La Femme Sur La Lune, Dlm 0011: 6. Le Voyage Dans L'espace

Denis Levaillant & Ensemble Intercontemporain

La Femme Sur La Lune, Dlm 0011: 6. Le Voyage Dans L'espace
Performed By Denis Levaillant & Ensemble Intercontemporain
Album UPC 9782953951844
CD Baby Track ID TR0000007945
Label Dlmeditions 2512
Released 2012-10-15
BPM 140
Rated 0
Year 2012
Spotify Plays 0
Writer Denis Levaillant
Pub Co Denis Levaillant Music
Composer Denis Levaillant
Clearance Sync & All Media Uses
Rights Controlled Master and Publishing Grant
Rights One-Stop: Master + 100% Pub Grant
Original/Cover/Public Domain original
Country FRANCE


This media-book + 2CD's display six orchestral pieces by one of the most talented French composers of today, Denis Levaillant, including his Piano Concerto (performed by himself) and his successful Ballet La petite danseuse (Paris National Opera)


The ear's eye

A French composer is always astonished when a foreigner says to him, by way of a compliment, that his score sounds very 'French'. Because a composer first of all writes music that he carries within him and he would be quite embarrassed were someone to commission a work of 'French music' from him… In revealing that he sought in his ballet La Petite danseuse de Degas 'a new French colour in the harmony and texture […], a clear, distinct, detailed, and sometimes also strange, sound,' Denis Levaillant nonetheless put his finger on what might possibly establish a connection between Debussy and Berlioz, Boulez and Rameau, Massenet and Lully or Varèse and Saint-Saëns. Possibly…
However, it would considerably reduce the significance and originality of his music to consider it only as a prism of archetypical elements. Moreover, ignoring boundaries, Denis Levaillant dedicated Les Couleurs de la parole to the memory of Rimsky-Korsakov 'who invented the orchestra of modern colours'. Would the composer of Scheherazade recognise himself in it? Beyond the differences in language, the combination of unexpected timbres (violins and alto flute at the beginning), the integration of percussion, the brief appearance of a muted trumpet and, generally speaking, the touch of unreality, justify the dedication.
We shall not attempt to know whether freedom belongs exclusively to the French, but the fact remains that it is a fundamental given of Levaillant's creative approach. Freedom of form, inspired by the unpredictable structure of the narrative, manifesting itself by a tendency to juxtapose, at times impulsively (the abrupt changes of topic in Le Bestiaire enchanté), rather than develop. Which does not prevent him, when he feels like it, from engaging in very tight thematic work as in the first movement of his concerto Écho de Narcisse. Freedom of language: free atonality not excluding polarisations (Les Couleurs de la parole or La Femme sur la lune), straightforward tonality (La Petite danseuse de Degas or the middle movement of Écho de Narcisse), or modality (Paysages de conte). Finally, freedom of style, synthesising the learned and the popular, the so-called 'contemporary' aesthetic (electro-acoustic or not) and jazz: the tutti of La Chute bring to mind jazz choruses, but elsewhere, the added notes, the enharmonic modulations, and the distortions of timbres bear witness to the stamp of swing, blues and even rock…
Like Rimsky-Korsakov and his French emulators, Levaillant excels at advantageously placing glittering timbres: glockenspiel, chimes, xylophone (L’Agitation de la ville) and high woodwind trills (Le Cortège du Roi Bleu). Inversely, he also has a taste for woody sonorities that are rough on the ear just as certain wines are rough on the palate: those of the oboe (and even the oboe d’amore in La Vitrine), the bassoon in the upper register (Le Tourbillon du bal), the saxophone and clarinets in trills (Le Voyage dans l’espace), the husky sounds of the horns, so eloquent in La Fusée, or the bass clarinet harmonics that choke in Le Bestiaire enchanté.
Although the beginning of L’Enchantement displays a gripping, Ravelian diaphanousness, brilliance can also result from the contrast with dark timbres, a complementarity so striking in Le Réveil de la Nature. Similarly, the beginning of Écho de Narcisse, wherein the low timbres devour each other, reveals the luminous strength of black, this seeming paradox exalted so intensely in the paintings of Soulages.
Sometimes, it is true, the density of the polyphony revels in Brahmsian dark hues (especially in Les Couleurs de la parole), but it is most often lightened by the overlap of clearly differentiated timbres as in Le Voyage dans l’espace, to mention only one example. Air circulates between the parts, as already recommended by Bizet.
By another aspect, Denis Levaillant lies within a tradition going back to the writings of Rameau on the natural harmony stemming from the resonance of the sound body. Thus, La Lune solicits the right falseness of certain harmonic sounds of the natural horn; in Le Rêve d’une vie the glissandi of harmonic sounds in the strings challenge the notion of tempered accuracy. La Statue evokes certain realisations of the 'spectral' school (Grisey, Murail, Dufourt) with the gaze turned rather towards the harmonic aggregates of jazz.
What might have been mentioned first is the dramatic, almost cinematographic, quality of this music: a colourist, so that it might be better seen in imagination (La Prison or, at opposite extreme, the ineffable melody of the central movement of Écho de Narcisse), Levaillant pushes fantasising in sound as far as possible. Bracing and luxuriant, Le Cortège du Roi Bleu solicits complicity; Le Tourbillon du bal and La Fin du bal make the ear's eye travel. Richly inventive studio experience legitimates the dedication to Edgar Varèse ('for his symphonic utopia') of the spellbinding Drama Symphony, which, in multiplying the resources of the symphony orchestra, makes the connection between Pierre Schaeffer's Treatise on Musical Objects and Berlioz's Treatise on Modern Instrumentation and Orchestration.

Gérard Condé
Translated by John Tyler Tuttle

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