WORKS: Ce peu de bruit; Ses ailes déployées; Etoiles; L’Obscur est un chemin; Catafalque, Tombeau de Johannes Brahms; Miracles des Soleils; El Borge*
PERFORMER: Geoffroy Couteau, *François-Frédéric Guy (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: ODRCD 314
It’s customary for young composers to accompany new works with detailed pieces of exegesis: Rodolphe Bruneau-Boulmier’s CD benefits – if that’s the right word – from an encomium by musicologist Nicolas Southon. Bruneau-Boulmier’s work is ‘incontestably French by virtue of its refinement, its quest for a certain euphony, its extremely well-crafted writing, its self-restrained lyricism, and its skilful ability to make an acoustic space come into being’. His musical grammar encompasses ‘resonating textures, eruptive figures, powerful hammering, virtuosic toccatas, lyrical spirals across the keyboard’, plus the inevitable ‘mysterious silences’. Name-checked inspirations include Dylan Thomas, Serge Gainsbourg and Walter Benjamin; Brahms, Ravel and Albéniz are acknowledged influences.
Should a critic read this stuff before listening? I did, but it didn’t help. Yet, as played by Geoffroy Couteau, pretty well every bar here is in some way beautiful. This composer creates sound-worlds which – though not exactly tonal – radiate a comforting security, whether with wandering melodic lines or with noisy note-clusters; he manages his contrasts in colour and texture with considerable skill.
But after 20 minutes you realise you’ve heard all Bruneau-Boulmier tricks; each piece is a bright confection, but it’s a catalogue of effects with no dramatic structure. Only in the El Borge four-hand suite – pervaded by the spirits of Granados and Albéniz – does one have any sense of atmosphere or individuality; the residue of the rest is an elegant blur.