Scènes de bal

Scènes de bal


String quartet

12 mn

• First audition of the individual movements: from 25 to 29/06/2001, broadcasting on France Musique (“Alla breve”) – Quatuor Ysaÿe.

• World premiere (whole work): 7/02/2002, salle Olivier-Messiaen, Maison de Radio France, Paris (France), during the Présences festival – Quatuor Ludwig.

• Publisher: Gérard Billaudot.

• Commissioned de Radio France pour le Quatuor Ysaÿe.

• CD “Chorus” (Accord/Universal 476 1282).

Composed at the request of Radio France for the Alla breve programme, the piece is divided into five short dances, each one related to the memory of a popular dance (waltz, tango, slow, fox trot, etc.). The poetic generating idea is this image, so magnificently conjured up in Ettore Scola’s film Le Bal, of an empty, filtered dancehall that comes back to life according to resurgences of past hails. While the whole is divided into five dances of equal length, the third stands out with its haunting, dramatic density—somewhat unexpected in the evocation of a slow dance. Moreover, the following dances will have considerable difficulty escaping this bewitching atmosphere, like the last dance which, after vainly trying to create a rhythmic pattern with ragtime accents, will end up in a sudden reappearance of the dark, heavy atmosphere of the third.

Once the rhythm of the initial dance is stated, each piece evolves like a short ‘tone poem’ with its breathless progressions, dialogues of often-contradictory elements, polyrhythmic transformations, abrupt renewals of the arrangement in the sound space. It is, moreover, this character full of colourful imagery, as well as the orchestral writing of the quartet that stand out in the listening. ‘Thus, the opening waltz starts off, lost in a quivering haze. The tango that follows is identifiable less by its rhythm than by its dark violence. Enigmatic, morbid, the ‘slow’ also develops its rhythmic and melodic obsessions. The disco style—binary, with the crotchet = 112—that asserts itself at the beginning of the fourth scene does not resist the spells of the variation spirit that will culminate in the final scene, a ragtime powerless to take hold, where echoes of the previous movements bring the work to a close, ensuring its unity’. (Gérard Condé, Le Monde).

Thierry Escaich
Translated by John Tyler Tuttle