MANTOVANI Chamber Music
Paul Klee’s ‘taking a line for a walk’ has been cited by many composers, though the result invariably underlines the profound differences between painting and music. Bruno Mantovani’s Cinq Pièces pour Paul Klee for cello and piano is one of the five works on this disc – all written between 2006 and 2008 – that take lines for runs rather than walks, seeking to maintain perceptible continuity within structures that resonate with traditional musical associations. Maintaining continuity is easy enough; the challenge is to invent sufficiently varied contexts of space, time and colour to avoid the sense – all too frequent here – of lines revolving in ever-narrowing circles rather than making purposeful yet unpredictable forward progress.
D’une seul voix for violin and cello is the most successful item, the absence of the piano forcing Mantovani to resist his tendency to expansive rhapsodising. But the more explicit the associations with the past, the more questionable his modes of musical characterisation become. In Huit Moments musicaux the lines spin their way through pitches derived from Schubert’s name, while All’ungarese alludes to Bartók in what the composer describes as ‘the most discontinuous score in my catalogue’. Both works nevertheless seem to have more to do with marking time, with seeking to prevent lines exploding out into wider musical spaces and those more diverse colouristic and formal perspectives that might threaten if not actually destroy such simple continuities. The performers evidently find the music rewarding, but Mantovani’s comment on Suonare – that the music, ‘for all its virtuosity, tends towards an impression of slowness’ – is all too relevant throughout: taking a line for a run means running on the spot.