THURSDAY MARCH 17

18H30 – RENCONTRE

avec Yan Maresz, compositeur
animée par Tristan Labouret, musicologue
Musée océanographique

20H – CONCERT

Musée océanographique

Durée approximative 1h20 

Jean-Féry Rebel
Les Elémens, Simphonie nouvelle

Jean-Marie Leclair
Sonate à deux violons sans basse, op. 3 no 5
Concerto pour violon et orchestre en do majeur, op. 7 no 3

Pierre Boulez
Anthèmes I pour violon seul

Yan Maresz
Tendances (création mondiale, commande du Printemps des Arts de Monte-Carlo) – Éditions Durand – avec le soutien de la Fondation Francis et Mica Salabert

Les Folies Françoises
Patrick Cohën-Akenine, violon baroque et direction
Hae-Sun Kang, violon moderne

Organizing the material

In the Baroque era, instrumental music became independent of the models of song and dance that had largely governed it hitherto. This created a new challenge for composers. How could one give meaning and expression to pure music, now detached from textual, visual or spatial support? This question traverses the last three centuries of the history of Western music. It was one of Pierre Boulez’s central preoccupations and it still poses itself to today’s composers. The program of our concert picks up the trail in France of the 1730s, at a time of animated debate between musicians and philosophers, who asked: “Is instrumental music capable of expression, or is it merely a second-rank decorative art?”

While the “new simphony” of Jean-Féry Rebel’s Elémens fascinates us, it is not only because of the astonishing dissonances of the Cahos (sic) that opens the piece. It is also because it seems to make a statement about the very function of the composer, henceforth the all-powerful organizer of the raw sound material, in the image of God the Creator. From the original Chaos, without harmony, without rhythmic form, the four elements, water, fire, air and earth successively come into being. Over the solid earth of the strings, little by little, the water of the flutes begins to flow. The protean element of fire develops in the variations of a virtuoso chaconne. The light air of violins and small flutes is filled with singing birds. In the Baroque era, the handiwork of the composer, like the expert chisel of the sculptor Pygmalion, literally gives life to the sounds.

Like Rebel, Jean-Marie Leclair was an eminent violinist. This was not by chance. The violin played a decisive role in the development of independent instrumental music. Still widely perceived in France, in 1730, as an ensemble instrument, it was capable of an eloquence, a brilliance and a timbral appeal worthy of the finest singers – qualities that the Italians had exploited for a long time. Trained in Italy, Leclair was one of those who converted the French public to the solo violin, by developing the new forms of the sonata and the concerto. The “Sonata for two violins without bass” in E minor gives an idea of his consummate mastery of melody and timbre. The piece goes beyond a mere pleasant conversation between two “nightingales,” having a true poetic dimension, especially in the wonderful central Gavotta.

It is tempting to hear, in Boulez’s Anthèmes I, a modern manifestation of this timelessly virtuosic and sensual violin writing. Commissioned by the Yehudi Menuhin International Violin Competition in 1991 (a second version, Anthèmes II, with electronics, was premiered by Hae-Sun Kang in 1997), the piece undoubtedly has a theatrical and “display” dimension characteristic of the solo genre. Boulez speaks of the “tiny nucleus” of seven notes, taken from another piece, …explosante-fixe…, which forms the material of the work, and of its structure, “a succession of verses, of paragraphs,” punctuated by slurs in harmonics. Here, however, in contrast to the Baroque period, the work of the creator on the sound material is encrypted, in a sense, and indecipherable for the listener. It is better to follow the trail of fantasy, even humor, expressly intended by the composer in the final gesture of the piece.

The violin, one of the instruments with the greatest “individualist” potential, is also historically a “social” instrument, often played in a “bande,” as they said in the 17th century. It is therefore not surprising to find it present at the birth of the concerto – a genre that always represents not the physical world but the social world and the relationship between the individual and the group. In Leclair’s Concerto in C major, op. 7 no. 3, the two outer movements convey a complicity or continuity between solo and tutti, while the central movement pits an inflexible tutti against the fantasy and lyricism of the solo part, in the manner of Vivaldi.

Tendances, by Yan Maresz, was written, at the request of Hae-Sun Kang, for a modern solo violin and a Baroque orchestra. The musical material is no longer considered by the creator as raw physical data – its historicity and its “cultural” character are taken as a given. The title itself refers to the suite of dances (ten dances) typical of the Baroque orchestra. According to the author, the relationship between solo and tutti is not one of opposition but rather one of “resonance,” like “kaleidoscopic objects that take fragments of the solo line to speckle the background.” In Silhouettes (2005), Maresz used the string orchestra to form lines or movements, in the sensual, sculptor-like approach that could be seen to echo Rebel’s creative gesture in Elémens.

Fabien Roussel

Photo Les Folies françoises ©Olivier Ravoire