PIERRE BARTHOLOMÉE (b.1937): Pentacle for 9 Instruments, Opus 60 for 10 Instruments, Le Christ aux Oliviers for Double Choir and Small Ensemble.
Catalogue Number: 11T053
Description: This disc is an 80th birthday tribute to the polymathic composer-conductor-pedagogue and television producer, highlighting key aspects of his 21st-century output. Bartholomée is a difficult composer to categorise, as his stylistic palette, drawing on his long career as conductor and friendships with many important contemporary composers, is very broad. He is, however, not difficult to listen to, admire, or be moved by. Instrumental groupings and thematic material are coerced into collaboration and urgent discourse, often giving an impression of greater complexity and a closer approach to atonality than turns out to be the case on closer acquaintance. Throughout he demonstrates a conductor's ear for precise, inventive and effective instrumentation. The material of the tightly organized Pentacle is restricted, but follows an outline of sonata form in five varied and expressive episodes. Opus 60 was an 80th birthday tribute to Bartholomée's friend and fellow student Jacques Leduc, and is very approachable, especially the irregularly dancing second movement and the hypnotic, almost minimalist third. The work with the greatest immediate emotional impact is Le Christ aux oliviers, a powerful setting of Gérard de Nerval's all but nihilistic poem that relates Christ's Agony in the Garden to contemporary despair (the troubled poet committed suicide two years after writing it). Bartholomée's music is rich and almost neo-romantic, though allowing ample dissonance at climactic moments, comparable to his striking Requiem (01M074).