GÉRARD GRISEY (1946-1998): 4 Chants pour franchir le seuil for Soprano and Ensemble, LUIGI NONO (1924-1990): Djamila Boupacha for Soprano Solo, JOSEPH HAYDN (1732-1809): Symphony No. 49 in F Minor “La Passione”.

Catalogue Number: 04V059

Label: Alpha

Reference: 586

Format: CD

Price: $18.98

Description: Quatre Chants pour franchir le seuil - that is, to cross the threshold between life and death - oddly and ironically turned out to be the last work that Grisey completed before his untimely death. This deeply unsettling work plays on our most innate fears of death - the idea that everything is made to pass away, the individual, civilization, Heaven and earth - in music and texts of graphically disturbing imagery. The first movement sets stuttering, breathless syllables of verses from "The Hours of the Night" by Christian Guez-Ricord (1948-88) over an accompaniment of ominous subterranean, sepulchral rumblings and moans in tunings that seem to have no place in our acoustical universe, while instruments shadow the voice, exploiting their diverse harmonic structures to generate strange otherworldly timbres of interference tones (and remind us that Grisey was the leading pioneer of the spectralist movement). Ambiguous fragments from inscriptions on sarcophagi provide elusive glimpses of a long-dead civilization in the second movement. Here the accompaniment is hauntingly beautiful, motionless and hushed. The Death of the Voice is symbolically represented by the fragmentarily preserved ancient Greek poetess Erinna, like a passionate outcry from a great distance, with a return to the acoustic netherworld of the first movement. "The Death of Humankind", beginning with an apocalyptic percussion tattoo, is every bit as cataclysmic and shocking as any Dies irae from a conventional requiem (the text is actually from "The Epic of Gilgamesh"), and there is even a microtonal "Tuba mirum". The final "Berceuse" takes a distant, detached, uncomprehending view of the previous scenes. Nono's brief, vocally challenging solo aria commemorates the voice, not to be silenced, of a young woman who was tortured during the French-Algerian war, in soaring, leaping vocal acrobatics. Anyone confused by the inclusion of the Haydn in Ms Hannigan's 'concept album' should note that to better integrate it into the program, she directed the continuo player to depart ad lib from strict synchronization with the orchestra and to extemporise like a very restrained version of the side drum in Nielsen's 5th, as a representation of a lost, wandering voice, so the appropriately dark and stormy performance counts as a transcription of sorts, and its presence here is less incongruous than it might at first seem. Spanish, French-English texts. Ludwig Orchestra; Barbara Hannigan (soprano).


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