Festival Ensemble(s)Les états généraux de la contemporaine

Concerts 14.09.2022

Leaving the stage of the Pan Piper, it is on the more spacious stage of the Théâtre de l'Échangeur in Bagnolet - and during four days - that the Ensemble(s) festival, assisted by the students in higher education in the sound professions of the CNSMD of Paris, has put down desks and microphones for its third season. Bringing together the strengths of five ensembles, all dedicated to the music of our time, the festival celebrates this year one of the greatest figures of contemporary creation, Hugues Dufourt.

Composer but also philosopher and aesthetician, Hugues Dufourt worked at the CNRS where he became director of research. A pioneer of the spectral movement and one of the leaders of the ensemble L'Itinéraire, he participates in the integration of electronic instruments within instrumental ensembles and develops a style of writing based on research and the powers of timbre, which he situates at the source of deep emotion. And it is indeed this that each of the pieces on the program makes us feel.

If the themes diverge from one ensemble to the other, Hugues Dufourt's works are practically part of each concert: six pieces by the composer ranging from solo to ensemble, most of them having a close relationship with painting - that of Klee, Tiepolo, or Matisse. For all that, Dufourt does not work in search of equivalence between pictorial colors and sonorities. It is a question, he says, of "bringing out the depths of things", evaluating the lines of force that run through the canvases (movement, tension, energy) that the music will be able to translate through its own material.

The Court-Circuit ensemble, under the direction of Jean Deroyer, performs L'Afrique d'après Tiepolo (2005), the first of a series of four pieces to be assembled under the title Continents d'après Tiepolo. In 1752, Prince-Bishop Karl-Philipp von Greiffenklau entrusted the Venetian with the decoration of the vault of the main staircase of the residence in Würzburg, built by the architect Johann Balthasar Neumann. Tiepolo creates an ensemble "with asymmetrical and eventful perspectives" that holds the attention of our composer. For L'Afrique, or more precisely "the pale sun of Africa" which strikes the composer's eye, Hugues Dufourt conceives flat tones of color, complex chords in constant metamorphosis, in a smooth and unbroken time. This dive into the heart of the material, ecstatic and bewitching, is inaugurated by a great piano solo - Jean-Marie Cottet - which immediately captivates the listener.

"I have been busy with harmony," he says of L'origine du monde for piano and 14 instruments, which precedes L'Afrique d'après Tiepolo by one year. The piece conducted by Léo Warynski brings together musicians from the five ensembles. We are seduced by the subtle integration of the percussion which comes, at first, to prolong and hybridize the chords of the piano (Caroline Cren). The journey is immersive and the harmonic density is carried to saturation.
Even more striking, L'atelier rouge selon Matisse (2020) is written for piano, percussion, saxophone (baritone and bass) and electric guitar, summoning the instrumentalists of the Cairn ensemble who play here without a conductor. L'Atelier rouge " [...] is thus summed up as a large flat area of pure, strident color, where the impression of depth dissipates, positional relationships are eliminated, and constructional processes fail," says Hugues Dufourt about the observed painting. "The forms of traditional discourse are thus subjected to the deforming action of the media and are absorbed in another logic, that of pure tension", he explains. The musical work is harsh and beautiful, proceeding by abrupt juxtapositions of new sound complexes forging a raw material: noisy sounds of the electric guitar, multiphonics of the saxophone, play in the strings of the piano, stick scraping the pipes of the vibraphone or the support of an amplified waterphone: the last pages are no less astonishing, where the tremolos of an almost aggressive vibraphone drowns in their resonance the last chords of the piano.

The Nikel Ensemble, Warsaw Festival, 2020

Playing and transmitting

Anxious to cross genres and generations, the festival also focuses on transmission by soliciting the writing of pedagogical pieces in partnership with the Lemoine house, which has undertaken to publish them. Thus, commissions sweeping all levels of the training curriculum have been placed with fifteen composers in connection with the Conservatories of the XIᵉ and XXᵉ arrondissements as well as Gaëlle Belot's flute class in Ivry-sur-Seine. Two budding performers are invited to the front of the stage to preface each of the concerts, ensuring their world premiere with all the seriousness and talent of their young age: as many highly appreciated nuggets, such as Violeta Cruz's Cailloux given by flutist Ève Garuchot, Mikel Urquiza 's Atelier d'Escher by pianist Gaspard Verclytte and our favorite,Aurélien Dumont's Tanukibayashi. Mélina Richard-Sarmiento plays with the head of her flute and the action of her finger in the pipe and dialogues with the image whose short appearances are as relevant as they are delicious.

