Classical Music Review: New Releases

Yves Prin - Dioscures, Ephémères, Le Souffle d'Iris.  Dioscures (Concerto grosso for flute, violin, clarinet and chamber orchestra); Ephémères (Capriccio for violin and chamber orchestra); Le Souffle d'Iris (Concerto for flute and orchestra).  Pierre Yves Artaud, flute; Philippe Graffin, violin; Pascal Post, clarinet. Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France; Bruno Ferrandis, conductor.  Naxos 8.555347 (49'13).

For those who consider integral serialism as largely a triumph of mind over ear, the three compositions on this disk offer an aesthetic escape from the genre's intellectual rigor.  The music is engaging, richly textured, and has an aural logic that gives each piece unity and a sense of drama.  The composer, Yves Prin (b. 1933), has a distinctive sense of rhythm which often emerges from unexpected corners of the orchestral palette.  While it is claimed that Prin has renounced serialist procedures, the music lacks a tonal center and has a strong affinity with the school of Boulez and ICRAM.  At the same time, Prin seems to be looking back to Messiaen and his pre-serialist atonality.

All three pieces are revisions of earlier compositions which now exist as concertante works.  Dioscures(1977 / rev. 1984) revives the concerto grosso of the Baroque period; however, unlike Schnittke's parodic use of the form, Prin updates the conceit without making reference to its origins.  The three featured instruments appear in various combinations, sometimes floating above the orchestral accompaniment, other times providing rhythmic support, as in the last section when the violin solos over a six-note pattern played by the clarinet and flute.  The music divides itself into four connected parts, seamlessly joined.

Ephémères (1973 / rev. 1992) has its roots in a piece for solo violin entitled Action-Reflex I.  It retains the character of a violin soliloquy; the violin carries the weight of the musical content while the orchestra amplifies, accompanies and sometimes counters the soloist.  Often the orchestra disappears completely, leaving the violin to play an extended cadenza over the void.   While the piece has a subdued character, the writing for violin is often highly virtuosic, but the soloist, Philippe Graffin, is well up to the work's demands.

Similarly virtuosic, but retaining more of the traditional concerto character, is Le Souffle d'Iris (1986 / rev. 1992).  It has a wider range of mood than the previous two pieces and the demands on flautist Pierre-Yves Artaud (who commissioned the work) are even more extreme.  Prin seems to be exploring every possible sound the flute can produce from the sound of air being pushed over the mouthpiece to full out fortissimo shrieks.

Prin is a gifted composer whose works combine a searching lyricism with a firm grasp of compositional form and orchestral color.  Anyone interested in the music of Messiaen will find much to enjoy here.  The playing and sound are first-rate.

Tony Gualtieri
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