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la Biennale di Venezia
Main Visual Music EN (new)


Spectra Ensemble

Monday 28 September, 6 p.m.
Teatro Piccolo Arsenale 
Varèse / Fafchamps / Furlani / Gervasoni / Brewaeys

- Edgard Varèse Octandre for seven wind instruments and double bass (1923, 8’)
- Jean-Luc Fafchamps Lettre Souffie: Sh(în) (2009, 12') Italian premiere
- Paolo Furlani Suite da concerto from “Singin’ in the Brain” (2000, ver. 2009, 10’) world premiere
- Stefano Gervasoni Gramigna for cimbalom and ensemble (2009, 10') world premiere
- Luc Brewaeys Cardhu for flute, clarinet, bass trombone, percussion, piano, violin, viola and cello (2008, 13’) Italian premiere
cimbalom Luigi Gaggero
conductor Filip Rathé
Spectra Ensemble
For over fifteen years, the Spectra Ensemble – founded in 1993 – has sought to create a relationship of dialogue and exchange between new musical production from Belgium and the international arena. In response to this idea and a permanent nucleus of eight instrumentalists of the highest quality, the Spectra Ensemble regularly commissions new work, contributing to the formation of a contemporary repertoire in a country that, especially thanks to Lucien Goethals and Karel Goeyvaerts, has contributed to the evolution of music today. There are more than 70 works by mainly Belgian authors commissioned and performed by the Spectra Ensemble, including those of Pierre Bartholomée, Joachim Brackx, Boudewijn Buckinx, Frits Celis, Claude Coppens, Raoul Desmet, Alvaro Guimaraes, Filip Rathé, Hans Roels, André Laporte, Geert Logghe, Frank Nuyts, Lucien Posman, Jan Rispens, Lucien Goethals, Violeta Dinescu (Germany), Niki Kemp (Britain) and Gilberto Mendes (Brazil).
The concert by the Belgian ensemble combines music by Paolo Furlani, Stefano Gervasoni and Luc Brewaeys, musicians belonging to the same generation but of very different training, ending with Octandre, another cornerstone of the aesthetics of Varèse, after Integrales, Hyperprism and Arcane in an ideal tribute to the composer who appears throughout the Festival.
Underlying the origin of the Suite da concerto by Paolo Furlani (1964), presented as a world premiere is Singin 'in the Brain, created at the request of Salvatore Sciarrino. The story of the original work, freely inspired by Reminiscences by Oliver Sacks, comes from a real clinical case of musical epilepsy. Suite recounts the highlights through four musical movements. The composer writes: “The music of the whole work is built almost like a bithematic sonata..: on the one hand, the Irish song Plúirín na mBan Donn Og sung in Gaelic, which obsessively pursues the protagonist, and on the other hand, the neurologist, musically characterised by the grotesque, slightly sadistic use of the piccolo clarinet. His music is ‘spectral’, based on the natural harmonics of the sound C # (a tribute to Gérard Grisey, whose untimely death affected me greatly, at the time of composition). The Irish song speaks of a dream of love, and perhaps for this reason was removed by the protagonist. In Suite da concerto, the resurgence of the song in the original purity of the memory is assigned to a ‘distant’ instrument, but the notes of its melody – with the strong presence of E B – will be... always present, being repeatedly multiplied and exploded within the score, resulting in a reverse path, from the Variations to the Theme. In the final scene, the Theme is absent and is merely evoked in negative: the… deaf calculation contemplated by Nise”.
A figure set apart from the current music scene, but highly appreciated and among the best known names in Italy and performed abroad, especially in France, where he was discovered in the early 1990s, Stefano Gervasoni (1962) will be at the Music Biennale with Gramigna, a new creation for the Festival. His music, writes Philippe Albèra, “is shaken by spasms and hiccups, fugitive flights and ecstasy, humour and candour, illuminations. It does not derive from an established and voluntary subject, but records its own deviant multiplicity, its elusive nature. Behind the sharpness of sound, the dissolution of the figures is at work: the compositions play on contrary impulses, since the writing is of a fragmented subject in search of an impossible configuration. What it fixes on is conducted in a ruthless manner towards a form of decomposition that precisely reveals the fragility and, at the same time, a fleeting beauty”. To accompany the Spectra Ensemble in Gervasoni’s new creation is a virtuoso of the cimbalom known worldwide: Luigi Gaggero.
An example of the “spectrally symphonic” music of Luc Brewaeys (1959), punctuated by lyrical accents typical especially of his last works, is presented in the Italian premiere of Cardhu, originally commissioned by the Transit Festival of Leuven (Belgium) and by the Spectra Ensemble. “The piece is a further investigation of the spectral/harmonic problems that I have in a sense, discovered with my work L’uomo dal fiore in bocca. The music is still essentially spectral, but extends the harmonies with the frequent use of additional quarter-tones that are not necessarily part of the main series of harmonics. I discovered that, despite these additions, the music has remained surprisingly consonant, and so I wanted to continue on this path, using many (mostly quite slow) glissandi. On the other hand, quite recently, I have addressed the concept of motion in spectral music and tried to extend this idea in Cardhu. The tempos are fluctuating: it is the first time in ages that I write accelerandi and ritardandi, and I imagine they will surely have some influence on the perception of the music. Finally, some melodic aspects emerge, though in a less prominent way. The fast passages are initially very short, almost like signals for the slower music that follows, but as the piece moves forward, these passages gain importance and become progressively longer, culminating in the Golden Section of the piece. Towards the end, the difference between this ‘fast’ and ‘slow(er)’ music is almost entirely removed and the piece ends up – so to speak – in “total harmony” with itself” (Luc Brewaeys).
Performed as a world premiere in New York in 1924, Octandre is another example of the compositional technique matured by Varèse (1883-1965), which refuses any “discourse” and proceeds via sound fragments or agglomerations. Extremely unusual for the Franco-American composer, however, is the complete lack of percussion in the orchestra, with the nervous and barbaric beat of the piece given over to the brass section. Octandre is divided into the following tempos, each introduced by a different instrument: Assez lent, Très vif et nerveux, Grave-Animé et jubilatoire.
The piece by Varèse, that opens the concert, is followed by a work from Jean-Luc Fafchamps (1960), Lettre Souffie: Sh(în), that receives its Italian premiere.