Besancon. The 2 Scenes. Ledoux Theater. 8-XII-2022. Caroline Shaw (born in 1982): Intermission. Philip Glass (born in 1937): Quartet n°9 King Lear. Franz Schubert (born in 1797-1828): Quartet n°14 The Young Girl and Death. With: Quatuor Tana (Antoine Maisonhaute, Ivan Lebrun, violins; Takumi Nosawa, viola; Jeanne Maisonhaute, cello)
On the eve of its 86th birthday, the music of Philip Glass settled for two months in the capital of Comtoise. An invitation opened by a conference by Sylvain Fanet, undoubtedly man of the year 2022 for all glassians, since author of the first book in French on the composerand which will continue in 2023 with The Terrible Children directed by Phia Ménardbefore ending with a Night Qatsi dedicated to the cult film trilogy: Koyaanisqatsi, Powaqqatsi, Naqoyqatsi.
At a time when some are questioning the theory that would like to believe that we have gone to the end of the melody but that research on sound still has a bright future ahead of it, the Tana Quartet, as a herald of the quartet in the 21st century, raises the most intelligent of objections. Familiars of Philippe Hurel, Jacques Lenot, Steve Reich, ambassadors of lesser known surnames, the Tana are also pioneers in terms of research: to mix acoustics and electronics, they have created their own instruments, the TanaInstruments. But the most original thing certainly remains that the Tanas did not look down on the art and manner of Philip Glass who, avant-garde whatever one might have said, dared, contrary to the chapels in exercise, to re – invite (by re-inventing it) the melody in a contemporary music from which we feared it would be forever banished.
The Tana Quartet could not overlook the contribution to the genre of Glass who, from 1966, composed for this formation. It is for the young French quartet, which has recorded a magnificent complete (CD Magadisc Classics) of its first seven quartets, that the American composer has conceived his ninth. Like the Third (mishima) which partly listed the chamber music moments of the sensational soundtrack of Paul Schrader’s powerful film, the Ninth is a reduction of less than thirty minutes of incidental music less than an hour from the King Lear that Glenda Jackson played in New York in 2019. We said in these columns the beauty of the disc (which also offered the Eighth Quartet). We will also say that of the live interpretation of a program remarkably thought out around this King Lear premiered at the beginning of the year at the Bozar in Brussels.
Glass told us he was concerned, by the heirs of Boulez. His people are apparently doing well: the marvelous Intermission of Caroline Shaw, given mischievously as a concert opener, is a perfect example of this melodic decomplexion questioned for 50 years by the one still nicknamed today the Pope of minimalism, but also of this research on sound advocated for itself, with the difference that Here the two feed off each other in defiance of any sterile quibble. The twelve minutes ofIntermission say loudly that it is not because one was born in the 20th century that one should be weaned from new melodies (our thanks, of course, to Honegger, Poulenc, Britten and Shostakovich…) Intermissionfrom the hook of an introduction which is seduction itself, intrigues in the process with the production of a sound which seems to come from nothingness (the score indicates: “ pitchless bow sound “). A process that seems to illustrate the questioning that has always plagued Glass: where does Music come from? A few adorable meows of cats to music later, the piece, three-part like a minuet, will have captivated to the end. Pedagogue full of humor, follower of the proximity with the public, Antoine Maisonhaute had warned: born in 1982, singer and violinist, Caroline Shaw (Pulitzer Prize at 30) is a brilliant composer.
We couldn’t find a better ambassador for King Lear, incidentally “Glass’s best quartet, Maisonhaute is jubilant, since it is dedicated to us”. It is an inexhaustible melodic well darkened fleetingly by a few spectral dissonances to represent the moor and the madness of the Shakespearian king. The Tana chisel the five movements with a clear line without affectation, whose subtle technicality like pure transparency invalidates the reputedly dry acoustics of the Ledoux Theater in which the beauty of the sound of the Tana develops at leisure until hypnosis.
After The Old Man and Death glassian, The Girl and Death Schubertian. Without preamble, the Tana throw themselves headlong into an extremely feverish interpretation of this equally heartbreaking opus. If the youthful ardor of the extreme movements can still gain in sound cohesion (the end is a little abrupt), theAndante con moto is of pure beauty with a particularly gripping cello in the moments when the rubato of the pizzicati revives the discourse.
Followed by a large and attentive room (qualified as exceptional by Antoine Maisonhaute), the harmonious coupling of this fascinating Glass/Schubert, as had done, in the same place, the Glass/Ravel by Celia Oneto Bensaid in 2020, reaches its core target, and confirms the now classic position, in the history of Music, of undoubtedly the most romantic composer of our time.
Photo credits: © Nathalie Gabay
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The Old Man, The Young Girl, Death, Glass and Schubert by the Tana Quartet – ResMusica