ANTHONY GIRARD: Eloge de la folie (In Praise of Folly); Les Noces d’Orphée (The Marriage of Orpheus); L’Effroi de la nuit froide; (Fear of the cold night); Le Circle de la vie (The Circle of Life) – Geneviève Girard, p./ Jean-Marc Fessard, clarinet/ Fabrice Bihan, cello – Naxos 8.572993, 64: 34 (2/26/13) ***:
Anthony Girard studied at the Paris National Conservatory and has been a theory-composition professor at the Paris Conservatoire à Rayonnement Régional since 2009. His early compositions helped earn him the International Competition of Besançon in 1988, the Paul Belmondo Awards Academy of Fine Arts prize in 1992, and, in 200, the Grand Lycéen Price composers’ award. Girard admits a style that owes something to everything from Des Prez to Debussy to Glass.
This collection of some of Girard’s chamber music is very nice! It speaks clearly and directly to both the performer and listener and is quite enjoyable! As a clarinetist, I was quite taken with the Sonata for clarinet and piano, “In praise of folly”. The subtitle and thematic aspects of the music come from a 14th century poem of the same name which pays homage to the ecstatic dervishes of the near East— specifically Anatolia, Turkey. The fairly brief work contains some nice flourishes for the clarinet and some propulsive, minimalist passages in the piano. Clarinetist Jean-Marc Fessard and pianist Geneviève Girard play quite well together.
The trio, “The Marriage of Orpheus” for clarinet, cello and piano is my favorite work on this disc. The composer describes this work as a “musical fairy tale” although the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice is not directly addressed. Musically, this is a complete delight to listen to. The lines intersect and swirl. The clarinet and cello represent the children of the famous pair; Mystery and Truth. There is a definitely “mysterious” quality to the writing which I greatly admired. The last two minutes of the nineteen rather ebb away to nearly nothing, niente, as the piano plays a repeating figure under the collision of the Greek mythology with the Biblical creation in the garden story. What a nice piece! Fessard, Girard and cellist Fabrice Bihan blend seamlessly.
I have played my fair share of solo clarinet works. The catch to any unaccompanied piece is that there has to be ample variety in register, tone, tempo and dynamic to really hold the attention of the player as well as the listener. “Fear of the cold night” is but a three minute work that contains all these elements and Fessard plays quite well. I am not sure where this work fits in the myriad of works of this type but it is a nice enough, impressive showpiece.
The fairly substantial set of piano preludes, “The Circle of Life”, are written as a sort of circular journey through pairs of opposite emotions; such as ‘joy and sorrow’, ‘anxiety and tranquility’. This well-structured work is divided by the composer into two sets of 12 preludes; the first second set relies on emotions that people go through (as described) while the second is more of a set of “conditions”, like ;’light and dark’, ‘dream and reality’. The concept to Le cercle de la vie is quite intriguing but the music is the main draw. This is a fine work that carries us through several feelings and sounds that are thin and sparse in places and dense, imposing in others. Soloist Geneviève Girard plays quite well.
This is a very nice and quite interesting introduction to the music of Anthony Girard. My favorite works here are Les noces d’Orphée and Le cercle de la vie. I think almost anyone would enjoy those especially, and want to find out more, as I do.