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Michael JARRELL (b. 1958)
...prisme/incidences... (1998)a [15:02]
Sillages (2005)b [17:06]
Trois Etudes de Debussy (1992) [12:49]
Abschied (2001)c [19:05]
Hae-Sun Kang (violin)a; Emmanuel Pahud (flute)b; Paul Meyer (clarinet)b; François Leleux (oboe)b; Marino Formenti (piano)c
Orchestre de la Suisse Romande/Pascal Rophé
rec. Victoria Hall, Geneva, July, October, December 2005
AEON AECD0752  [64:39]
Experience Classicsonline

Michael Jarrell’s ...Prisme/incidences... for violin and orchestra is structured as a large-scale arch. The music starts hesitantly with the violin playing a repeated note. The ambit progressively widens while the orchestra joins in with increasing vehemence. Most of the time the soloist holds the front rank in turn opposing the massive orchestral forces and being engulfed by them. The music of the soloist is often of meditative character although it never shies away from nervous outbursts either in response to the orchestra’s angry assaults or in an attempt to assert itself. As is now often the case in similar concertante works, the orchestra often functions as a huge resonating box for the soloist’s part. This is not a proper concerto, but rather a piece in which the soloist often appears as a primus inter pares; and, although it is not designed to showcase the soloist’s virtuosity, the solo part is nonetheless demanding both in terms of technique and – most importantly – of musicality. Hae-Sung Kang, whom I heard last year in Pintscher’s en sourdine - a work similar to Jarrell’s - is a beautifully equipped musician whose assured technique unquestionably equals musicality. She is the perfect soloist for such a demanding work as this, which she plays with confidence and commitment.
Sillages is scored for three wind soloists (flute, clarinet and oboe) and orchestra. The title aptly suggests what the music is about: “undulations, waves, backwash or eddies”. It is also clearly reflected in the fluid writing for the solo winds. The music appropriately enough moves in waves, at times mighty or peaceful, in a succession of strongly contrasting moods. Again not a virtuosic concerto. Yet another work calling for confident technique and musicality, which this formidable trio of soloists possesses in plenty.
“The initial idea was that of a spiral developing almost infinitely”. This is how Jarrell originally conceived his work for piano and orchestra Abschied. Personal events, in fact his father’s death when he was at work on this piece, had some impact on the structure, which is roughly laid-out in two sections played without a break. The opening torrential section - an unrelenting Toccata - clearly reflects the composer’s original intent, whereas the second is conceived as a gesture of farewell (“Abschied” in German), although it too is not without its angry moments.
Trois Etudes de Debussy is the only purely orchestral work and the earliest work in this release. Debussy’s Preludes and some other piano pieces been orchestrated before - one thinks of Colin Matthews’ orchestration; there have been others - but the Etudes do not seem to have attracted as much attention. There may be purely practical or technical reasons that have prevented composers attempting an orchestration. Jarrell, however, took up the challenge by scoring three of the Etudes: Pour les notes répétées, Pour les sonorités opposées and Pour les accords … and quite successfully. His scoring for standard orchestra, such as Debussy himself might have used, sounds perfectly “Debussy-ish” and is nicely balanced without overdoing Debussy’s music. Jarrell does not make these short piano works larger than life. In short, these orchestrations are superbly done and quite enjoyable.
I have long been ‘hooked’ by Michael Jarrell’s music which I find gripping, often beautiful and strongly communicative for all its complexity. There are no exceptions here and all the pieces are well served by committed and convincing readings. The recording and the production are well up to Aeon’s high-quality standards. A magnificent release.
Hubert Culot


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