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Murail: Cloches d'adieu, et un sourire...
in memoriam Olivier Messiaen (1992)

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Cloches d'Adieu, et un sourire... ("Bells of Farewell, and a Smile...")

This unpretentious little piece was written at the request of the German

Radio, Deutschlandfunk, in memory of Olivier Messiaen.

It borrows several aspects (the conducting of the discourse, and the

three final notes, the adieu) of one of Olivier Messiaen's earliest works, his

piano prelude Cloches d'angoisse et larmes d'adieu (1929). I tried to mix

in, amongst other allusions, a few ethos of bells which are featured in many

of my own works. These are answered by luminous echoes and clusters of

chords in cheerful keys, as the "smile" of Messiaen's last works managed to

triumph for good over the "anguishes" and "tears" of the past-for there is no

final farewell

                         Tristan Murail

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Tristan Murail: Born in Le Havre, France, March 11, 1947; now living in Paris

French composer Tristan Murail took advanced degrees in both classical and North African Arabic as well as a degree in economic science, all while pursuing studies in music. During the 1980s, Murail developed his own system of microcomputer-assisted composition, which he used in his program called Patchwork.His system has acquired the designation “spectral” technique, which involves the use of the fundamental properties of sound as a basis for harmony. During the 1990s Murail was associated with IRCAM in Paris, and in 1997 moved to New York to teach at Columbia University until 2010. He has also served as guest professor at the Salzburg Mozarteum and the Shanghai Conservatory. Murail?s awards include the highly prestigious Prix de Rome (presented by the French Academie des Beaux-arts in 1971), a Grand Prix du Disque (1990), and the Grand Prix du President de la Republique, Academie Charles Cros (1992).

Nearly all of Murail?s works are instrumental, mostly for orchestra or for various ensembles. Among his few solo compositions for solo piano is Cloches d'adieu, et un sourire ... In memoriam Olivier Messiaen (Bells of Farewell, and a Smile … ), written in 1992 following the death of Messiaen. This short work serves as a sort of appetizer to the main course on tonight?s concert. It is also an homage to the great teacher with whom Murail studied from 1967 to 1972. Murail ?s title refers to two of Messiaen?s own compositions: the sixth of the Preludes for piano (1929), called Cloches d'angoisse et larmes d'adieu, and Un sourire (1991), an homage to Mozart, whose music so often smiles. The evocation of bells in Murail?s piece is accomplished with clanging chords that change over simple harmonies, and with repeated drones in the bass. The composer himself of loud and soft) is the crucial element in a performance of Murail's Cloches. In a composition of just four and a half minutes, the score incorporates124 dynamic markings ranging from ppp to ff. Adjacent, successive or superimposed notes and chords are heard at different dynamic levels, resulting in the impression of a concatenation of bells of various sizes, shapes, and metallic constitution.

Messiaen: Turangalila-Symphonie

ⅠⅠ Introduction Ⅵ Jardin du sommeil d'amour
Ⅱ Chant d'amour 1 Ⅶ Turangalila 2
Ⅲ Turangalila 1 Ⅷ Developpement de l'amour
Ⅳ Chant d'amour 2 Ⅸ Turangalila 3
Ⅴ Joie du sang des etoiles Ⅹ Final

Olivier Messiaen: Born in Avignon, December 10, 1908; died in Paris, April 27, 1992

Olivier Messiaen was, without question, one of the greatest, most original and most influential composers of the twentieth century. The venerable New York critic and composer Virgil Thomson wrote of Messiaen?s music: “What strikes one right off on hearing any of his pieces is the power these have of commanding attention. They do not sound familiar; their textures … are fresh and strong. … And though a certain melodic banality may put one off no less than the pretentious mysticism of his titles may offend, it is not possible to come in contact with any of his major productions without being aware that one is in the presence of a major musical talent. Liking it or not is of no matter.”

