WORKS: Les ruines de Beyrouth Symphony; Colline de l’étrange (Méditation symphonique); Le vin des nuages (Poème symphonique No. 4)
PERFORMER: National SO of Ukraine/Vladimir Sirenko
CATALOGUE NO: 8.557043
Born in Lebanon and resident since his early twenties in France, Bechara El-Khoury has achieved a flow of commissions and, in his mid-forties, the consolidation of a personal, reflective, thoroughly Westernised style of immediate expressive impact which feels quite mid-20th century, with echoes of Mahler, Prokofiev and even Kodály.
Three of the pieces are described as symphonic, as indeed they all are, in the organic rather than the conventional sense. The earliest, a memorial to the ravages of war, is the most ambitious, exploring an emotional and poetic rather than graphic response to the destruction of El-Khoury’s native city. Most distinctive and concise is Harmonies crépusculaires, which he wrote ten years later in memory of the French conductor Pierre Dervaux, one of his principal mentors. Its contrasts are more dramatic, the scoring more varied and the final stages more fatalistic. The other side of that coin is that taken together, the other pieces are a bit similar.
Le vin des nuages, the most recent work here (1997), does, however, end with flamboyant whoops and slides which suggest the composer is moving on to new ground. Everything is played with an energy and intensity that make the CD well worth the time of listeners who follow the orchestral mainstream. Robert Maycock