FRANÇOIS TOUSIGNANT (b.1955-2019): Conflits, 4 incantations (Myriam Leblanc [soprano]), La muse vénale (Vincent Ranallo [baritone]), Anatole, sans paroles, Harpsichord Sonata, Histoire, Étude pour Shayol No. 3, 3 paysages proustiens (Catherine St-Arnaud [soprano]).
Catalogue Number: 07X053
Reference: CMCCD 28821
Description: "At present, a conclusion on the topic of François Tousignant’s artistic career cannot be anything but provisional." So say the booklet notes about this interesting, highly accomplished, and equally highly original composer (who appears not to have made matters any easier for an appraisal of his work to take place by refusing to make any concessions whatsoever to public taste). In brief, he seems to have been a private, introverted individual, personality characteristics that are reflected in his music; he studied with unreconstructed disciples of Schoenberg and Webern, adopted the results as his personal style, and never wavered from that path when it became too modern for the conservatives or too conservative for the avant-gardistes; devoted to literature and poetry, all the works of his last years are multimedia collaborations; and he died young (63) leaving 40-odd works. The overriding impression given by all these works is just how elegant, non-confrontational, beautiful, and approachable atonal music can be. Tonal referents are few and far between, but they do occur to underline moments of resolution in the texts, though there is scant sense of a "reprieve" from the atonal vocabulary, Tousignant evidently feeling that that idiom contained all the expressive potential he needed. The early vocal settings - one to his own text, one to Baudelaire's - are characteristically economical, with tension and drama aplenty, and free use of modern vocal techniques as appropriate, but all in the service of an introverted inner monologue. The eight short movements of Anatole, and the harpsichord sonata are if anything, even less demonstrative and more economical, though maintaining a remarkable level of dramatic tension and a sense of narrative more commonly associated with music with a clear sense of tonal direction. Both works contain episodes of intense rhythmic drive, lest anybody misinterpret the composer as some kind of passionless automaton; this is the reverse of the impression given by the music even at its most spare and ascetic. Trois paysages, setting passages of Proust in a decorative matrix of percussion, piano and a rather primitive (by modern standards) synthesizer, combines exquisite melismatic vocal writing with economical, scintillant gestures and glowing, shimmering textures that sound like little illustrative marginalia or illustrations interpolated into the texts, limned in rich, glowing colors, more than a conventional accompaniment. The result is hypnotic, enigmatic, and marvelously evocative. 2 CDs. Ensemble Paramirabo; Jeffrey Stonehouse (flute).