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Program Notes and Composer Biographies

After Messiaen, a concert of contemporary French music

December 9, 2002

The Forum, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

Mary Chun, conductor


Pierre Boulez, Douze Notations (1945)
for solo piano

1. Fantasque—Modéré
2. Tres vif
3. Assez lent
4. Rythmique
5. Doux et improvisé
6. Rapide
7. Hiératique
8. Modéré jusqu'à très vif
9. Lointain—Calme
10. Mécanique et très sec
11. Scintillant
12. Lent—Puissant et âpre

Joël François Durand, Trio à cordes (1980–1981)
for violin, viola, and cello

Philippe Schoeller, Madrigal (1994)
for violin, viola, cello, and piano


Pierre Boulez, Incise (1994)
for solo piano

Christophe Bertrand, Treis (2000)
for violin, cello, and piano
(winner of the 2002 Donald Aird Memorial Composition Competition)

Marc-André Dalbavie, In Advance of the Broken Time (1994)
for flute, clarinet, violin, viola, cello, and piano

Pierre Boulez, Douze Notations (1945) for solo piano

Douze Notations is Boulez’ first published work (1945), considered his Opus 1. This set of twelve miniatures for solo piano, Webernian in their genesis, represents a multi-faceted portrait of Boulez’ emerging musical personality—resonant sonorities and abrupt gestures, an alternation between suppleness and great intensity, stasis and frenetic energy. Boulez later recomposed four of these pieces as Notations for large orchestra.

Pierre Boulez, Incise (1994) for solo piano

Karen Rosenak, piano

Incises, composed nearly forty years after Douze Notations (1994), another brief work for solo piano, is concentrated in its musical thought. Working with only limited material, Boulez focuses on certain idiosyncrasies of the piano, both in terms of its sonic quality and as regards performance practice. Incises became the germ for further compositional exploration in Sur Incises for three pianos, three harps, and three percussionists.

Pierre Boulez was born in 1925 in Montbrison in the Loire region of France. In 1942, after pursuing special studies in mathematics, he turned towards music, and settled in Paris, where he was accepted two years later into Olivier Messiaen’s harmony course at the Paris Conservatory. He subsequently studied counterpoint with Andre Vaurabourg, composition with Messiaen, and dodecaphonic techniques with Rene Leibowitz.

In 1946, after being named Music Director of the Compagnie Renaud-Barrault, he composed the Sonatine for flute and piano, the first Piano Sonata, and the first version of Visage Nuptial, for soprano, alto and chamber orchestra, on poems of Reneé Char. In 1953 the Concerts du Petit Marigny were established, which the following year took the name Domaine Musicale, which Boulez directed until 1967. In 1966, at the invitation of Wieland Wagner, he directed Parsifal at Bayreuth, and then Tristan und Isolde in Japan. In 1969 he directed the New York Philharmonic for the first time, and became the orchestra's director from 1971–77, succeeding Leonard Bernstein in that post. At the same time, he was appointed conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, a post which he held from 1971–75.

At the request of President George Pompidou of France, Boulez agreed to found and direct the Institute for Research and Coordination of Acoustics and Music (IRCAM), which opened its doors in the autumn of 1977. In 1975, Michel Guy, France’s Secretary of State for Cultural Affairs, announced the creation of the Ensemble Intercontemporain, also under Boulez’ directorship.

In 1976, Boulez was once again invited to Bayreuth, this time to conduct Patrice Chereau's production of the Ring Cycle for the centennial celebration of Wagner’s tetralogy. The production ran for five years under his baton, and was recorded in both audio and video formats. In 1979 he directed the world premiere of the complete version of Alban Berg’s opera Lulu at the Palais Garnier. At the same time he was deeply involved in such projects as the creation of Paris’ new opera house at Place Bastille, and the Cite de la Musique complex at Porte de la Villette.

Boulez composed three major works at IRCAM, including Répons, for six soloists, ensemble and computer; Dialogue de l’ombre double, for clarinet, tape, and spatial diffusion; and Explosante-fixe, for flute, ensemble and computer. In 1992 Boulez stepped down from the directorship of IRCAM to devote himself to composing and conducting. He signed an exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon, continuing the growth of his imposing discography with the greatest orchestras.

