Traces of Passage

Six Degrees

Details

Debussy was one of the leading composers of the impressionistic style, conveying mood and emotion through colour, ambiguous tonality and extended harmonies.

Though at seemingly opposite ends of the continuum of twentieth century music, Debussy’s music left a trace through to the post-war compositions of Messiaen and Boulez.

Messiaen talks about Debussy’s use of colour in Pelleas et Melisande, as having a huge influence on his work and like a cosmic echo, Boulez’s Le Marteau sans maitre uses the surrealist poetry of Rene Char to create a distinctive tint of Debussy exoticism.

Presented by Melbourne Recital Centre and Six Degrees Ensemble

PROGRAM NOTES

The surrealist poet Rene Char said “A poet must leave traces of passage not proof” and through these seminal works by three masterful composers we see how Debussy’s music leaves a echo in the compositions of both Messiaen and Boulez.

Debussy was one of the leading composers of the impressionistic style, conveying mood and emotion through colour, ambiguous tonality and extended harmonies. Though at seemingly opposite ends of the continuum of twentieth century music, Debussy’s music left a trace through to the post-war compositions of Messiaen and Boulez. Messiaen talks about Debussy’s use of colour in Pelleas et Melisande, as having a huge influence on his work and like a cosmic echo, Boulez’s Le Marteau sans maitre uses the surrealist poetry of Rene Char to create a distinctive tint of Debussy exoticism.

Sonata for flute, viola, and harp I Claude Debussy (Arranged for flute, viola and guitar – arrangement Andrea Forderreuther)
Stuart Fisher – guitar Phoebe Green – viola Simone Maurer – flute

This movement is part of a sonata which was the second work in a projected series of six chamber sonatas (of which the composer completed three). The sonata is at once evocative and emotionally ambiguous, with Debussy once remarking that he didn’t know whether it “should move us to laughter or to tears. Perhaps both?” The sonata opens with a freely constructed, ethereal movement marked Pastorale: unfolding as a series of episodes, with five fragmentary but distinct thematic entities which are later recapitulated in a different order to round out the movement’s form.

Fete des Belles Eaux (IV) – Olivier Messiaen. (Arrangement Stuart Fisher)
Arranged for electric guitar and marimba with three players.
Madi Chwasta, Peter Neville & Hamish Upton – Marimba
Stuart Fisher – Electric Guitar

Originally composed for six ondes Martenots, (an early electronic instrument from 1928) this movement is one of an eight movement suite. Messiaen had a fascination for the ondes Martenots, saying that it had “limitless possibilities of attacks, dynamics” and the “ability to create thousands of timbres”. The work was commissioned for the 1937 Paris Exhibition and was used to accompany the movements of the fountains of the exhibition.

Le Marteau sans maitre – Pierre Boulez
Justine Anderson – voice, Madi Chwasta – percussion, Stuart Fisher – guitar, Phoebe Green – viola, Elliott Gyger – conductor, Simone Maurer – flute, Peter Neville – percussion, Hamish Upton – percussion

This seminal, surreal and serial nine movement work was premiered at the Baden-Baden festival in 1955, with Boulez making some small revisions in 1957. Inspired by the surrealist poetry of Rene Char this piece is strangely seductive, with each instrument sharing a timbral connection with the next. The voice, like the flute, uses the breath; flute and viola are mostly monodic; plucked strings are common to viola and guitar; resonators enhance the sound of guitar and xylorimba; vibraphone and xylorimba are struck; and finally, a greater degree of inharmonic content features in the timbres of vibraphone and unhitched percussion alike. These connections are made obvious in the final movement of the piece, when the voice first abdicates semantic content by switching to closed-mouth humming, before being altogether sublimated by the flute. The three Char poems chosen by Boulez for this work are verbally luxuriant with free word-play imagery.

1. Avant “L’Artisanat furieux”
2. Commentaire I de “Bourreaux de solitude”
3. “L’Artisanat furieux”
4. Commentaire II de “Bourreaux de solitude”
5. “Bel édifice et les pressentiments,” version première
6. “Bourreaux de solitude”
7. Après “L’Artisanat furieux”
8. Commentaire III de “Bourreaux de solitude”
9. “Bel édifice et les pressentiments,”

L’artisanat furieux
La roulotte rouge au bord du clou
Et cadavre dans le panier
Et chevaux de labours dans le fer à cheval
Je rêve la tête sur la pointe de mon couteau le Pérou.

Furious Artisanry
The red caravan at the edge of the nail
And corpse in the basket
And workhorses in the horseshoe
I dream my head on the point of my knife,
Peru.

Bourreaux de solitude
Le pas s’est éloigné le marcheur s’est tu
Sur le cadran de l’Imitation
Le Balancier lance sa charge de granit réflexe.

Executioners of Solitude
The step has receded, the walker is silent
On the dial of Imitation
The Pendulum hurls its reflex charge of granite.

Bel édifice et les pressentiments
J’écoute marcher dans mes jambes
La mer morte vagues par dessus tête
Enfant la jetée promenade sauvage
Homme l’illusion imitée
Des yeux purs dans les bois
Cherchent en pleurant la tête habitable.

Beautiful Building and Premonitions
I hear walking in my legs
The dead sea, waves over my head
Child the wild jetty-promenade Man the imitate illusion
Pure eyes in the woods
Seek, crying, the head in which to live.

Six Degrees Ensemble is dedicated to performing works from the canon of 20th and 21st Century. The ensembles variety of instrumentation is formed from across several generations of experienced Melbourne musicians who have a passion and bold commitment to performing lesser known works.

PROGRAM

Claude Debussy (arr. Andrea Forderreuther)
Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp (I) (arranged for guitar,viola and flute)

Olivier Messiaen (arr. Stuart Fisher)
Fete des Belles Eaux (IV) (arranged for electric guitar and marimba – 3 players)

Pierre Boulez
Le Marteau sans Maître

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