The mysticism Thomson refers to is no mere passing fancy. Messiaen was a mystic to the core of his being, and believed that through music he could communicate “lofty sentiments … and in particular, the loftiest of all, the religious sentiments exalted by the theology and truths of our Catholic faith.” Profoundly Catholic since childhood, Messiaen drew strength from a deep and unshakeable faith; nevertheless, he seemed to embrace pagan elements as well. His professed goal was “an iridescent music, one that will delight the auditory senses with delicate, voluptuous pleasures … that lead the listener gently towards that theological rainbow which is the ultimate goal of music.” These concepts have been given expression in such monumental works as the Quartet for the End of Time (1941), the Vingt Regards sur l?Enfant-Jesus (1944) and the five-hour stage extravaganza Saint Francois d?Assise, premiered in Paris in 1983. Another largescale composition in this category is the Turangalila Symphony, a ten-movement work of nearly eighty minutes’ duration.

The symphony was composed between 1946 and 1948 as a commission by Serge Koussevitzky for the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Leonard Bernstein conducted the first performance on December 2, 1949. It is scored for a very large orchestra, which includes an exceptional number and variety of keyboard and percussion instruments. The keyboard department includes a piano part of solo proportions, glockenspiel, celesta and vibraphone, all of whose combined sounds reproduce approximately the effect of a Balinese gamelan ensemble. Another special tone color in the Turangalila Symphony comes from the ondes Martenot, an electronic keyboard with a strange, mystical sound introduced by Maurice Martenot in 1928. It uses an oscillator to produce pitches, one at a time.

Messiaen explained the meaning of “turangalila” as a combination of two Sanskrit words: “turanga,” meaning time which flows, movement, or rhythm; and “lila,” meaning a kind of cosmic love involving acts of creation, destruction and reconstruction, the play of life and death. The composer thus saw his symphony as “a song of love, a hymn to joy,” a concept enlarged by biographer Robert Sherlaw Johnson to mean “a superhuman and abandoned joy, a fatal, irresistible love, transcending all and suppressing all outside of itself.” Johnson also sees the symphony as “a vast musical painting, affording glimpses of a surrealistic dream world where love and death, pain and ecstasy or the sensuous world of lovers and the horrors of Edgar Allan Poe come together in stark contrast.”

Superimposition of rhythmic and melodic ideas, and dynamic contrasts of tone colors, textures and rhythms form the essential compositional elements of the Turangalila Symphony. A work of such length and scope requires elaborate means of organic unity. A few basic guidelines will help guide the listener through the underlying structure.

The ten movements can be divided into three main groups, with the first movement as an introduction where two of the four “cyclic themes” are presented: 1) the “statue theme” (slowly moving trombone chords ? these evoke for the composer the image of awesome old Mexican monuments) and 2) the “flower theme” (clarinet arabesques played pianissimo ? smooth, curved, like the petals of a flower). The first main group of movements consists of the even-numbered ones (2, 4, 6, 8), stylistically unified by the cyclic theme of love. This theme emerges in its full-fledged form in the sixth movement, and is developed in the eighth. The fifth and tenth movements form the second group, related by their mood of joyous exaltation. The composer said of the fifth movement: “In order to understand the extravagance of this piece, it must be understood that the vision of true lovers is for them a transformation, and a transformation on a cosmic scale.”

The remaining movements are entitled “Turangalila 1,” “Turangalila 2” and “Turangalila 3.” Sinister elements ? death, pain, anxiety and terror ? are represented here, suggested by Poe?s famous story “The Pit and the Pendulum,” according to Messiaen. In these movements, especially in “Turangalila 3,” Messiaen uses highly complex rhythmic techniques including cumulative superimposition, non-retrogradable rhythms, rhythmic canons, augmentation and diminution. The technical details need concern only music theorists; listeners are invited to let the music wash over them in a panoply of sensuous colors and textures, which provide a soaring, mystic vision of cosmic love.

Robert Markow's musical career began as a horn player in the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. He now writes program notes for orchestras and concert organizations in the USA, Canada, and several countries in Asia. As a journalist he covers the music scenes across North America, Europe, and Asian countries, especially Japan. At Montreal's McGill University he lectured on music for over 25 years.

Program notes by Robert Markow

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