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RICHARD WAGNER Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde
CLAUDE VIVIER Siddhartha for eight instrument groups
GIACINTO SCELSI Hymnos for organ and two orchestras
RICHARD STRAUSS Tod und Verklärung, Op. 24
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12 August, 20:30
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Tempus ex machina, Le Temps et l’écume, Vortex temporum. The regularity with which the titles of Gérard Grisey’s works allude to the phenomenon of time is both curious and telling. When a number of Olivier Messiaen’s students, chief among them Grisey, founded the composer’s collective L’Itinéraire in 1973, the idea behind the name was that sound itself would determine their path. These young composers chose to scientifically analyse natural sound and make it the basis for a new Musique spectrale of dazzling sensuality, which resembles a kind of modern impressionism. Invariably, time plays a decisive role: for instance, when the composer reproduces, in a kind of extreme slow-motion, an acoustic event that would normally go by in the blink of an eye, transforming and overlaying it until it re-emerges with the quality of super-enhanced sound.
Time with Grisey allows the audience not only to spend a few hours discovering the composer’s music, but perhaps also to experience time differently. Startling soundscapes open up almost organically – for example, the finale of the magnificent large-scale cycle Les Espaces acoustiques, which begins as a viola solo before snowballing into a full-on orchestral piece with a group of solo horns. Prior to this, the programmes on offer pair Grisey’s music with works by friends, contemporaries and kindred spirits. Some of them lived lives that were cut short: in 1983, the Canadian composer Claude Vivier was murdered in Paris at the age of 34, while Grisey himself died in the same city in 1998, at only 52. His poignant final work, the Quatre Chants pour franchir le seuil, addresses the crossing of the threshold between life and death. Grisey himself did not live to hear its premiere.
Translated by Sebastian Smallshaw
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