GRAUWELS, Marc: Music for Flute and Percussion

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Music for Flute and Percussion

Piazzolla • Lysight • Wilder • Devreese • Abe • Young • Shankar


After twenty years of making music around the world with Marie-Josée Simard, I keep returning to the idea that the strongest, most sensitive pieces of our repertoire are derived directly from folk-music, and those pieces that have been dedicated to us. This is the motive for our traditional musical journey round the world, starting with Astor Piazzolla and ending with Ravi Shankar.

Astor Piazzolla spent his childhood in New York where his father was a hairdresser. He studied music with a Hungarian composer who lived in the same building and exchanged music lessons for his mother's Italian cooking. In this way he learned music very different from the tango. His parents made him play the bandoneon, although he preferred the harmonica, and often provocatively declared to the press that he hated the tango. What he heard on his return to Argentina, listening to Animal Troilo's orchestra in Mar del Plata was a revelation. Piazzolla was one of the first composers to make this music sound better, according to modern taste. In the early 1950s he broke with the dance tango and went to Paris to study composition with Nadia Boulanger.

The History of the Tango, in its original version for flute and guitar, was dedicated to me by Astor Piazzolla in 1985. The flute and the guitar were, in fact, the two instruments with which the tango originated, used as background music in the brothels of Buenos Aires at the end of the nineteenth century. At the time that the work was written, I remember having had a long conversation with Piazzolla about the possibility of writing this work for flute and percussion (vibraphone and marimba), both of them instruments that Piazzolla loved very much. With his own quintet he recorded with the vibraphonist Gary Burton one of his very best albums. Twenty years later we are honoured to present The History of the Tango in its version for flute and percussion, giving life, perhaps, to an old dream of the composer's. The History of the Tango, begins with Bordel 1900 : The first four notes are played by the flute, imitating the whistle of the police, who are evacuating the brothel. The rhythm of this tango is rapid and full of vibrant gaiety. Café 1930 takes place in another era of the tango. People have ceased to dance to it as in 1900, and have begun to listen to it. Tango has become more musical, and also more romantic. Night Club 1960 refers to a time of greater international cultural exchange. Brazil and Argentina have Buenos Aires as their cultural centre. Modern tangos and bossa nova are played in the night clubs. In Concert d'Aujourd'hui Piazzolla, with traces of Bartók and Stravinsky, brings the tango into the twentieth century.

Michel Lysight is a Belgian-Canadian composer and conductor born in 1958 who teaches at the Brussels Royal Conservatoire. The discovery of such composers as Steve Reich, John Adams, Arvo Pärt and Henrik Mikolaj Górecki, marked a turning-point in his musical development and made him one of the major personalities in New Consonant Music in Belgium. His catalogue lists about fifty works. Initiation for flute and marimba consists of two movements. It was commissioned by me for my performance with the Canadian percussionist Marie-Josée Simard. The variations of the first movement have as their base a harmonic succession of seven chords. The tension mounts progressively from one variation to the next through the use of one long ostinato by the marimba, or by the use of a strict canon, calling for great virtuosity from the two players. The second movement uses only the flute in C, while the first movement uses the alto flute, varying as much as possible the sonority of the two movements. An ostinato of seven notes played by marimba opens the second movement, onto which a flute melody is superimposed. These two elements will form the foundation of the subsequent development of the piece, the source of many abrupt modulations. The time signatures are variously in 3, 5, and 7. A common point of the two movements is an extremely expressive melody juxtaposed with an implacable rhythm.

Alec Wilder's music is a unique blend of American musical traditions, among them jazz and the American popular song, and basic "classical" European forms and techniques. Frank Sinatra, an early fan of Wilder's music, persuaded Columbia Records to record some of Wilder's solo wind works with string orchestra for an album in 1945, Sinatra conducting. The two men became life-long friends and Sinatra recorded many of Wilder's popular songs. In the early 1950s Wilder became increasingly drawn to writing concert music for soloists, including, for example, Flute and Bongos No. 1, for chamber ensembles and orchestras. His works are fresh, strong and lyrical.

Frédéric Devreese, born in Amsterdam in 1929, is a Belgian conductor and composer of stage, orchestral, chamber, choral and piano works. He composed four piano concertos, the fourth of which was chosen as the set concerto for the International Queen Elizabeth Competition in 1983. He is most famous, however, for his many memorable film scores, including, for André Delvaux, l'Homme au Crâne Rasé, Un Soir, un Train…, Rendezvous à Bray, Belle, Benvenuta and L'Oeuvre au Noir. Frédéric Devreese was a conductor for Belgian Radio and Television and has conducted orchestras all over the world. In addition to various recordings for Marco Polo and Naxos, he has recorded an Anthology of Flemish Music, which brought his nomination as Cultural Ambassador of Flanders in 1996 and 1997. The delightful little miniature Butterfly, originally the music for a television series called Romance, has been arranged by Devreese for flute and vibraphone at my request. When he composed Butterfly he had just conducted Puccini's Madama Butterfly, doubtless an inspiration for the opening of his work.

Keiko Abe has won worldwide recognition with her performances over the past thirty years, particularly as a gifted marimba virtuoso, able to elicit a wealth of nuances from the instrument. She has also won a reputation as a composer and arranger. In 1993 she became the first woman ever to be inducted into the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame. Wind in the Bamboo Grove is a reflection on her connection to nature, with inspiration also drawn from things she has heard or remembers.

The singer, song-writer and arranger Karen Young is one of the ground-breaking figures of jazz in Québec, and has never ceased to explore many different musical genres. In 1993 she performed her own musical marathon over five nights in as many concerts, exploring classical music, jazz, world music, country, folk and rock. Her eclecticism and knowledge of many musical styles has permitted her to present works ranging from neo-medieval to modern jazz. Her recent compositions include works for symphony orchestra, medieval ensemble, string ensemble, brass and woodwind groups and vocal ensemble. Migrating Monarchs is the first movement of Ode to Nature, a triptych of sound sketches inspired by scenes from three seasons. This piece was inspired by a canoe trip on a sunny September day. "We were in the middle of a large lake when I noticed a mon
Disc: 1
The Enchanted Morning (Raga)
1 I. Bordel 1900
2 II. Cafe 1930
3 III. Night Club 1960
4 IV. Concert d'aujourd'hui
5 I. Lento
6 II. Allegro
7 Flute and Bongos No. 1
8 Butterfly
9 Wind in the Bamboo Grove
10 Ode to Nature: I. Migrating Monarchs
11 Spiegel im Spiegel (Mirror in the Mirror)
12 The Enchanted Morning (Raga)
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