Friday, March 01, 2013

CCC 061 - Philippe Hersant

French composer Philippe Hersant is the subject of this installment of the Consonant Classical Challenge . Hersant is a relatively young composer who's already made a name for himself. Hersant's style has an exotic lyricism to it that fits well with instruments as well as the human voice. He currently serves that the resident composer for the Orchestre national de Lyon, and with good reason.

While Hersant is essentially a tonal composer, his harmonies are quite complex. To my ears, his music has some similarities to that of Debussy and Ravel. Hersant has also composed for film, which perhaps explains his ability to connect with an audience. His music is atmospheric and emotionally charged, which makes it perfectly suited for film.

Piece for Orchestra No. 5 provides a good introduction to Hersant's basic style. The music ebbs and flows in an impressionistic manner. The thick textures of the harmony change in subtle ways as the piece progresses.



Hersant's neo-impressionist style works as well for solo instruments as it does for ensembles. Bamyan for solo harp is a good example. Without relying on cliched glissandos, Hersant's music makes the instrument shimmer and sparkle in soft clouds of sound.


Hersant can write straight-forward melodies, too. 10 Caprice for 2 clarinets shows that ability. These short, to-the-point pieces are little more than melodic sketches, and delightful ones at that.


Hersant has composed a number of important concertos. His catalog includes two cello concertos, a violin concertos and a large work for piano and orchestra. It also includes Musical Humors, a work for solo viola and string orchestra. The triadic clusters that create the chords are very much part of the musical language of the 21st Century, for both pop and classical.


Philippe Hersant composes music that has a clear connection to the past -- but it's not mired in it. While I hear the influences of Debussy and Ravel, his music could not have been written at the turn of the 20th Century; only at the turn of the 21st. Modern audiences -- especially the younger elements -- should find a lot to connect to in his music. I'd love to hear more of his music. Perhaps an orchestra or two on this side of the Atlantic will take a chance sometime.

Recommended Recordings

La ville Louvre (soundtrack by Philippe Hersant)

Hersant: Paysages avec ruines, Im fremden Land, Chants du Sud & Missa Brevis

HERSANT: Musiques pour cordes

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