The Classics: October 2nd

La Cuisine a l’alto. Sylvain Durantel (viola), Emmanuel Christien (piano), Castang Francois (narrator). Polymnie CD

Nigel Keay, the New Zealand composer living in France since 1998 and based in Paris since 2001, kindly sent me this clever disc with an entertaining theme: music tasted like food in a banquet. After all we "devour" books. Along with 15 other contemporary French composers, Keay was invited to provide a short piece for tasting in the meal where "dishes" used viola and piano as main ingredients, spiced up by the narrator’s interspersed observations and quotations (in French).

Keay’s Moderato a cent d’huitres, among the "entrees" of the recordings, shows the sure taste of a man who plays the viola as his instrument. Composed in 2014 it had already been coupled on several occasions with Opera exotique by Pascal Martines; their performance at a festival in Lancon-Provence leading on to the commissioning of Keay’s latest work, Le loup et l’agneau, performed in July.

Mozart Fellow at Otago University in 1986-87, Keay was composer in residence for the Nelson School of Music and later the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra before freelancing in France. This disc brought him into contact with several other composers and one, organist Dominique Preschez, asked him to write a work for organ. It will be premiered next year in Paris.  Most of the 26 tracks of this disc are entertaining and the French language no deterrent, stirring the pot.  It is good to learn Keay’s talent is appreciated overseas. (His 1991 operatic setting of W.B. Yeats’ play At the Hawk’s Well has been available on YouTube for several years.)

Verdict: "Viola Cooking" proves very tasty.

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