7 violins, 3 violas, 2 cellos and double bass

Melody, still and again, still and forever renewed: once more, it is a melody that is the central point of a Vivier work, this time, Zipangu. As though his instrumental music should sing—with the voice of both the Orient and its fetish character, Marco Polo (Zipangu is a derivation of the name the Chinese gave to Japan). Vivier wanted this melody scrambled, and used various bowing techniques to accomplish his goal.

Listening it becomes clear that much of the work’s interest also flows from the way the strings are treated. The same melody may be heard as a dialogue between high and low-pitched strings, from which a violin solo emerges from time to time. The strings alternate between high lyricism and great darkness; the low-range passages create a sinister impression, and the higher reaches seem deliberately screeching. Amongst all this are some important moments, at times light and bouncy; at others sudden, violent, and breathless. A Vivier in full control of his musical means delivers this work to listeners, complete with some rousing final harmonies in the strings that almost assume the sound, and certainly have the authority, of a choir of trumpets.

Martine Rhéaume [viii-07]