One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,416 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             



MGB Records (Migros-Genossenschafts-Bund)



Xavier DAYER (b.1972)
Bientôt, dispersés par le vent (2003) [14:11] 1
Sonnet VIII (2004) [15:49] 2
To the Sea (hommage à Cy Twombly) (1999) [8:42] 3
Sonnet X (2004) [11:59] 4
Because the string’s lost and the plan forgot: Sonnet XVIII (2001) [12:40] 5
1 SWR-Vokalensemble Stuttgart / Rupert Huber; 2 Ensemble Contrechamps / Jurjen Hempel; 3 Felix Renggli (alto flute); 4 Finnish Radio Chamber Choir / Timo Nuoranne; 5 Orchestre de la Suisse Romande / Arturo Tamayo
rec. 1 (live) 12 September 2003, Biennale Berne, Swiss Radio DRS2; 2 (live) 14 November 2004, Tonhalle Zurich, Swiss Radio DRS2; 3 2000, Swiss Radio DRS2; 4 2 July 2004, l’Eglise du Collège St-Michel, Fribourg; 5 16 May 2001, Victoria Hall, Geneva. DDD.


The young Swiss composer Xavier Dayer has hitherto made only the most fleeting appearance on Music Web (see review) and this is the first full CD to be devoted to his work, so some background is perhaps in order. He was born in Geneva. His early studies in composition were with Eric Gaudibert and he later worked with Tristan Murail and Brian Ferneyhough in Paris. Also trained as a classical guitarist, he has won a variety of composition prizes. He was awarded a prize for young artists by his native city of Geneva in 1999-2000. September 1999 saw the premiere of his chamber opera ‘Le marin’ (to a text by the great Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa). Poetic texts seem often to inspire Dayer’s music – as on this present CD; another early work, premiered in 1998 by Ensemble Contrechamps, was his 'Hommage à François Villon', a work for choir and instrumental ensemble. Dayer teaches counterpoint and orchestration at the conservatories in Geneva and Neuenberg.

Pessoa is an important presence here, too. Three of the pieces – Sonnets VIII, X and XVIII – are responses to his work. Only one of them, Sonnet X, is an actual setting of words by Pessoa. One of the most remarkable things about Pessoa’s work as a poet was that he wrote poems under a range of other names, heteronyms, effectively creating a number of ‘sub-poets’, as it were – such as Alberto Caeiro, Álvaro de Campos, Ricardo Reis and Bernardo Soares – each with a an individual personality and style. To read Pessoa is inevitably to find oneself speculating about the nature of human identity. That seems to be what is going on – or part of what is going on – in Dayer’s musical responses to Pessoa. ‘Sonnet VIII’, for example, is scored for solo flute and cello, with instrumental ensemble. It is heard here in a concert recording. Each of the solo instruments seek to affirm some kind of identity of its own, to present some kind of acceptable mask to the world, perhaps even to establish a relationship between the two of them. The larger instrumental ensemble evokes some sort of ground, some kind of enduring presence, from which the soloists have emerged and which constantly reminds them of what they have left behind, or sought to forget, in their desire to shape a face for the world. I am not sure that my reading of this piece is ‘correct’; what I am sure of is that it is an intriguing, intricate work which rewards careful listening. The same goes for ‘Sonnet XVIII’, of which Dayer himself writes “I experience this piece like a shoot whose roots would be the labyrinth of thought described by Fernando Pessoa in his Sonnet XVIII. To exit from this labyrinth seems impossible, for the plans used to build it have been forgotten, the thread that once traced the pathway is lost: Theseus is condemned to wander. Thus the series of musical events has the semblance of being logical, but, like the ‘exquisite corpses’ of the Surrealists, we always remain on this side of a resolution, of meaning”. While Dayer’s music doesn’t have a programme as such, it does operate around a series of literary/mythological symbols, by allusion and echo. This is, indeed, ‘poetic’ music. ‘Sonnet X’ is a setting for two choirs, a capella, of one of Pessoa’s sonnets – a translated text is provided.

Of the other works here, ‘To the Sea’ responds to the paintings and drawings of the American artist Cy Twombly, whose work often incorporates calligraphic or pseudo-calligraphic marks, so that once again Dayer is concerned with the ‘translation’ of text into music. ‘To the sea’ is written for solo flute, exploiting both orthodox and unorthodox resources on the instrument. It is played here with considerable virtuosity by Felix Renggli and is full of Twombly-like squiggles and gestures, interwoven traces, moments of clarity and completion, moments of the half-thought and the incomplete statement. The first work on the CD, ‘Bientôt, dispersés par le vent’ is for a large a capella choir and sets texts, and fragments of texts, by Shakespeare, Marlowe, Brant, Kleist, Calderon and (again) Pessoa, all in their original languages. Texts, but no translations, are provided. What we hear is a live recording from a concert. The whole – in terms of both text and music – is a kind of meditation on light and darkness, at times solemn and portentous, at others rather more ironic. The argument of the music runs from beginning to end, without reprise or repetition, a single journey made through a changingly lit landscape. It is a haunting piece, which stays in the memory.

Dayer is obviously a substantial and individual composer, and this is an attractive introduction to some aspects of his work.

Glyn Pursglove


MGB Records (Migros-Genossenschafts-Bund)




Return to Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.