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A grand introductory outburst leads to the chorale-like opening statement of Poème No 1; resolving into a sweeping Rachmaninovian core with marvelously melodic sidetracks. One can't help feel that given more frequent performances this Poème may well become a widely-recognised audience favourite.

Poème No 2 [listen -- track 6, 1:42-2:58] is a more weighty, grim affair but once more El-Khoury is intent on allowing for segments of relaxed, richly scored respite. Here again fleeting echoes of S Rachmaninov are in evidence. Like the Poème No 1 (above) of a year earlier this is large scale, richly creative music.

Serenade No 1, Op 10 Feuilles d'Automne ('Autumn Leaves') speaks for itself; a beautifully crafted miniature; its melancholic dying fall is immediately appealing. Serenade No 2, Op 20 [listen -- track 8, 5:00-6:24] is somewhat more disturbed in mood but equally assured in its string writing.

The provenance of these recordings is varied; NB Pierre Dervaux (at various times principal conductor, Opéra de Paris, vice president of Concerts Pasdeloup, director of Québec's Orchestre Symphonique and music director for Nice Opéra) died in 1992, aged 75. Track 1 is a live 1988 performance from the Salle Pleyel, Paris; where the Piano Concerto (Tracks 2,3,4) was recorded in 1986. The remaining tracks (5,6,7 and 8) are from Eglise Notre-Dame du Liban, Paris (September-October 1983).

At times there is a little defecit in orchestral inner detail but overall this release is a valuable addition to the Bechara El-Khoury oeuvre. Pierre Dervaux championed this music and his performances are evidently sanctioned by the composer who also speaks glowingly of Naxos' 'modus operandi'.

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Copyright © 6 November 2007 Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand


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