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Gyula Csapó: Déjà? Kojâ? Quatuor Bozzini

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A Canada Council for the Arts commission, dedicated to Quatuor Bozzini. The title — a mix of French and Persian [1] — means Already? Where (to)?. Déjà? Kojâ? is, in itself, a three-part concert with two intermissions. Its Parts reference the same basic materials from varying perspectives. Event-fossils, memory-ruptures crossbred within them, seldom permitted to congeal into sustained linear processes. In essence, a dirge, the work reveals itself in an epic (as opposed to dramatic) time-perspective. Timbre and register function as changing light (it’s infrared now; now it’s ultra-violet), cast upon fragmentation: largely atemporal loci, where we breathe in the atmospheres of faraway planets. Fractals are illuminated in a most realistic, positive sense (recall Roberto Bolaño’s infrarealism). Art is doing its duty, penetrating the maze before it. Reality — not its pretty illusions — is stared in the face; the music takes its never-letting-off hands in an ominous dance. The soft touch of hands, put into fire, withstand it: where technology melts and its metal evaporates, Art still stands, facing the Abyss. No heroism, sentiments: just the epic testament of a child, pulling after her some toy across no matter what terrain, witnessing the indelible marks on it, of the journey.

Gyula Csapó

  1. Notably, from a ghazal by Hafez: Kojâ ravîm, béfarmâ, az în janâb, kojâ? (Where are we going, please tell me, from this threshold, where? English translation by Gyula Csapó) Threshold refers here to our earthly existence which is not yet the salon, let alone the bedroom; merely the threshold before the entrance…

Gyula Csapó: Déjà? Kojâ?

Quatuor Bozzini

Gyula Csapó

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In the Press

  • Brian Olewnick, The Squid’s Ear, October 31, 2018
    The texture is thick and creamy, very complex and lovely, the phrases almost conversational, as though discussing and contemplating that aforementioned threshold, but doing so with little apprehension. It ends with quiet acceptance.
  • Pierre Durr, Revue & Corrigée, no. 117, September 1, 2018
    Trip, en quatre mouvements asymétriques, entraîne l’auditeur dans un voyage hallucinant…
  • Daniel Barbiero, Avant Music News, May 29, 2018
    … the Quatuor Bozzini maintain a clarity of individual articulation, even in the densest passages.
  • Frans de Waard, Vital, no. 1133, May 14, 2018
    … a very rewarding and satisfying experience,  revealing an intriguing beauty…
  • Stuart Broomer, The WholeNote, no. 23:8, May 1, 2018
    At once static and tumultuous, this is depth experience, rewarding all the attention one can give it.

Review

Brian Olewnick, The Squid’s Ear, October 31, 2018

Csapó is a Hungarian-born composer (b. 1955) living in Canada since 1990 who studied with Morton Feldman at SUNY Buffalo and also with John Cage. His Déjà? Kojâ? (’Already? Where [to]?’), for string quartet, is presented in three sections totaling about 73 minutes long.

As the brief notes from Csapó point out, it’s essentially a dirge, though one which fluctuates from sorrow to ecstasy. The “Kojâ” in the title comes from a ghazal by Hafez, which seems to posit human life as a “threshold” before true existence. I find it very difficult to otherwise describe the music. It’s not very much akin to that of Feldman (especially the string quartets) and even less like (most) Cage. Though we hear lines that are pulled and stretched, there’s far more changeability in melodic line and attack crammed into any given 30-seconds than you’d find in an hour of Feldman. More importantly, Csapó, if not quite wearing his emotions on his sleeve, doesn’t shy away from content that is almost necessarily heard first as emotional, then abstractly. The strings surge, offer plaints, sigh and subside; it’s fundamentally sad, stirring music. The structure is flowing and loose, like a slow camera pan over a troubled landscape. The first movement works itself up to quite a fever pitch about 3/4 the way through — one can easily imagine the thrashing about of grieving souls — before settling back down to a more general level of despondency, ending with high, ghostly whines.

Second Parte is pitched somewhat higher, contains more agitation, with pizzicato scurries and brief, clipped lines and overlapping glissandi voiced in the violins’ upper registers. It gradually shifts to the most subdued music in the piece, plaintive sighs studded with questioning plucks. The final portion is actually calm, perhaps even resigned. The texture is thick and creamy, very complex and lovely, the phrases almost conversational, as though discussing and contemplating that aforementioned threshold, but doing so with little apprehension. It ends with quiet acceptance.

The texture is thick and creamy, very complex and lovely, the phrases almost conversational, as though discussing and contemplating that aforementioned threshold, but doing so with little apprehension. It ends with quiet acceptance.

