DEMIS VISVIKIS (b.1951): Les Astres
Catalogue Number: 12Q062
Reference: SYR 141462
Description: This is a major, large-scale and ambitious piece comprising a trilogy of works; "The Star of Life", "The Star of Light", "The Star of Love". The composer's note portrays the work as a sort of cosmological, philosophical meditation. If this all sounds a bit hand-wavingly New Age, don't worry; the music isn't like that at all. The pieces are divided into distinct sections, giving each the impression of a kind of extended sonata structure, with clearly defined themes, freely developed. The composer's style encompasses a range of distinct influences: neo-romantic bravura piano writing or colorful washes of neo-impressionism; persistently recurring gestures strongly reminiscent of Messiaen - harmonically saturated chords, ecstatic dancing passages, widely divided in register, with complex internal polyrhythmic meters; and decorative figuration that sound suspiciously like birdsong. Some extended passages feature persistent rhythmic ostinati accompanying straightforwardly tonal chord sequences, sometimes giving an impression of minimalism, sometimes a more traditional approach to figuration over aground bass, while slower, meditative sections have a suggestion of 'new spirituality' about them. Subtle, unstable harmonic ambiguity, based on combinations of non-diatonic scales, imply a kind of modality - recalling the innovations of Busoni and Foulds, in their distinctive styles, in the early twentieth century. In places, ornate figuration in this kind of extended tonality suggests Sorabji's 'tropical nocturne' genre (though not a trace of his elaborate use of Baroque formal devices). Interestingly, although the music displays this diversity of clearly defined influences, they tend to occur sequentially, in successive episodes, rather than being combined into one unified aesthetic. The scope of the work, and the overall consistency of language provides a greater sense of coherence than might easily have been the case with this degree of stylistic diversity. Jean Dubé (piano).