Recording engineer: Ralf Koschnicke (1-6) Ralf Kolbinger (4-6), Günter Appenheimer (7), Roland Storch (1-3)
Mixing engineer, editor and Producer: Ralf Koschnicke
Recording facilities: ACOUSENCE recording mobile / ACOUSENCE recordings (1-6)
Recording location: Mercatorhalle Duisburg, 9./10.05.2007 (7); 20./21.06.2007 (4-6); 19./20.09.2007(1-3)
Publisher: HEUGEL, Paris (1-3); EDITONS DURAND, Paris (4-7)
Recorded with: C.Bechstein - piano, model D.280
c & p 2008 ACOUSENCE records
Jolivet Concerto for Piano and Orchestra; Ravel Gaspard de la nuit; Debussy L´isle joyeuse
The inspirations are very differing: music from outside Europe, an anthology of poems and a painting inspired the composers André Jolivet, Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy to some of their most important works. Using as a basis the typical elements of traditional music from Central Africa, the Far East and Polynesia, André Jolivet conjures up the ritualistic origins of this music in his piano concerto. And since the concept of magic and invocation repeatedly appears in his work, the request by a radio station to write music inspired by non-European sounds and rhythms fascinated him. On the other hand Maurice Ravel was inspired by the ghostly and uncanny visions in the prose-poems of Aloysius Bertrand to write a piano cycle, and in "L'isle joyeuse" ("The happy island") Claude Debussy was motivated by a poem by the painter Jean-Antoine Watteau. The three French compositions are inconceivable without the piano, but the keyboard is treated in each case in different ways: percussive and drum-like in the piano concerto by Jolivet, enveloped into certain atmospheres appropriate to the uniform piano colour with Ravel, and sweepingly virtuosic with Debussy. It is easy to see that the classic piano technique no longer plays a role for these pieces. This does not only apply to the close-to-nature piano concerto by Jolivet, but decades earlier already to the piano cycle of Ravel and the single piece by Debussy. Therefore the wish to create orchestral versions of "Gaspard de la nuit" and "L'isle joyeuse" is only logical. Bernardo Molinari instrumented the Debussy piece still during the composer's life time, Marius Constant orchestrated the Ravel cycle more than half a century after the composer's death.
André Jolivet Piano Concerto
The French composer André Jolivet was born in Paris on August 8th, 1905. The family was artistically interested: his mother was a pianist, and his father had completed art studies before making a career as a civil servant. From the very beginning Jolivet opposed the conventional music business. Thus he gained insights into the liturgical music of the renaissance, while his composition teacher Paul Le Flem introduced him to the then very modern music of Belá Bartók, Alban Berg and Arnold Schönberg. 1930 to 1933 Jolivet became the only European pupil of Edgard Varèse (1883-1965), who had emigrated in1925 as a Frenchman to America, and who belongs to the great innovators of music, since in his works the emancipation of sound plays an important role. In 1935 Jolivet was, along with Olivier Messiaen, one of the founders of the group "La Jeune France", with which he pursued the aim to rehumanize music and to lead it out of the much criticised abstraction in contemporary art at that time. This group therefore contrasted with the revolutionary thoughts of the 'Modernists'. André Jolivet, who had also temporarily worked as a teacher, was a very productive composer active in numerous musical genres. He not only wrote three symphonies and sixteen works for a solo instrument and orchestra, but also composed numerous pieces of incidental music during his time as music director of the Comédie Française 1945 to 1959. He later became professor for composition at the Paris Conservatoire from 1966 to 1970, and died in Paris, having been honoured with numerous awards, on 20th December 1974.
André Jolivet had the intention to give back to music "its original, ancient meaning when it was still a magical and beseeching expression of the religiousness of tribal communities". Magic and invocation therefore play an important role in his music. Numerous composition titles such as "Cinq Incantations pour flûte seule", "Cinq Danses rituelles", "Suite delphique" and "Épithalame" point to this fact. At the same time the percussion instruments underwent a decisive upgrading. Something that was not only influenced by Edgard Varèse. Equally André Jolivet's journeys to North Africa, his interest in the music of Polynesia and also in American Indian art lend an often exotic attraction to the music of André Jolivet.
André Jolivet's Concert Works
André Jolivets's musical aesthetics can clearly be deduced from his works for the concert hall. Firstly there is the early concerto for Ondes Martenot of 1948, which shows his interest in new sounds by the choice of an electronic instrument. Furthermore the first flute concerto of 1949 must be mentioned, because the composer referred to the significance of this instrument in primitive music cultures. On the other hand, the second trumpet concerto of 1954 shows a striking influence of jazz music. The fact that the percussion instruments play an important role for André Jolivet is confirmed in numerous concertos, even in late works such as the first cello concerto (1962) and the violin concerto (1972). Only the second cello concerto (1966) written for Mstislav Rostropowitsch gets by without percussion instruments. Turning to "Exoticism" a further important component for Jolivet is met in the piano concerto.
The Concerto for Piano and Orchestra
The concerto for piano and orchestra is a work from the year 1950. Already in 1946 the French broadcasting company had begun to commission works inspired by non-European music. Jolivet had repeatedly been motivated by this thought and wrote works in which non-European melodic forms and rhythmical models are used. The piano concerto became a particularly complex work itself, for in the first movement central African, in the second movement Far Eastern and in the third movement Polynesian influences can be found. An important role falls to the percussion instruments in this concerto and also the piano is sometimes used in the way of a percussion instrument. Through this, a work was created which has great vitality, primarily in its fast outer movements .
