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Anthony GIRARD (b. 1959)
Éloge de la candeur
In Praise of Candor. Sonata for oboe and piano (2017) [26:48]
Apotheosis of Melancholy for cor anglais and piano (2016) [16:09]
Epilogue in Trio for flute, oboe and piano (1984) [9:27]
Eleven short pieces for oboe and piano (1982) [7:14]
Jean-Pierre Arnaud (oboe and cor anglais)
Patrick Kirchhoff (flute)
Geneviève Girard (piano)
rec. 2017, Paris

The first thing to say about Anthony Girard’s music is that it’s pleasantly melodic and lyrical. His influences are medieval polyphony, traditional Indian music and certain minimalist music. These he welds into his scores, which are further spiced up with modal and polymodal harmonies. His unique style is further nourished by mystic and poetic texts. Look further and you’ll find conflicting emotions – nostalgia and anxiety on one hand, and light, joy and simplicity on the other. He can boast about 250 compositions to his name, and his music has featured on such labels as Naxos (review), Pavane and Harp and Company (review). He was born in New York in 1959 and was a graduate of the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique in Paris, where he was the recipient of several prizes. He also studied musical history at the Sorbonne. Since 2012 he has been teaching orchestration and musical analysis in Paris. This is the second recording of his music that I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing. The previous release focused on works for the violin (review).

That light, joy and simplicity I mentioned in the opener permeates the Sonata for Oboe and Piano. Textures are lithe and lissom, and the first movement is conversational in nature; a genial dialogue between the two players. The middle movement exploits the lyrical qualities of the instruments, with the scherzo-like finale being spry and spirited.

The wistful, plaintive and sombre character of the cor anglais is exploited to the full in the two-movement Apotheosis of Melancholy. The piano’s role in the first movement is cast in an accompanying role, supporting the cor anglais’ mournful wanderings. The following movement is one of doubt and questionings.

The fickle Epilogue in Trio vacillates between several moods. Capricious and mercurial, it’s at once playful, then plagued with doubt and despair.

The earliest score here is the Eleven Short Pieces for Oboe and Piano, dating from 1982. Concision seems to be the determining factor, with the majority of the pieces lasting no more than thirty seconds. Of all the works on the CD, this sounds the most modern and abstract. As well as exploiting the sonorities of both instruments, there’s a wide spectrum of rhythms and colour on show.

This is an enjoyable release, beautifully recorded. The performers obviously have an affinity for Girard’s music and play with a sense of shared purpose. The result is compelling and captivating.

Stephen Greenbank

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