Fragments of sound at the Auditori of Barcelona

Concerts 12.01.2023

On December 15, the Auditori de Barcelona hosted two world premieres of clearly literary inspiration, both commissioned by the Creació Sonora de Barcelona: Ariel (2022) by Montserrat Lladó and Restos de Puente (2022) by José Mora. The evening's repertoire closed with Machaut-Architekturen (2003-2005) by the renowned Spanish composer José María Sánchez-Verdú, and the new version for six percussionists of Dust III (2018-2021), by British composer Rebecca Saunders, one of the most outstanding composers of her generation.

As soon as you enter the Sala 2 Oriol Martorell of theAuditori, a few minutes before the concert, you are struck by the docile arrangement of the instruments, barely illuminated by the chiaroscuro of the stage. In front of the respectful murmurs of the audience, already intrigued by the suspended melodic images, the instruments look like sleeping animals ready to be animated from one moment to another. And the equation is simple: brass and strings, woodwind and percussion. So when the lights go out, the spell is lifted.

In fragile balance with silence, like particles scattered in space, the fragmented notes gradually gather around us, magnetized in the void by the aesthetic gravitation that resides in the work of José Mora. Indeed, the world premiere of Restos de Puente, a work composed of thirty-five chapters/verses plus a final epilogue, unfolded like a winding journey through a ruined landscape, barely delineated, with vague and imprecise contours. This discourse is presented as a metaphor for a precarious survival, irretrievably subject to the passage of time, deterioration and ruin. This is reflected not only in the title of José Mora's work, but also in the texts that have been placed on the musicians' scores, with the following lines: "The remains of the bridge betray the failure of communication. Pieces whose existence implies a loss. Fragments that can only be explained by someone else's past". A whole imaginary of loss, subtly evoked by musicians who have captured this sobriety full of hollows and roughness, tracing a discourse that does not concede anything to traditional rhetoric, far from a classical conception of beauty; an aesthetic, in short, that flees the limits of the pulse, the tempo and the rhythm. José Mora's work was impalpable, like sand slipping through the fingers, but enchanting in its hypnotic exploration of detachment.   

The evening continued with Sánchez-Verdú's Machaut-Architekturen (2003-2005), and we left the sandy landscape offered by Mora to enter a landscape of great structural solidity, as Sánchez-Verdú's piece is a solidly drawn piece, which gives the timbre a special meaning. While Machaut-Architekturen (2003-2005) consists of five pieces (or movements), Crossing Lines and Sánchez-Verdú have chosen pieces III, IV and V for this concert. Although these pieces were originally conceived as interludes between the five parts of the Mass of Our Lady by Canon Guillem Machaut - one of the masterpieces of medieval music, the first complete mass preserved before 1365 - the selection chosen was sufficient for the audience to appreciate Sanchéz-Verdú's temperament and musical sense, his discreet approach to the use of meter, his metrical precision. All of this unfolded in an articulated framework of different layers, a polyphonic discourse rich in nuances and textures between tradition and modernity. In fact, with this sincere expressive will to communicate with tradition, the Spanish composer not only takes root in it, but expands it, nourishes it and enriches it.

Rebecca Saunders and Montserrat Lladó opened the second half of the concert.
Although the two composers are from different generations, they both draw inspiration from literature to nourish their artistic sensibilities; with an almost innate predisposition to weave dark atmospheres with microscopic and fragile timbral contours.

The first work Dust III (2008-2021) grew out of Dust (2018), a solo piece by Saunders that capped a nearly fifteen-year process of sound research.

However, as if this constant exploration were the British composer's artistic raison d'être, for this concert Rebecca Saunders offered us Dust III, a new version of the original, but adapted for six percussionists, from the ensemble Frames Percussion, spread out in different spaces. The piece breathes through eight independent but combinable modules, illustrating a narrative attentive to microtonality and, in turn, to low frequencies; interested in the discovery of original sounds, of new tessituras, proceeding through the combination of elements or the use of unconventional objects; or again, through the creation of unheard-of sound artifacts. All these sonorities deployed in front of us could well remind us of the tessitura of mud, this mixture of water and earth, allowing us to understand through the senses that the fragmented - here dust -, always refers to a greater unity.   

If Dust III is inspired by the work of Samuel Beckett, Monsterrat Lladó 's Ariel (2022) has its roots in Sylvia Plath's poem of the same name. The young Spanish composer's work gave the final part of the concert a timbral procession feel, with the Cosmos Quar tet string quartet and the timpani quartet sounding precise and subtle, both wrapped in a synthesizer-like electronic membrane, going through sound amplifications and time dilations that give Lladó's work a certain liturgical and initiatory ritual quality.  

Txema Seglers

Photo article Montserrat Lladó © Natalia Franco
Photo © Elvira Megías/CNDM
Photo © Miquel Angel