From his point of departure in 1945, his desire to rejuvenate French musical culture, and his discovery of serial techniques, his career has circumscribed an extraordinarily ambitious project. At one and the same time composer, analyst, conductor, pedagogue, and musical statesman, Boulez, anxious to make his creative legacy an enduring one, has created a number of important institutions devoted to working towards the solutions of the major issues and problems confronting contemporary music: first and foremost, the problem of the music’s dissemination, and the indispensable evolution of its relationship to the public; and no less important, the problem of developing the technological tools essential for the evolution of musical thought and invention.

Joël François Durand, Trio ˆ cordes (1980–1981) for violin, viola, and cello

Terrie Baune, violin
Ellen Ruth Rose, viola
Thalia Moore, cello

Inspired by the notion of “triangular” desire exposed in Mensonge romantique et verite romanesque by Rene Girard, Joël-François Durand’s String Trio (1982) stages the desire according to the Other. The viola plays the role of mediator between the violin and the cello, radiating toward their timbre, their materials or the structures they embody. Durand varies, in the triangle of the ensemble, the distance that separates the viola from the other two instruments, by at times exposing direct links between them, at other times imitating one, isolating the other, or provoking their union.

The rivalry between the violin and the cello exasperates the mediation, increases its prestige and strengthens its connections. Four continuous sections bear witness to these relations: at the end of the first one, the cello evolves independently inside the trio. Then in the second section, the violin, isolated, repeats—almost mechanically, as if absent, in the distance—certain elements of the first section. In the third one, a complex and dense section composed of violently expressive gestures and sudden silences, the viola unites the other two instrumental spheres, at the expense of its own identity. In the last section, a solo of the violin performs a long ascending glissando, interrupted by fragments from the previous three sections. Finally, ultimate attempt at isolation, a short and diaphanous sequence ends in the distance, calmly.

“The triangular desire is one,” writes René Girard. If the development of the String Trio, complex, seems at times discontinuous, the work tends however toward a synthesis, a coherence, a unity of its processes in spite of the flexibility of its registers, its melodies and its rhythmic structures. Born from the integral serialism of the 1950s, by being a “musical discourse dictated by abstract derivations from an original decision,” the String Trio extracts the maximum from a very minimal material. And the last section (in the section of the violin solo) of the trio presents a sort of summary of the whole work, chosen moments, united in a gesture of final collecting. —Laurent Feneyrou

Joël-François Durand was born in Orleans, France on 17 September 1954. He studied mathematics, musicology and piano in Paris, then composition with Brian Ferneyhough in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany (1981–84). In 1979 and 1983 he attended the composition courses of Gyorgy Ligeti and Luciano Berio at the Centre Acanthes. In 1982 he was awarded a scholarship from the DAAD (German Academic Exchange) and received a Darmstadt Institute Scholarship for his String Trio. In 1983 his piano piece "...d’asiles déchirés..." was awarded a prize at the Third International K.H. Stockhausen Composition Competition in Brescia (Italy).

Durand left Europe in 1984 to pursue a Ph.D. in Composition at the University of New York, Stony Brook (USA) where he studied composition with BŸlent Arel and electronic music with Daria Semegen, and was awarded scholarships from the Fulbright Foundation in 1984 and from the French Ministery of Culture in 1985. He obtained the Ph.D. in 1988. He received the Kranichsteiner Musikpreis from the Darmstadt Internationalen Ferienkurse in 1990.

He has been teaching composition and theory since 1991 at the School of Music, University of Washington in Seattle, where he is Professor of Composition. He has been director of the Contemporary Group for several years and in 2002, he was appointed Associate Director of the School of Music.

As a guest composer and lecturer, Durand has contributed to the Centre de la Voix in Royaumont, France where he was co-director of the composition course in 1993, the Civica Scuola di Musica in Milan, Italy (1995), the Royal Academy for Music in London, UK (1997), the Internationale Ferienkurse fur Neue Musik in Darmstadt (1984, 1990, 1992, 1994, 2002), and the VIII. Internationaler Meisterkurs fur Komposition des Brandenburgischen Colloquiums für Neue Musik, Rheinsberg (1998), among others. In 1994 he was Visiting Assistant Professor in Composition at the University of California at San Diego.