André Jolivets concerto for piano and orchestra was performed for the first time in the context of the festival of Strasbourg on June 19th, 1951. The composer conducted, and Lucette Descaves was the soloist. Although the premiere caused a scandal, the composer received the "Grand Prix de la Ville de Paris" for this work in that same year. A further important performance took place in New York on January 5th, 1953 with the pianist Philippe Entremont. Today, the piano concerto is one of André Jolivet's most important instrumental works.
Maurice Ravel / Marius Constant "Gaspard de la nuit"
The composer Maurice Ravel was impressed greatly by the poems of Aloysius Bertrand (1807-1841) already as a student and, years later, he returned to the French poet once again: He composed three piano pieces at the age of 33 which he named after the title of Bertrand's anthology of poems which had been posthumously published in 1842. The three pieces describe ghostly, even horrible visions and regarding their pianistic requirements they surpass all earlier piano pieces of Maurice Ravel. But more than that: until these pieces Ravel hadn't composed anything more radical.
"Gaspard de la nuit" consists of three pieces of which the final piece ("Scarbo") doesn't only surpass the two previous pieces regarding its length, but also regarding the virtuosity. The opening piece bears the title "Ondine" and the water-nymph is represented by roaring chord arpeggios. Here Ravel continued his own path which began with "Jeux d'eau" (1901) and "Une Barque sur l océan" (1905). He also linked up with comparable pieces by Franz Liszt, at the same time inspiring Claude Debussy, too. If one takes into account what is to come in the future, then "Ondine" is the prelude to far ghostlier tonal paintings, but the soulless water-nymph certainly has her place in the context of this cycle. How closely Bertrand's anthology is followed is revealed at the end. In the poem the mermaid invites her lover to follow her and to become King of the lake after the end of her murmuring song. But he confesses to her that he is in love with a mortal woman. How Ondine sulks, sheds tears, breaks out in resounding laughter and finally disappears, can also be heard in Ravel's composition.
The scene of the slow middle part is really eerie: "Le Gibet" ("the gallows") shows a hanged man whose body swings to and fro in the evening light while from the medieval town the "poor sinner bell" rings monotonously. The ringing of bells had already inspired many composers in the past to write pieces of music but the death knell has never sounded more uncanny: The depressing bell strokes can only be heard in muffled volume, in addition, Ravel went to the limits with his experiment of how much repetition a piece of music can stand. After this unreal and lifeless impression the last of the three movements introduces the cunningly evil dwarf "Scarbo". So after the lifeless middle part, everything becomes active and full of life. Ravel's piano piece places unusual demands on its interpreters, as the composer had, according to his own statement tried to surpass the piano piece "Islamey" by Mili Balakirew.
At first Maurice Ravel's three piano pieces confused his contemporaries. Although the limits of the instrument are brushed, Ravel, who became popular with his instrumentation of Mussorgsky's "pictures of an exhibition" never thought of a complete orchestration. This reworking was only presented in 1990 by the French-Romanian conductor and composer Marius Constant (1925-2004). Constant completed his studies at the Paris conservatory under Olivier Messiaen, Arthur Honegger and Nadia Boulanger, he was a ballet conductor in Paris from 1956 to 1966, founded an ensemble for contemporary music in 1963 and directed the Paris opera from 1973 to 1978. Constant, who taught orchestration himself, arranged Georges Bizet's opera "Carmen" for the director Peter Brook. Although Constant kept close to the original with his instrumentation of "Gaspard de La nuit", he tried to introduce novel instrumentation effects into his arrangement.
Claude Debussy/Bernardo Molinari " L'isle joyeuse "
The piano piece "L'isle joyeuse" ("The happy island") was written in 1903 and reworked in the following year. A painting by the French artist Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721) inspired Debussy to compose this piece. This picture bears the title "L'embarquement de Cythère" ("The embarkation to Kythera"). The Greek island Kythera was regarded as place of happiness and sensual fulfillment. Since the reworking was carried out on the island of Jersey, where the composer spent time with the banker's wife Emma Bardac, autobiographical traits can be assumed in the piano piece. Emma Bardac became the composer's wife in 1908.
While many of Debussy's piano pieces were published in compilations, "L'isle joyeuse " is a single piece. Debussy was already on the peak of his art in 1904, because important works like the opera "Pelléas et Mélisande" already existed. Next, the composer devoted himself to the orchestral work "La mer", but important piano pieces like the two volumes of Préludes were still to come. In principle, the composer provided many of his piano pieces with a title, and in this piece it is apparent where the trill figures and the pianistic arabesques had their origin. Furthermore there are lydian progressions and whole tone sequences, which correspond to the antique subject. In this way "L'isle joyeuse " became a popular piano piece - valued by the pianists as a virtuoso performance piece, and loved by the audience because of its optimistic attitude. "Mon dieu, how hard this is to play. The piece incorporates all ways to deal with the piano because it connects strength and grace", the composer said.
Not only the virtuoso aspect, but also the worldly attitude towards life have contributed to the orchestration of "L'isle joyeuse". The orchestral setting stems from the Italian conductor Bernardo Molinari (1880-1958) who was in personal contact with Debussy. In Rome Molinari was the permanent director of the Augusteo orchestra, he went on tours and inspired the performance of popular open-air concerts. The orchestral setting of "L'isle joyeuse" originated in 1917 - fourteen years after the completion of the piano piece and one year before the death of the composer.
Michael Tegethoff (Translation: Michael Millard)