- Conductor: Pierre-André Valade
- Composer: Tristan Murail
- Audio CD (18 May 2015)
- Number of Discs: 1
- Label: Aeon
- ASIN: B00V6CLKTQ
- Other Editions: MP3 Download
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 213,089 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
Tristan Murail: Le Partage Des Eaux
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Murail: Le partage des eaux, Contes cruels & Sillages
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With this second monograph in the catalogue, æon confirms its attachment to one of the principal representatives of spectral music in France and abroad. Tristan Murail, a major composer and former student of Messiaens who early on freed himself from serialism, explores the whole sound spectrum, which he recomposes using the new technologies.
Blending both Nature as a source of inspiration and the tools of computer analysis as compositional means, the composer lies within the great French tradition of naturalist music going back to the 18th century. A way of returning to the natural model.
The works for large orchestra brought together in this recording present an extensive panorama of the composers output between 1985 and 2007, haunted by his futuristic visions and dreamlike elsewheres.
Three orchestral works composed in successive decades, all of them recorded for the very first time in wonderfully diligent performances under Pierre-André Valade, provide a good introduction to Tristan Murail's sound world.The work of this onetime pupil of Olivier Messiaen, born in 1947, who along with Gérard Grisey and Hugues Dufourt became closely associated with the so-called spectral movement in French music in the 70s and 80s, has become more linear, more obviously French, over the years. It seems less concerned with microtonal shifts and harmonies now, though such ideas still play an important role in some of Murail's pieces the most recent score here, Contes Cruels, from 2007, centres on a pair of electric guitars tuned a quarter of a tone apart, the sound of both being constantly transformed through electronic modulation.But there are moments in Le Partage des Eaux, completed in 1996 and the first in a series of works exploring the complexity of natural sounds, in which the stylistic wheel seems to turn full circle, with wind writing that harks back directly to Messiaen. Such gestures seem far from the more tangled, shifting surfaces of his 1985 composition, Sillages, inspired by the rock gardens of Kyoto, though the sonorities are equally luminous, and striking. --The Guardian
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Partage des Eaux displays a kind of underwater atmosphere with lots of sudden activity, small cells of exotic percussion-enhanced sounds that are pitched against a high B note on the violins which is heard virtually throughout this great opening piece. At some points it sort of restarts, going back to its tranquil beginnings before venturing out to explore again.
The second and perhaps least successful piece (whose title translates as "cruel tales") is a bit of a ramshackle work. It has the occasional section of slow beautiful shimmering music which is quickly turned into the kind of slightly slapstick, almost drunken material that is the main concern here apparently. The sounds of the two electric guitars integrate well in the overall palette, they are played straight so do not expect any distorted sounds like in blues or rock.
In the final piece Sillages rock does make an appearance however, based as it is on the Kyoto rock gardens and the cosmic elements Murail saw into them according to the fine and extensive booklet notes. The earliest piece on this disc (1985), it is not dissimilar to the first but is based more on low earthy sounds and is focused more on the wind section of the orchestra, next to the ubiquitous percussion. Twice it builds up to a grand moment of glory, pointing I suppose to the cosmic element.
Pierre-André Valade directs vivid sounding studio recordings of these works by the BBC Symphony Orchestra (1) and the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic (2/3).
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Pierre-Andre Valade led these premiere recordings of Murail compositions from 1985, 1995, and 2007 -- a rather neat glimpse of three decades or orchestral writing. Valade is an expert in conducting spectralist music -- he has conducted numerous Murail works (we learn from the liner notes), is in the process of recording the orchestral works of Hugues Dufourt with the Philharmonic Orchestra of Luxembourg (see my reviews of Volume One and Volume Two), and he was the conductor of the first recording of Gerard Grisey's Les Espaces Acoustiques.
Spectralist music is a departure from the post-war trajectory of serialism, focusing on a microscopic analysis of the frequency and timbre of sounds. Vibrations! (The Hindu faith believes that the original vibration OM is the origin of the Universe...) It is inspired by nature, following Debussy, and utilizes computers and mathematics including chaos theory and fractals to produce distinctively smooth, organic sounds.
Here's the program:
"Le Partage des eaux" for large orchestra (22'29 -- 1995/6)
BBC Symphony Orchestra -- recorded 2002
"Contes cruels" for two electric guitars and orchestra (20'48 -- 2007)
Wiek Hijmans, Seth Josel
Netherlands Radio Philharmonic -- recorded 2010
"Sillages" for large orchestra (18'19 -- 1985)
Netherlands Radio Philharmonic -- recorded 2010
These works are presented in an order similar to the Montaigne disc, which sandwiched "Desintegrations" for ensemble and electronic tape in between two orchestral works. Here, "Contes cruels" (Cruel Tales), featuring electric guitars, forms the centerpiece. It's the most recent composition, and sounds the most distinctively different of the three. The guitars only sometimes sound recognizably like electric guitars as they are transformed by ring modulators, envelope filters, echoes, phase shifters, and other effects. The second guitar is tuned a quartertone higher than the first. The foregrounding of the electronic voices makes this work sound less organic, less like an awe-inspiring natural process, than Murail's other orchestral works, and this logically follows from its source, an 1883 French book of short stories of the same name. Valade points out that "[t]he orchestra is conceived here with a strong identity as a resonator for the two guitars ... they lie at the origin of the orchestral textures, which they initiate..."
The concluding piece, "Sillages," dates from the same Eighties period as the pieces on the Montaigne disc. I find it to be the most thoroughly satisfying of the three, with a tone of natural/religious wonder that reminds me of Messiaen. It was commissioned by the Kyoto Community Bank, and was based on observations of Kyoto, Japan -- specifically of its prominent rock gardens.
The opening piece, "Les Partage des eaux" (The Parting of the Waters) is for orchestra with computer (originally a synthesizer). Murail explains that "[t]he role of the synthetic sounds is to complement the orchestra (by simulating a harp or a vibraphone playing in quartertones, for example), or else to clarify, enrich, or smooth the sonic textures." Central to the work is the sound of a wave and its backwash, not actually illustrated, but used as the sonic underpinning, based on the dynamic spectral analysis of that sound. Sometimes quite forceful, and vibrant throughout, "Les Partage" clearly carries forward some of the optimistic vision of Messiaen.
The 36-page booklet in French and English includes commentary on all three works by both the composer and the conductor.
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Tristan Murail (b. 1947) is one of the founders of spectralism, along with Gerard Grisey (1946-1998). Murail, a computer music wizard, worked at IRCAM in the Nineties, and then taught at Columbia University from 1997 to 2011. In 2012 he took a position as professor of composition at the Mozarteum University of Salzburg.