Bechara El-Khoury: Orages

review el khoury x1 cong

We normally distrust modern music that opens with a discordant, explosive crash of instruments, as it’s usually the start of something “challenging”, that only the most arty can understand. In this case it’s OK, because “Orages” is foreign for “storms”, and El-Khoury is describing the storms of his native Lebanon.

They must be big buggers. After the jarring opening, the music quietens down, the lull before the storm, and delicate piano tells of the first few spots of rain; when the storm hits, a wood block seems to take the piano’s place, the drops of rain getting bigger.

Like the storm he (successfully) portrays, the music is wild and dramatic, though not always, and like a big storm, comes and goes, in places a little chaotically. It’s probably sacrilege but untamed nature, dramatic music — in places it reminded us of the theme to Jaws, something wicked this way coming, building to a crescendo and then fading. If it’s not actually like John Williams’ score, the comparison gives you some idea of its power and energy.

Elsewhere on the programme is Espaces-Fragmentations, which reflects on time and was written in the style of Beethoven, performed live between the Second and Pastoral. Poème Nocturne was inspired by French flautist Jean-Pierre Rampal, while closing piece Le Chant D’amour ends in as dramatic a fashion as the opening, though more Richard Strauss than great white.

It’s a dramatic programme so perhaps not for moments of introspection, and it works better on headphones, or at least alone in a quiet room; it needs your attention.

The work features Ariane Douguet, soprano, Orchestre Colonne, Orchestre de Paris, Orchestre National de France and Vicens Prats on flute.

Out on Naxos: 8573617

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