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London, 2020

The French composer Mathieu Karsenti is steadily building a logical progression to his solo projects. For each release, the focus seems to be on an instrument and a concept; the cello — Cello Prayers, the violin — Aitaké Suite for Violin, the percussions — Movements, the guitar — Guitar Impromptus, and now the viola with the composer’s latest self-release Viola Abstractions. Karsenti is always in the world of the imaginary and pictorial and it is no surprise that his latest project revolves around a painting concept. Another habit that the composer has taken over the last couple of years is the composition of an homage to the ones that influenced him (Tavener, Bach, Satie, Debussy…) and with his latest project, the spotlight is on Holst.


Since the release of Aitaké, there is always an Asian flavour to Karsenti’s music; in "Abstraction Number One", it is reflected by the use of pizzicati on the viola and pentatonic scales. Contemplatively, the piece is built on musical fragments that give the sensation that — rather than evolving through time — the music stays in one place and continually morphs, just like an ever changing pictorial landscape. "Abstraction Number Two" has a very impressionistic approach too, and exposes the fragile quality of the viola. Similarly to the first abstraction, the piece seems to levitate in one place with the lyricism of the instrument coming and going with no departing point or destination. Musical Möbius strips. Karsenti surprises by sharing one of his lesser known source of inspiration — usually the impressionists and the baroques — with "Lyric Movement after G Holst";  the composer builds a melodic movement inspired by the works of Holst and it is in fact understandable, as the English composer is often cited as being one of the central source of inspiration for film composers. The final piece, "Envolées", is based on an intervallic motif that is introduced several times and after which evolves lyrical ascending developments — the envolées —, until the last one that builds to a climax where soothing appears and closes the project. 


Viola Abstractions is another sublime release from Karsenti. A piece of work that suggests and evokes rather than describes, and allows the listener for his own interpretations. There are some musical personality traits that are no surprise — especially in the vocabulary of the composer — and some unexpected homages — such as the one of Holst. Of course, this most recent project already announces the next one through a wait that will be unbearable until it is revealed. 

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