Cello virtuoso Jan Pas is one the best-kept secrets of Belgian classical music. Although he became the cello solo in the Monnaie Opera Orchestra at a prodigiously young age (18), and now plays in the Staatsoper Stuttgart and the Bayreuther Festspielorchester, he has almost no solo recordings to his name. In order to fill this void, the Evil Penguin gave Pas carte blanche to record his repertoire of choice, a challenge he decided to accept with his long-time musical partner, the Italian pianist Stefano Vismara.
Under the suggestive title Climate Changes, Pas and Vismara track the emergence of the new musical language of the 20th century, from Debussy’s monumental Cellosonata (1915), over Messiaen’s and Poulenc’s mid century classics, to the delicately enigmatic Six Climats by Jan Pas’ compatriot Jacqueline Fontyn’s (°1930), which appropriately rounds off the programme by paying hommage to Debussy’s impressionism as well as to Messiaen’s sensitivity and poetry.
Claude Debussy was a French composer. He and Maurice Ravel were the most prominent figures associated with impressionist music, though Debussy disliked the term when applied to his compositions. He was made Chevalier of the Legion of Honour in 1903. He was among the most influential composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and his use of non-traditional scales and chromaticism influenced many composers who followed.
Debussy's music is noted for its sensory content and frequent usage of non-traditional tonalities. The prominent French literary style of his period was known as Symbolism, and this movement directly inspired Debussy both as a composer and as an active cultural participant Among his most famous works are his Clair de Lune, his Three Nocturnes and his orchestral piece La Mer.
The music by Olivier Messiaen is a combination of devout catholicism, extravagant imagination and love for nature. Initially, he made a name for himself by composing large-scale cycles and verbose titles. At several occasions, Messiaen explicated his intentions, which often included theology, symbology, and extensive considerations of colour, church modes and rhythm. Perhaps ironically, this colour composer was able to leave his mark on the less colourful avant-garde of the 1950s as well. With his 'Mode de valeurs et d'intensités', part 4 of his Quatre études de rythme, pointed the way for his students Stockhausen and Boulez, who developed serialism further. Messiaen's own development is characterised by the integration of birg song, which he recorded in the wild with his sketchbook and tape recorder. The pinnacle of his work is his opera Saint François d'Assise. This colossol work is over four hours long. Its longest scene contains a giant bird choir, with bird species from Umbria (the home country of Saint François) to new Caledonia.