> GRISEY Quatre Chants Dubosc 0012252KAI []: Classical Reviews- March 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Gérard GRISEY (1946 – 1998)

Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil (1997/8)
Catherine Dubosc (soprano); Klangforum Wien; Sylvain Cambreling
Recorded: WDR Funkhaus, October 2000
KAIROS 0012252KAI [41:34]


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Gérard Grisey was the foremost exponent of what is generally referred to as 'French spectral music', which has also attracted some composers from other countries as well, albeit briefly, such as Gilles Tremblay, Magnus Lindberg and Kaija Saariaho to name but a few. In his earlier pieces such as Périodes (1974) and Partiels (1975) which became part of his huge cycle Les espaces acoustiques (1974 – 1985), his music was fairly radical in its approach to sound of which noise was also seen as an important component. However, in his later music, some new traits became more evident including a liking for lush harmonies and for expression, such as in the closing piece of Les espaces acoustiques, the brilliant Epilogue (1985) scored for large orchestra or the very fine Le temps et l’écume, so that the new-found expressivity of Quatre chants is no surprise at all, but rather the logical outcome at this stage of Grisey’s musical progress.

Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil, completed in 1998, is Grisey’s last major work before his untimely death. He actually did not live long enough to hear the piece’s first performance in London in 1999. Let it be said straightaway, this is a beautiful piece for soprano and large ensemble setting various texts, old and new, encompassing a wide range of cultural backgrounds: old Egyptian superscriptions, a fragment by the Greek poetess Erinna (ca. 350 BC), a fragment from the Babylonian epos Gilgamesh and a poem by the French writer Christian Guez Ricordi with whom Grisey had previously collaborated. However Grisey succeeds in welding these different materials into one musically satisfying whole by use of some recurring gestures such as the delicately rustling sounds with which the piece opens and which later serve as bridges between the various sections. The prelude La mort de l’ange, on a short poem by Guez Ricordi, opens with these softly rustling sounds. The orchestra then states a descending motif supporting the soprano who at first sings somewhat hesitantly before becoming more impassioned. At some points, over long-held notes, the soprano is doubled by the trumpet to stunning effect. The first song ends in an appeased mood. There follows Interlude I: La mort de la civilisation on fragments of Egyptian superscriptions delivered in a rather matter-of-fact, distant, almost clinical manner supported by a sparse scoring. Interlude II: La mort de la voix, on lines by Erinna, is more lyrical, with long lines in the voice part and the orchestra as well. The Faux interlude: La mort de l’humanité, on fragments from Gilgamesh, first depicts the deluge and then evokes the peacefulness and beauty of the Earth after the cataclysm. The first half of this section has more dramatic gestures but the movement ends in utter peacefulness. So far, the music has been dark-hued, the scoring favouring bass instruments. In the final Berceuse, the music enters a more tranquil mood, of acceptance and of regained hope. "It is the music of a humanity finally liberated from its nightmare ... it is a lullaby not to make one fall asleep but to awaken" (Gérard Grisey). It is of course easy retrospectively to consider this wonderful work as Grisey’s testament, but whatever the personal context in which it was written, it deals with timeless, universal human issues. As such Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil is a deeply moving masterpiece.

I warmly recommend the present release. Catherine Dubosc and Klangforum Wien superbly rise to the occasion and deliver a carefully prepared, committed reading which, I hope, will earn the piece and its composer many new friends.

Hubert Culot

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