GROSLOT: Poème Secret.1, 3 Confused Conversations.2 Hibernaculum.4, 5 The Green Duck.2 The Phoenician Sailor.2, 6 Statement, Reflection & Conclusion / Eline Groslot, hp; Peter Verhoyen, 1fl /2pic; 3Geert Baeckelandt, 4Marja Pavolic, cl; Ann-Sofie Vande Ginste, Gudrun Verbanck, vln; Bieke Jacobus, vla; Lieselot Watté, cel; Stefan De Schepper, pno; Dimitri Mestdag, 5ob/6E-hn; Peter Nuytten, bsn; Eliz Erkalp, Fr-hn; Roel Avonds, bs-tb / Tyxart TXA18113
Here is another disc of chamber music by Belgian composer Robert Groslot, and it is just as fascinating as Matrix in Persian Blue which I recently reviewed. He has a real knack for combining the opaque textures of Debussy with a more driving rhythm and more modern (but not abrasive) harmonies in the manner of Honegger or Françaix. This is immediately apparent in the opener, Poème Secret, scored for harp, flute, clarinet and string quartet, clearly the kind of instrumental combination that someone like Debussy would have reveled in. The music opens with opaque textures but quickly introduces a strong forward propulsion in which the winds and occasionally the strings play fast, double-time figures, then drops into an Andante section before resuming its rapid pace. Whole-tone scales abound in this piece, as well as chromatic chord movement, and Groslot uses the harp sparingly for color.
The piccolo-piano duet Confused Conversations, divided into four short pieces titled “Small Talk,” “Tête-à-tête,” “Whisper” and “Schmooze,” is generally quick, witty music with a hint of Poulenc about it. Indeed, the subtle musical humor that permeates this piece, in the form of abrupt pauses and high-range piccolo twitters against the piano backdrop, is a constant joy to hear. Piccolo player Peter Verhoyen does a splendid job with it. In “Whisper,” Groslot has the piano play a running, single-note line while the piccolo tries to mime it as closely as possible, but after a few pauses they become somewhat disconnected.
Hibernaculum for woodwind quintet returns us to a Debussy/Françaix-like feeling, the opening in particular spacing the instruments out with only a few passages in which they play in concert. Once again, Groslot uses pauses as a composition device to pull the listener in, and once again he introduces witty moments where the quintet plays with a great sense of fun. Once the music really picks up its pace and gets going, the listener is in for a treat, with the contrapuntal lines interspersed with moments of intriguing scoring in which Groslot plays the individual instruments against each other like sections of an orchestra. Eventually the tempo relaxes and we get some really lovely passages as well.
Next up is the piccolo solo, The Green Duck, in which Groslot juxtaposes various musical ideas that just seem to flow into one another. At times the solo instrument creates its own counterpoint while at others it plays humorous spaced notes. The Phoenician Sailor, written for the unusual quartet of piccolo, English horn, bass trombone and piano, begins quietly in an enigmatic mood but quickly has the piccolo and piano play interjected rhythmic figures against the bass trombone line before the entire quartet begins to engage in quicker rhythms, sometimes together but more often with the instruments scored one against the other. Groslot has an outstanding ear for instrumental color, and this is nowhere more evident than in this piece. A few little motifs that remind one of sailor songs also come and go.
The finale, Statement, Reflection and Conclusion, is a flute solo in three brief movements. Once again, Verhoyen captures the mood of the music perfectly with its quirky stop-start motion and clever juxtaposition of various rhythms, some of them syncopated. Some of his music does indeed juxtapose themes, but at times Groslot does develop the music as well. You just never know what you’re going to get from moment to moment, and this is the wonderful thing about his music. All of it somehow fits together, yet it is full of surprises.
Another excellent album filled with good, interesting music, this time geared primarily towards the flute and piccolo.
—© 2019 Lynn René Bayley
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