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Classical CD review

Luc Ferrari, ‘Symphonie Déchirée’

LUC FERRARI: Symphonie Déchirées

Ars Nova; Philippe Nahon, director

(L’empreinte digitale)

Like many of his colleagues from the Groupe de recherches musicale, the French electroacoustic-music think tank founded in the 1950s, Luc Ferrari (1929-2005) proved admirably hard to categorize. His “Symphonie Déchirée” (“Torn Symphony”), an hourlong opus for 17 instruments and tape — premiered in 2000 but only now getting its first recorded release, in a superb performance by the Ars Nova ensemble — mixes the found-sound ethos of musique concrète, a wide-ranging palette of styles, and an underlying philosophical curiosity about the nature of sound and listening. It’s a bricolage held together by Ferrari’s confident, unabashed sense of musical drama.

“A sort of balance,” Ferrari wrote, “between revolt and voluptuousness,” the symphony shifts between taped montages and instrumental virtuosity, violence and diversion, even seriousness and mischief: There’s a “Play of Objects” (a stop-and-go creep of glissandi and wah-wah trumpet), a “Play of Timbres” (a rhythmic grid of pop-cheer that slowly falls apart), a “Play of Reflections” (a pair of intricate musical mirrors, glinting then submerged, separated by a grand, prerecorded splash). But the games turn fierce, and the sounds hit harder and harder. Ferrari’s tools — sampling, looping, cross-cutting — were long ago assimilated into a more benign mass culture, but here they flash uncomfortably, beguilingly sharp.

Matthew Guerrieri can be reached at matthewguerrieri@gmail.com.
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