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Du souffle (CD) Track listing detail

Du souffle

Philippe Leroux

  • Year of composition: 1996
  • Original work: 39835
  • Version: Arr. Philippe Leroux, 2003
  • Duration: 19:10
  • Instrumentation: saxophone quartet

The inspiration for the creation of Du souffle was three excerpts from the Rainer Maria Rilke anthology, Chant éloigné, Poèmes et fragments: “Là-bas, comme tu appelles, appelles, appelles, appelles, comme si ta vie était en jeu.” “Car c’est au cœur du souffle qu’ils ont souffle, et s’évanouissent quand le son s’évanouit.” “Mais soudain fait irruption secrètement la grande pulsation.” The first version of this piece, for wind quintet, was composed in 1996. This second version, for saxophone quartet, dates from 2003. Du souffle is representative of a period (along with M for 2 pianos, 2 percussionists and electronics) during which I was most concerned with the notion of gestural movement in sound in pure simplicity. These formal gestures (of calling, followed by echoes, in the first section; of birth and then sound dissipating in the second; and of an invisible pulse throughout the work) repeat, elongate, multiply, unite and overlap, becoming textures in themselves. The aspect of playfulness underlying these processes of continuous transformation serve to involve listeners in the musical activity while also drawing their attention to the notion of transition and the fascinating transformations inherent to the musical material and its figures.

Levées

Gilles Tremblay

  • Year of composition: 2009
  • Duration: 10:26
  • Instrumentation: saxophone quartet
  • Commission: Quasar, with support from the CCA

Written at the request of Quasar, Levées incorporates three interlinked sections. Floral effervescence is shared among the instruments in the ensemble, from which four branches emerge: alto, soprano, tenor, and — later — baritone, whose low register transforms into a “split sound”, a cry releasing reciprocal melodic celebrations and variations. Jubilation alternates with effervescent ripples that transpose upon themselves (in the manner of bubbles varying in intensity depending on the level of heat). These develop through increasingly elaborate sequences (Levées). The final sequence, abbreviated and conclusive, branches off immediately into the second slower part with an expressive unison passage inspired by Monteverdi. This involves — a transition in which, through the deployment of a slow melody, an uncommon quality of the saxophone is heard: “cloud sounds” imbued with fine, poetic sweetness. This prelude prepares a “chant expressif” (expressive song), a lengthy phrase that grows in intensity to a point of rupture leading to… Éclats (Flashes). This third section is formed of brief, winged cells, multifaceted — like crystals — with a variety of angles, registers, transpositions, and permutations. All to create an increasingly magnified sense of jubilation. To organize disorder. Vertigo.


Premiere

  • February 19, 2009, Montréal / Nouvelles Musiques 2009: Quasar cent voix en l’air!, Salle Pierre-Mercure — Centre Pierre-Péladeau, Montréal (Québec)

Fil rouge

Jimmie LeBlanc

  • Year of composition: 2012-13
  • Duration: 12:28
  • Instrumentation: saxophone quartet
  • Commission: Quasar, with support from the CCA

In theater, the term “red thread” means an invisible element, often implicit, which underlies the work, connecting all what is above (or below) the plot’s narrative mechanisms. Acting in the sphere of the unnamed, this concept seems eminently musical: what, fundamentally, makes a work an indivisible whole? An idea, an essence, an emotion? Music leads us to this level of abstraction, and this is from this stance that I’m trying to design musical figures rooted into sensation, imagined from the body, the body that performs, who hears, and thinks. In the case of Fil rouge (Red Thread), it is red as a color-sensation that was the “poetic attractor” at the origin of musical ideas. As we can wonder what is “red” in the middle of all its possible gradients, we are at the same time astonished by the infinite variety of sensations it suggests! The piece develops into a series of sequences featuring a musical action inspired by more or less paradoxical associations such as rouge-carré-rouge, blood-red, red-oblivion, liminal-red… fragments of the world seen through red…

Pulau Dewata

Claude Vivier

  • Year of composition: 1977
  • Original work: 21418
  • Version: Arr. Walter Boudreau, 1983
  • Duration: 12:12
  • Instrumentation: saxophone quartet

Pulau Dewata (Balinese for “Isle of the Gods”) was written after a journey to the Far-East, which, in 1977, led Claude Vivier as far as the Island of Bali. Dedicated to the Balinese, the work is described in the composer’s own words as a “tribute of love for a wonderful people who taught me so much.” Initially written for the McGill Percussion Ensemble, Pulau Dewata does not include specific instrumentation. This is pure, four-part music which can be adapted to “any combination of instruments” following certain instructions determined beforehand by the composer. The work is a succession of nine melodies (comprising from one to nine tones) employing modes and motifs reminiscent of those used by Balinese Gamelans. Although repetitive in nature, the music develops slowly through the addition of notes to the melodies and by subtle rhythmic inventions of the melodic poles (gruppettos, embellishments, etc.). The work can be divided roughly into four extensive, distinct sections preceded by a short introduction (melody 1 on tone; B flat) and a “signature” characteristic of Balinese ensembles.

Facing Death

Louis Andriessen

  • Year of composition: 1990
  • Original work: 37134
  • Version: Arr. Louis Andriessen, 2012
  • Duration: 18:49
  • Instrumentation: saxophone quartet

In 1989 when I was teaching in Buffalo, Miles Davis’ autobiography was published. While reading it, I suddenly knew what the subject should be of my piece for the Kronos Quartet — early bebop licks and especially the work of Charlie Parker. I wanted to do the impossible — bebop is not at all idiomatic for string instruments. But bebop had been an important influence on my musical development when I was young, and I decided to do something with this music from my youth. Basically the essence of Charlie Parker’s playing is the extremely high tempo. This high tempo is really high, because the playing is based upon the chord structure of existing melodies, which sometimes are played two or three times as fast as normal. Parker needed speed to express what he musically felt: little time was left for him. This is the main explanation of the title of the work. In the beginning of Facing Death, I literally quote fragments of Charlie Parker improvisations. I also quote one original melody: Ornithology (which is based on How High the Moon). The seventh and eigth bar of Ornithology became an important motif in the piece. The whole composition is one long development in Parker’s fast tempo.

Quasar presented the North American premiere of Facing Death arranged for saxophones at the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal on May 24, 2012.

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