Critique

Pierre Durr, Revue & Corrigée, no. 117, September 1, 2018
Trip, en quatre mouvements asymétriques, entraîne l’auditeur dans un voyage hallucinant…

Review

Daniel Barbiero, Avant Music News, May 29, 2018

The title of this three-part work by Hungarian-Canadian composer Gyula Csapó — French and Persian for “Already? Where to?” — seems an appropriate epigraph for someone whose itinerary brought him from Budapest to Saskatchewan, via Paris and Buffalo and points in between.

Csapó completed studies in composition and music theory at the Béla Bartók Conservatory and the List Ferenc Academy of Music in Budapest before going to Paris to study computer music and acoustics at IRCAM. In the 1980s, he came to the US to study with Morton Feldman, a composer whose work proved to be a significant influence. In the early 1990s, he moved to Canada and, after a period teaching composition at Princeton University, settled in Saskatoon, where he currently teaches composition and music theory.

In its scale and general profile, Déjà? Kojâ? takes some of Feldman’s approaches to arranging sounds and develops them in a way that is Csapó’s own. The work, composed between 2011 and 2016, is structured as a triptych of three roughly equal lengths. The sounds move slowly, as if there were carried along on tectonic plates approaching, receding, and grinding together in a sometimes overt, sometimes more submerged, dissonant fluctuation. Texture here is architecture, as Csapó layers sound masses into striated blocks whose fault lines divide the higher and lower registers. The differentiation of voices rather than classic counterpoint really does seem to be the structural key to this sometimes darkly opaque work; throughout it, the Quatuor Bozzini maintain a clarity of individual articulation, even in the densest passages.

… the Quatuor Bozzini maintain a clarity of individual articulation, even in the densest passages.

Review

Frans de Waard, Vital, no. 1133, May 14, 2018

The Bozzini Quartet started in 1999 and developed into a very profiled ensemble that concentrates on performing contemporary music. Music from the Montréal-scene on the one hand, but also from other parts of the world. Choosing works by well-known and lesser-known composers: Steve Reich, Howard Skempton, Malcolm Goldstein, John Cage, Claude Vivier, etc. Since 2004 they release most of their programs on their own Ambiances Magnetiques-associated Collection QB-label. This also counts for their latest work: Déjà? Kojâ?, a composition of Gyula Csapó. A release that illustrates that they are not afraid of making daring choice such as choosing for a composition by a less known composer. Listening to this work, it becomes evident they had a good reason for this. A profound and penetrating composition by Gyula Csapó. Csapó is a composer from Hungary where he studied at the Béla Bartók Conservatory and the List Ferenc Academy of Music. Later he studied with Morton Feldman and John Cage. He lives and work in Canada since 1990. Déjà? Kojâ?, composed between 2011 and 2016 is a massive work in three parts. Together taking a bit more than one hour. Throughout Csapó creates dissonant layers of music in this serious and static work. In the second part the music becomes a bit lighter by the use of pizzicato and glissandi. Also he alludes here to a well-known classical composition, that I am unable to identify. Not an easy work, but a very rewarding and satisfying experience, revealing an intriguing beauty for the concentrated listener.

… a very rewarding and satisfying experience,  revealing an intriguing beauty…

Modern and Contemporary

Stuart Broomer, The WholeNote, no. 23:8, May 1, 2018

Founded in 1999, Quatuor Bozzini are distinguished interpreters of contemporary repertoire, including fine recordings of John Cage, James Tenney and Steve Reich. Here they present a particularly challenging work, a three-part, 73-minute piece composed between 2011 and 2016 by Gyula Csapó, a Hungarian composer currently teaching at the University of Saskatchewan. His music suggests the influences (including scale and depth) of Morton Feldman and Arvo Pärt. Csapó’s brief note about this work is dauntingly abstract (“event-fossils,” “fractals”), but the core is in the title, Déjà? Kojâ? part French, part Persian: “Already?” is easy. “Kojâ?” comes with a poem that suggests “Threshold” as the crucial sense, and that this world is a threshold, the beginning of another experience or existence, a step both inevitable yet deferred. The work is monumental, developing thick, often dissonant textures. Its long first section is anchored to a repeating oscillation, brief but slow, between low-register cello and viola and high, reedy violins. Seconda Parte is more varied, adding other sonic devices, including moving the contrast of registers to pizzicato lows and whistling harmonic glissandi from the violins. Terza Parte eventually expands the oscillating figures into a still minimalist, but gradually evolving melodic shape. It’s a demanding work, a dark reverie that suggests anticipation while dramatizing its delay, a sombre meditation shot through with bright highs that are themselves dissonant. At once static and tumultuous, this is depth experience, rewarding all the attention one can give it.

At once static and tumultuous, this is depth experience, rewarding all the attention one can give it.

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