flute, clarinet, piano, violin, cello and processing

Treize couleurs du soleil couchant, hasoften been referred to as an “impressionist” work. It is true that Monet’s painting which gave its name to the Impressionist movement was entitled Impression, soleil levan — there is perhaps some symmetry there… In any case, if “impressionism” means above all the opposite of “expressionism”, I could agree. In any case, if “impressionism” means above all the opposite of “expressionism”, I could agree. Being “impressionist”, the piece is nonetheless very structured. The proportions, the intervals and main harmonies, the pulsations have been determined a priori, and are more or less exact relationship of homothety. Fortunately, on listening to the work, we are not aware of this … However, I think, that one can easily hear the succession of the “treize couleurs», even without counting on one’s fingers, because each of them is well characterized. More than impressionism, I would gladly speak of symbolism: from the natural phenomenon of sunset, it is the structure, the temporal evolution that is retained: the way in which colours and lights evolve, change, rapid yet imperceptible: insensitive metamorphoses, which lead to clear-cut colours. Technically, the piece is based on thirteen sections (plus an introductory section) each based on two sounds that form different intervals featuring characteristic colours. These intervals generate each other through «harmonic drift». The instruments have a fairly well-defined structural role: flute and clarinet play the intervals that generate the music — violin and cello make them drift (by making the harmonics of the basic sounds heard, or their intermodulation — additional and differential -, or by sliding through micro-intervals) — the piano envelops the whole in echoes or premonitions. The writing for the instruments uses complex sounds (multiphonic, playing on bow pressure, etc.) and seeks to integrate them into the musical discourse. Furthermore, the harmonic treatment requires the use of micro-intervals (up to an eighth of a tone) which nonetheless sound completely «natural». Starting from a medium brightness (in the medium), the piece rises to a maximum of light (sixth «colour»), and then descends to the low, the dark. The thirteenth and final interval, enriched and echoed, sounds like a death knell.

Performances