Durand’s music has been performed throughout Europe at a number of the most prestigious new music festivals: La Rochelle, Presences, Strasbourg, Darmstadt, Venice, as well as in the US, Brazil and South Korea. He has received numerous commissions from the major European institutions, including the Ensemble Intercontemporain (Paris), the French Ministery of Culture, the I.R.C.A.M."(Paris), the Strasbourg Festival MUSICA (France), the Ensemble Contrechamps (Geneva, Switzerland), and Radio France.

He has also published an extensive analysis of Jean BarraquŽ's Piano Sonata (Entretemps, 1987), and an essay on the music of Ruth Crawford Seeger (Voix Nouvelles 92, Royaumont).

Christophe Bertrand, Treis (2000) for violin, cello, and piano

Winner of the 2002 Earplay Donald Aird Memorial Composition Competition

Karen Rosenak, piano
Terrie Baune, violin
Thalia Moore, cello

Each of the four movements of Treis (lasting from a minute and a half to three minutes and a half each) develops a reduced number of precise compositional aspects, quite simple and easily identifiable, related to common and derived harmonic fields, always clearly recognizable, that assure the unity of the whole. The first movement Dolce, sensuale e sempre piu agitato, consists in a four voice canon distributed between the strings, long and very sustained notes, sometimes escaping by means of microtonal deviations and tiny glissandi; each entrance of the canon is marked by a specific arpeggio which corresponds to it. The two harmonic fields progressively enter in osmosis, following a gradual process of dynamic and rhythmic intensification, as a disconnection of the continuity of the canon, through the appearance of different and more definite elements (gettato, arpeggios, tremolos, pizzicati, etc.) The second movement, marked Calmo e con dolcezza, anounces under dense long notes in the ever-moving strings, a rhythmical canon subdivided between the two hands of the pianist and blurred by the use of the pedals and of small non-harmonic notes. Gliding, the harmony evolves little by little towards a chord full of energy: the fervor withheld until then finally succeeds in emerging, and allows the virtuosity to explode in the following movement. This third part, Deciso e virtuoso, gives a solo role to the pianist, in the classical sense of the term, that is to say for the demonstrative aspect of the virtuosity: the strings have there the role of a deforming mirror; they prolong the attacks of the piano and deviate them with microtonal sliding, with the effect of getato, with the pressure of the bow or the abrupt crescendo on a harmonic note. The two harmonic fields are opposed: arpeggios/repeated notes, explosions/polarizations, strong details/weak details, one dominates the other is dominated: then the roles are progressively inverted, until at the end of a short cadenza in the piano that leads to a very rhythmical passage, a sort of nervous ostinato, of misarticulate mechanism, in the violin and piano: the violin acts here as an electronic delay, while the the cello is suddenly isolated, treads away on an ostinato marked fff, come pazzo, ferocissimo, playing without paying attention to his partners. A harmonic note and the trio takes off into the high register: the last movement presto elettrico should be a hypnotic movement around a reduced number of pivot pitches that concludes the work in an anxious, almost stroboscopic mood, and at the end almost ecstatic.

Christophe Bertrand was born in France in 1981 and studied the piano at the Conservatoire National de Region in Strasbourg, especially with Michele Renoul and Laurent Cabasso. He was awarded the Piano First Prize, and was unanimously awarded the Chamber Music First Prize, after studying with Armand Angster. As a pianist, he worked with composers such as Ivan Fedele, Pascal Dusapin, Michael Jarrell, Gualtiero Dazzi, Ramon Lazkano, and played some of their works in particular during the Musica Festival, and for the French radio France-Musiques. He attended in 2002 the IFNM Darmstadt where he worked with the pianist Nicholas Hodges. He also played with the In Extremis Ensemble (from which he is the pianist) and Accroche-Note.

