Laurence Equilbey / Accentus

Philippe Manoury: Inharmonies

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Philippe Manoury is not a composer whose music is especially well-known in the English-speaking world, but he is one of the leading French composers of his time. This disc of his a cappella choral works should appeal not only to fans of new music for chorus, but anyone who enjoyed György Ligeti's numinous Requiem and Lux aeterna in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Manoury has a strong background in electronic music, and that interest is evident in his atmospheric, often diaphanous webs of sound. For the most part he dispenses with any clearly defined feeling of pulse, creating an otherworldly atmosphere of gradually evolving harmonies and textures. In some of the pieces, like Fragments d'Héraclite, the text is set plainly enough to be comprehensible, but in others, like Slova, the texts are largely lost in the complex of multilayered textures. When a pure consonance blooms out of a glowing, harmonically dense cloud, its clarity can be as radiant as a shaft of sunlight. The mysterious and evocative Fragments d'Héraclite, in which the singers also play small metallic percussion instruments and incorporate extended vocal techniques into the fabric of sound, is the most immediately engaging piece. While it couldn't in any way be called conventional, its harmonies are more transparent than those of the other works, and its interweaving of solo voices with the choral textures give it an appealing textural variety. Accentus, led by its founder Laurence Equilbey, delivers another of its irreproachable performances of phenomenally difficult music (in Inharmonies they are required to sing microtones); one can only listen in amazement to their consistently pure tone and confident, precise delivery. The recordings were made at various European concerts, and the sound is unusually clean and clear for a live performance.

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