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Anthony GIRARD (b.1959)
Behind the Light – Sonata for violin and piano (2005) [23:54]
L'oiseau d'éternité for piano solo (2011) [11:26]
Deux pièces d'après Marc Aurèle for cello and piano (2000-2001) [13:49]
Vers le ciel for cello and piano (1987) [11:34]
Isabelle Flory (violin), Fabrice Bihan (cello), Geneviève Girard (piano)
rec. July 2010 - March 2013, Théâtre d’Arras (Vers le ciel); Conservatoire à Rayonnement Régional, Paris, France.
NAXOS 9.70221 [60:42]

Editorial advice to MusicWeb International contributors includes the very sensible suggestion that if the music is likely to be unfamiliar, the review should give some idea of what it sounds like. So if I say Anthony Girard sounds at times like a sort of “Debussy meets minimalism” I do not think that would be misleading. That's true, at least in the case of the violin sonata, even though no-one could possibly mistake these pieces for anything by Girard’s great French predecessor or by Glass or Adams. Despite the title of “violin sonata”, there is also little to evoke the Austro-German sonata-form tradition. One soon stops worrying about sources, for it does not take long to sense that there is an original voice here, whoever else the sound-world might evoke.

The first and longest work certainly begins in a magical buttonholing fashion, as a shimmering upper register piano accompaniment sets the scene for a soaring and often fluttering violin solo. This ecstatic lyrical string writing is marked “with wings”, and does indeed at times suggest a Gallic Lark Ascending. The improvisatory and rhapsodic mood - and the shimmering accompaniment - is sustained almost throughout the nearly 24 minute length of the sonata’s three continuous sections. This is a tribute both to the subtly evolving invention of the composer and the concentration of the violinist and pianist. They and the cellist play with style and skill throughout this well recorded CD.

The piano solo work on the disc, L'oiseau d'éternité, aims to evoke “the bird of eternity whose singing gives us access to a soundscape where time no longer exists” - which could be one definition of minimalism. Evocative it certainly is, but not so much of timelessness as of “wonderment at the miraculous bird” to quote the composer’s own booklet note. Here the background reference might be less Debussy than Satie or even Messiaen perhaps — and not just because of the depiction of a bird. The Two Pieces for cello and piano “after Marcus Aurelius” inhabit the same world as this, with the second of them – “The Soul of the World” definitely suggesting time standing still. The composer calls it music “denuded of all but the essentials”. The first of these two pieces, ‘the River of Time” by contrast begins rapidly before winding down with many a repeated phrase, to a hushed stasis. The last piece is much the earliest dating from 1987 and not surprisingly sounds a little more conventional than the other works, but still relates to them with a certain kinship of mood and voice. That said, it is those first two hypnotic works, the violin sonata and the piano solo, that I shall return to on this disc.

Roy Westbrook



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