In world premiere

By Latvian composer Linda Leimane, Bodies. Undulations for eight instruments was commissioned by Court-Circuit (with assistance in writing original musical works) and directed by its conductor Jean Deroyer. The composer draws her inspiration from Rodin's sculpture La Porte de l'enfer, from which she seeks to translate the energy that emanates from bodies. The work functions on the continuous flow of a figure, repeated over and over again and led by the piano, which renews its configurations within the different desks by permutations and interpolations of its constituent elements: a music without edge which could turn indefinitely... but which ends up tiring. Gonzalo Joaquin Bustos, artistic director of the ensemble Sillages is at the desk in A hug to die by the Greek composer Sofia Avramidou, a piece that touches us, listening to its fragile and sensitive textures, without fully convincing us.

Cada trozo/cada ganglio for instrumental ensemble, sampler and video by Argentinean composer Fernando Garnero was commissioned by Cairn in co-production with the Académie de France à Rome-Villa Medici, where the composer was resident in 2020. The piece has the merit of introducing electronics and video on the stage, ingredients that are not often used this year. The music, Garnero tells us, was conceived from the video support of Alexis Moreano-Banda, images of a laundry in full activity and workers leaving their work. In the sampler, snippets of sounds captured in the laundry; on the score, with synthesizer, electric guitar, clarinet, cello and percussion of the ensemble Cairn - a constellatory writing, crumbs of sounds distributed in the space by musicians very attentive to each other, the piece not being directed; and it is necessary to note that the mixture operates, in particular in the central passage, with the blurred images of the workers of which the music reinforces the dreamlike range.

Guillaume Bourgogne is the conductor of the ensemble Cairn and leads the "large ensemble" (including the musicians of Multilatérale and 2e2m) in The Lincolnshire Poacher (commissioned by the Festival with the help of original music writing) by Mauro Lanza, a composer who likes to work with found objects. Here he is interested in this ghost radio station that broadcast coded messages in the 1960s, and whose sound material he collected from old CDs. The voices are summoned as well as the surrounding noises, loops and various mechanisms constituting a lively and fanciful sound ground whose virtuoso and colorful aspect Guillaume Bourgogne underlines.

Ami...chemin....oser....vie ... (2011) by Philippe Leroux is not a creation but certainly one of the most remarkable pieces of the festival, directed by Jean Deroyer. The idea was initially to work on the plasticity of the material before the composer learns of his brother's sudden death and shifts the movement towards a certain idea of death and ceremonial: such as the gesture of raising the cello and then the other string instruments to mouth level to blow into the body. For all that, one feels the pleasure of sound that generates a singular engineering of the writing and this virtuosity in the conduct of the movement, the trajectory being marked out by formidable solos such as that of the flutist Sophie Deshayes: invention, texture and thickness up to saturation; the very surprising piece celebrates the energy and the powers of sound.
The composer's current work is rich, and his opera The announcement made to Marie is on the bill at the Graslin theater in Nantes from October 9, mobilizing the forces of Cairn and the direction of Guillaume Bourgogne.

These four days dedicated to creation were dedicated by the words of Hugues Dufourt, composer and thinker of today's music. At the microphone of Corinne Schneider, and at the end of his residency, he invoked Michel Foucault to testify to the new codes of perception and practice that the Ensemble(s) festival concretizes for him: this collegiality of conductors and composers in the reflection and the content of a program; this setting in concert situation of the youngest "in the total renewal of institutional attitudes", he underlines, in particular in the link which is created between conservatories and broadcasting instances. So much encouragement and positive vibes for a fourth season in the momentum and liveliness of creation.

Michèle Tosi

Corinne Schneider's podcasts on the net
Nothing will be lost this year, as far as the exchanges between the composers present and the festival mediator Corinne Schneider are concerned, since they have been recorded in their entirety during each intermission and are the subject of podcasts (one per day) available on youtube and the festival website

Théâtre de l'Échangeur, Bagnolet, September 8-11
Works by Violeta Cruz, Aurélien Dumont, Mikel Urquiza, Linda Leimane, Hugues Dufourt, Philippe Leroux, Fernando Garnero, Mauro Lanza, Sofia Avramidou. Ensembles 2e2m, Court-Circuit, Cairn, Sillages and Multilateral.

Concert photos © Gary Garozian


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