Suite & Funk
During the era of Debussy and Ravel, the link between transcription, orchestration and creation is more than ever inextricable. Ravel, the famous author of Bolero, worked incessantly on his masterpieces originally composed on the piano. What to say about La Mer, the exquisite symphonic work by Debussy, hastily transcribed for four hands or two pianos in order to be played by all?
At the beginning of the 20th century, orchestral and vocal reductions and transcriptions were a means of diffusing a musical work in progress that was undoubtedly answered by tributes, paraphrases, or “in the style of.”
Quatuor Anches Hantées, eager for a repertoire, decided to embrace the entire history of music (however possible.) Abandoning pure aesthetics, they focus rather on the very essence and energy of the pieces. Its members have developed a balanced formation that has seduced the composers of today. A young formation in the history of music, Guillaume Connesson and Richard Dubugnon share the same desire to discover new sounds and an insatiable curiosity when composing for the clarinet quartet.
Tracing an imaginary legacy between Debussy / Ravel and Connesson / Dubugnon, Quatour Anches Hantées reconciles creation and transcription, two art forms, both successful and singular, which complement each other throughout the 20th century and beyond.
Maurice RAVEL, Prelude (1’43)
This piece, written for a sight-reading test at a piano competition at the Conservatoire de Paris and dedicated to Miss Jeanne Leleu is over 100 years old. Brief but expressive, this version for clarinet quartet is a fanciful answer to “Petite Pièce for Clarinet” composed by Debussy three years prior for the very same competition.
Claude DEBUSSY, Little Suite
- I. Sailing (3’46) , II. Retinue (3’20), III. Menuet (2’40) , IV. Ballet (2’41)
From 1888-1889, Debussy, in typical French fashion, assembled four charming piano pieces for four hands. Here, Debussy chose two “pictorial” pieces and two baroque dances, scrupulously honoring history while simultaneously playing with it like a cat and a dead mouse. The fluidity of the form in four movements and the poetic, senseless dreams they carry proclaim the future of Debussy, including his ultimate audacity.
In 1907, Debussy praised the “ingenious orchestration” of Henri Büsser. Knowing the subtle and colorful use of clarinet by Debussy, Laurent Arandel has transcribed, without his consent, this little gem or diamond in the rough for clarinet quartet.
Richard DUBUGNON, Saratoga Trails
- I. Redwoods Trail (7’23), II. Creek Trail (6’31), III. Bear Trail (5’40)
This work was composed during the author’s long stay in Silicon Valley, hotspot for the high-tech industry, and also the region of Redwood National Park, where the last remaining giant sequoia (redwood) trees reach heights of 100 meters and can live up to 2,000 years.
Richard Dubugnon wrote a piece for the quartet called “Americaine,” driven by a modern and playful sensitivity. The tones, treated in solid, massive blocks, are harmonious, the melodies shimmering. The heritage is unabashedly French. After Saint-Saëns, Messiaen, Debussy and Ravel, this writing is fed by current aesthetics and the composer’s signature is recognizable: from afar, West Side Story and Earth Wind and Fire can be heard.
Written in a modern, harmonic language without denouncing tonality, this piece shows the importance Dubugnon gives to the sense of expression. A rare quality today, this emotional significance gives each movement a character of its own. The instruments are always remarkably enhanced. Dubugnon seems to discover the essence of genius in the formation he uses. Without pretention, he bases the originality of his own poetic licence on writing with a typically French lightness and delicacy, united with continuous expression.
Maurice RAVEL, Mother Goose
- I. Pavane of Sleeping Beauty (1’34) , II. Tom Thumb (3’22) , III. Ugly girl, Empress of the Pagodas (3’27), IV. Conversation of Beauty and the Beast (3’42), V. The Fairy Garden (3’)
Close to the ethereal universe from Children’s Corner by Debussy, Ravel evokes, for his part, the world of fairy tales and childhood dreams inspired by Mother Goose Tales by Charles Perrault. The original work was arranged for piano for two hands in 1910 by Jacque Charlot, a friend of the composer. The following year, Ravel created a rather intimist, orchestral version, and in 1911 facing great approval, the director of the Théâtre des Arts, Jacques Rouché, asked the composer to make a ballet out of it.
In the suite transcribed by Bertrand Hainaut, the musicians fuse and recall the original version at a modest pace and dimensions both restrained and full of exquisite and precious art.
Guillaume CONNESSON, Prélude et Funk
- I. Prélude (3’50), II. Funk (6’08)
From one work to another, Guillaume Connesson’s artistic personality and seductive and recognizable writing are right on target with the public. He is today, incontestably, one of the most talented composers of his generation in France. His music flows as if within a dream, in perpetual renewal, multiplying the melodic and rhythmic treasures. Like Richard Dubugnon, he joins the lineage of Debussy and Ravel without denying his weakness for 70s disco music.
Guillaume Connesson’s composition for clarinet quartet reassures us in the grand scope of what we are doing in this formation. It’s with pleasure, therefore, that we include this recent work by Quatuor Vendôme in our repertoire.
Photography credits : David Toiser