Cosmic Trilogy [Aleph – Une lueur dans l’âge sombre – Supernova]
The Shining One
Eric Le Sage (piano)
Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Recorded 2 & 3 July 2009, Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: January 2010
CD No: CHANDOS
CHSA 5076 [CD/SACD]
Duration: 52 minutes
With a burst of energy and colour, Aleph (2007/2009) bursts in and develops – with a nod to John Adams (one might find a hint of Malcolm Arnold in there, too) – to a fast and bubbling soundscape, a joyous beginning to the Guillaume Connesson’s Cosmic Trilogy, very likeable if derivative music that would not be out of place accompanying an action-movie set in space (if John Williams hadn’t already accepted the commission).
Aleph is a kaleidoscopic ‘overture’ to this three-part work and is followed by Une lueur dans l’âge sombre (A Glimmer in the Age of Darkness, 2005), which begins in infinite terms, the musical influences yielding to an Indian raga, and expanding into expression of aching intensity and graphic description, with sultry, nocturnal colours in the ruminative middle section, and rising, in the final part, to a climax of Hollywood aspiration.
Spectral colours inform the opening of Supernova (1997/2006) and, by now, one is aware of similar ideas and procedures that perhaps question whether Cosmic Trilogy should be approached as a whole; better, it seems, to take each piece on its own terms, for although Supernova lacks nothing in atmospheric promise, giant rhythmic strides, and variegation (Connesson, born 1970, clearly has a Frenchman’s ear for orchestration), for all the separation of composition dates (if not the revisions), a sameness creeps in to question the enterprise as a whole.
Which is not to deny the superlative performances delivered by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Stéphane Denève (Une lueur dans l’âge sombre is dedicated to him, and Aleph is a wedding present to him and his wife-to-be, Asa) or the knockout sound provided by Chandos.
To close the release is The Shining One (2009), a deft, 9-minute showpiece composed for Jean-Yves Thibaudet and inspired by Abraham Merritt’s novel “The Moon Pool”. It’s a brilliant confection, as befits the title, and if it’s somewhat overstating the case to term it a concerto, there’s a twinkle in the eye here on Connesson’s part that could make The Shining One a much-played and much-loved miniature. Once again, the performance and the sound are superb.