“Do you believe in the immortality of the soul?” The question is asked by Claude Vivier. The concert program features two final works driven by the experience of being on the threshold of existence, and with magnificent, shimmering timbres. The works go back and forth, from mobile to static, expanding time and compressing time, one claimed as disaster, the other as “the dawning of a human race finally delivered from nightmares.”
Claude Vivier’s last composition, Glaubst Du an die Unsterblichkeit der Seele? emerged from a sense of wonderful serenity. The score, for the unusual combination of a 12-voice choir, three synthesizers and percussion instruments, sings a song of fear, not the fear of being dead, but rather of dying. Before Claude Vivier was murdered, he staged a scene where a young man, a random encounter in the Paris metro, looked at him, and his gaze fascinated him. “Without any other form of introduction, he reached into his dark black jacket, probably bought in Paris, pulled out a knife and thrust it into my heart.” An angel of death who seems to have been there since time immemorial. In apposition, the work Quatre Chants pour franchir le seuil [Four Songs to Cross the Threshold] by Gérard Grisey (who knew Claude Vivier very well, and to whom he dedicated his diptych Anubis – Nout) has four basic sources, Christian, Egyptian, Greek and Mesopotamian, providing the poetic and metaphysical expression of the void, of echoes, silence, disappearance, rarefaction, and a shadow both existential and acoustic. No despair is found here, but rather serenity and the calm acceptance of another form of presence.
Separating the two works that stand as final testaments, are Vivier’s Cinq Chansons for percussion: one song for each part of the day (morning, midday, afternoon, evening and night), developing around a few sounds, giving rise to a gentle tune, singing the praises of the sun, meditating on life and surrendering to dreams.
Concert: 1h15 plus intermission
Claude Vivier: Glaubst Du an die Unsterblichkeit der Seele?; Cinq Chansons for percussion; Jesus erbarme dich for a cappella choir
Gérard Grisey: Quatre Chants pour franchir le seuil for soprano and 15 musicians
Melody Louledjian, soprano
Chœur Solistes XXI, Stéphane Grapperon, conductor
Michael Wendeberg, conductor
Thierry Coduys, sound engineer
Coproduction: Philharmonie de Paris; Festival d’Automne à Paris
With support from the Ernst von Siemens Foundation for Music
With support from the Canadian Cultural Centre in Paris
With support from SACEM
Concert recorded by France Musique (Radio France)