Guy Rickards, Gramophone, May 2022
Ensemble Fractales a specialist new music chamber group comprising flautist Renata Kambarova, clarinetist Benjamin Maneyrol, violinist (and occasional viola player) Marion Borgel, cellist Diego Coutinho and pianist Gan Ponte.
The ensemble’s diverse origins (France, Brazil, Uzbekistan) have nurtured their cosmopolitan approach, and the composers featured here hail from France (Claude Ledoux), Italy (Salvatore Sciarrino and Maurizio Azzan) and Estonia (Elis Hallik). This inaugural recording is released to celebrate their 10th birthday in 2022. These works all require Maneyrol to play bass clarinet: indeed, Azzan’s 20-minute- long Of Other Spaces (2017) eschews the regular clarinet altogether – the flute, too, for a piccolo. It takes its cue from a passage in a 1966 lecture by Foucault. At the work’s heart is a passage of an intensity – ferocity, even – that reminded me forcibly of the young Penderecki. Extraordinary as the sonorities are, the structure sprawls somewhat and overall, I did not find the work convincing. Azzan’s spatial dispositions do not really come over well in the otherwise clear recording. The largest work is Claude Ledoux’s Erotique-Lancinante (2018; literally ‘Erotic-Thrilling’), a sonically beguiling triptych also based (at least partly) on a literary quotation, from André Breton. The three movements (the titles translate roughly as ‘Look at me …’, ‘Tell me …’ and “Erotic …’) follow a specific emotional trajectory deriving in part from Rousseou’s painting The Snake Charmer – hence the flute’s central role. I warmed less to Sciarrino’s Arioso a cinque 2O18), which he revised especially for the ensemble in 2019. The textures are too fractured and the arioso eluded me.
Elis Hallik’s To Become a Tree (2016), by contrast, is sharp and to the point, a lyrical study of the continuing conflict between the technological and the natural worlds that inspired Einar Englund’s Blackbird Symphony back in 1947. Fine sound. committed performances, a fascinating listen.