He began composition studies in 1996 with Ivan Fedele at he C.N.R. in Strasbourg, and, in 2000, was awarded unanimously the Composition Diploma with congratulations of the jury. In 2000–2001, he followed the Cursus de composition et d’informatique musicale at IRCAM in Paris, where he met Philippe Hurel, Tristan Murail, Brian Ferneyhough Jonathan Harvey and Marco Stroppa. His works have been interpreted by the Ensemble Intercontemporain, Accroche Note, Avanti!, in France (Musica Festival, Ircam, Agora, Centre Geaorges Pompidou, etc.) and abroad (INMD Darmstadt, Gaudeamus Music Week in Amsterdam, Manchester, San Francisco), or broadcast by France-Musiques.

He has received commissions from such ensembles as the Ensemble Intercontemporain and Les Percussions de Strasbourg. He has composed solo pieces as well as pieces for ensemble, voices or electronics. His works are published by Edizioni Suvini Zerboni, Milan.

Philippe Schoeller, Madrigal (1994) for violin, viola, cello, piano

Karen Rosenak, piano
Terrie Baune, violin
Ellen Ruth Rose, viola
Thalia Moore, cello

Philippe Schoeller (b. 1957) has devoted himself to musical composition since 1976. His musical studies in piano, harmony, counterpoint and conducting have been informed and enriched by formal studies in musicology and the philosophy of art. In Schoeller's words, he “learned composition by composing, as an actor develops on the stage.” In 1987 he went to IRCAM to study music technology. His major compositions include Iris, for orchestra (1988); S, for large ensemble (1989); Sonnet for 2 x 10 guitars (1990); Le ciel, for brass and percussion (1990); Omaggio, for alto flute, violin and piano (1991); and Omega, for organ.

Marc-André Dalbavie, In Advance of the Broken Time (1994) for flute, clarinet, violin, viola, cello, and piano

Tod Brody, flute
Peter Josheff, clarinet
Karen Rosenak, piano
Terrie Baune, violin
Ellen Ruth Rose, viola
Thalia Moore, cello

In Advance of the Broken Time (1993) is my first piece of chamber music. In addition to the use of certain procedures of interpolation, I felt a need to create a kind of transparent sound texture through a multiplication of techniques of orchestration usually reserved for larger ensembles. This allowed me to realise virtual reverberations, and also to work, using techniques normally employed in chamber music, with raw instrumental material consisting of composed timbres. The soloistic possibilities offered by a chamber music context pushed me to explore the idea of speed and its various parameters (slow, fast, acceleration, deceleration...). Through manipulation of speed the phenomenon of time lag can appear, suggesting the use of a range of orchestral techniques from simple reverberation to the more developed procedures used in electroacoustic music (echos, reinjection...). In one sense, speed represents the rhythmic and temporal equivalent of compression and expansion in the harmonic domain. Unlike my earlier works, I wanted to write a short piece of chamber music using simple materials, concisely treated, and formally clearâ a vast project... The real work in creating this piece was in pursuing the idea of line, not in the usual musical sense of melody, but rather in the image of the stroke of a pencil on drawing paper: its thic kness, its curve in space, its direction, its evolution, and above all its balance. As for the title, it refers to the first Ready-Made of Marcel Duchamp on his arrival in New York, but also to the ambiguous relationship in the piece between rhythm and tempo.

Marc-André Dalbavie (b. 1961) received his musical training at the Paris Conservatory where he studied with Michel Pilippot, Betsy Jolas, Claude Ballif, Guy Reibel and Marius Constant. He also studied music software techniques with Tristan Murail, and conducting with Pierre Boulez. From 1985–90 he worked on problems related to audio synthesis and computer-assisted composition at IRCAM, which resulted in his well known work Diademes. Dalbavie resided in Berlin from 1992–93 as a recipient of a DAAD award, and resided in Rome from 1995–96 at the Villa Medicis. Since 1996 he has been Professor of Orchestration at the Paris Conservatory. Initially a representative of the spectral school of composition, Dalbavie has greatly expanded his artistic perspective in recent works such as Logos, to encompass text, theater and ballet.


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