Grisey

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COMPOSERS: Grisey
LABELS: Kairos
WORKS: Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil
PERFORMER: Catherine Dubosc (soprano); Klangforum Wien/Sylvain Cambreling
CATALOGUE NO: 0012252 KAI
Gérard Grisey died suddenly in 1998 at the age of 52, just at the time when the true significance of his musical achievement was becoming widely appreciated. His own highly distinctive music was being heard more regularly across Europe, while his influence had spread through several generations of composers, who had adopted his technique of ‘spectralism’ that used the overtone structure of sounds as the basis for musical organisation.

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The Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil (Four Songs to Cross the Threshold) was Grisey’s last work, completed just a few days before his unexpected death, a remarkable, haunting achievement by any standards and one of the major European works of the Nineties. The texts are concerned exclusively with death and the afterlife – there is a poem by the French writer Christian Guez Ricord, inscriptions from Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece, and an extract from The Epic of Gilgamesh; they are mostly set for solo soprano in a direct, uncomplicated way, while the ensemble of 15 instrumentalists cocoons her lines in rapt, slowly shifting textures. The music is generally quiet and meditative, with occasional violent outbursts; the sound-world is beguilingly strange, the harmonies mysterious and utterly fascinating. Andrew Clements