work's centerpiece, for instance, Night (with turbulence), unequivocally evokes a nocturnal landscape that is troubled by mysterious and vaguely sinister forces. Susanna Mälkki leads Ensemble InterContemporain in a precise and subtle reading of the score. Fascinating and luminous orchestral colors are a strength of Manoury's music, and in Partita I for viola and electronics in real time, while the instrumentation necessarily narrows the available diversity of timbres, he creates considerable interest with the layering and electronic manipulation of the viola part. Written in nine continuous movements and lasting over 40 minutes, it's a more demanding piece, but the fertility and coherence of his invention reward close listening. Violist Christophe Desjardins turns in a focused and passionate account of the virtuosic solo part. Kairos' sound is absolutely clean but not sterile, and nicely atmospheric.

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