Recomposing with Pierre-Yves Macé

Concerts 27.10.2023

Three pieces and as many rewrites are on the program for this third concert dedicated to the music of Pierre-Yves Macé, a composer to whom the 2023 edition of the Festival d'Automne devotes a portrait. 

Like his Danish colleague Simon Steen-Anderson, Pierre-Yves Macé likes to work with pre-existing material, whether it comes from external sources (sound banks, repertoire works, folk songs, etc.) or from his own writing. Thus, all the pieces performed this evening, taken from his own catalog, were rewritten in 2023: to modify the context, instrumentation or format, according to the requirements of the concert. 

First, there are these Virgules radiophoniques , reorganized into two books and played alternately with the other works on the program. They were composed in the studio for Gérard Pesson's (now sadly defunct) late-night program, Boudoirs et autres, broadcast every Friday. For the Multilatérale ensemble, which took over the stage at the Théâtre des Abbesses, Pierre-Yves Macé produced an instrumentation. Each piece bears a title, displayed on the screen at the back of the stage, and distributes the roles (solo, duo, quartet, etc.) among the eight instrumentalists (string quintet, flute, harp and keyboard). The sampler placed on the celesta remains the Macéen instrument par excellence, emblematic of the heterogeneity and discontinuity with which he loves to work. In phase with the exogenous sounds/voices that emerge from the sampler, the instrumental writing is no less motley, between noisy instances, looped motifs, soft oscillations and untimely surges: " a set of features about to take shape ", in the wise words of writer Pierre Senges. Based on Senges' original libretto, Macé wrote his chamber cantata Maintenant de toutes nos forces, essayons de ne rien comprendre in 2017, a phrase by Georgian philosopher Merab Mamardachvili taken from Senges' text. Commissioned by the Paris Chamber Orchestra, the work was adapted in 2023 for voice and small ensemble, another way of recycling existing material.

As in Bach's Cantatas, the harpsichord is the privileged partner of the voices. On either side of the conductor, Léo Warynski, two male characters question each other, inhabited by opposing philosophical ideas: the idealist is embodied by countertenor Guilhem Terrail, and the materialist by tenor Steve Zheng. The surtitles help us understand this polyglot "disputacio". The instruments follow the voices like their shadow, allowing themselves a few madrigalistic touches here and there. Humor permeates the subject matter, and virtuosity is at work, both vocal and instrumental, duly assumed by the two singers and the musicians of Multilatérale.

The unusual and the unexpected, the impromptu, the poetic and the derisory, the almost nothing, the present moment and nostalgia: the sound proposition is open in Cahier 2 des Virgules radiophoniques, the miniature being the place for a certain disinhibition, notes Pierre-Yves Macé. 

The more ambitious Kind des Faust (Child of Faust) was originally a work on medium, played through loudspeakers as part of Sylvain Creuzevault's 2016 show Angelus Novus . Kind des Faust is heard tonight in concert, with its three characters/singers, the eight musicians of Multilatérale and electronics under the direction of Léo Warynski.

Here, the myth is re-read, in German, through the figure of Faust and Marguerite's child, who returns from the realm of the dead to seek revenge. Soprano Anne-Claire Baconnais takes on the role, impressing in the almost Straussian monologue at the beginning, where the voice is deployed in all its registers and modes of enunciation (spoken, rasped and sung) to invoke the evil one. The idea of having the countertenor (Guilhem Terrail) and the bass(Laurent Bourdeaux) sing in duet as Mephisto is devilishly effective. The instruments are at the service of the voices and the dramaturgy, and also ensure the scene changes, as in this scene, Willkommen im Kabarett! where the pizzicati of the strings fuse to an alert motif running in a loop. The parents (Father and Mother) intervene only in voice-over via the sampler, sometimes falling victim to technical failures! 

Humor vies with eccentricity in this slightly strange pocket opera, well conducted by Léo Warynski, who lets us appreciate the fusion between electronics, voices and instruments, all of which are outstanding. 

Michèle Tosi

Théâtre de la ville - Les Abbesses , Paris 24/10/2023
Pierre-Yves Macé (b. 1980) : Virgules radiophoniques, cahiers I et II, for flute, harp, keyboard, string quintet and electronics; Maintenant, de toutes nos forces, essayons de ne rien comprendre, text by Pierre Senges, for string quartet, harpsichord, tenor and countertenor; Kind des Faust (Child of Faust), text by Sylvain Creuzevault, for string quintet, flute, harp, electronic keyboard, soprano, countertenor, bass. Anne-Claire Baconnais, soprano; Guilhem Terrail, countertenor, Steve Zheng, tenor; Laurent Bourdeaux, bass. Ensemble Multilatérale, Les Métaboles; conductor Léo Warynski.

Discover the new album by Les Métaboles and Leo Warynski, Le Moine et le Voyoufeaturing works by Bernard Cavanna and Francis Poulenc.

Photos © Les Métaboles


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