Song Cycle for Countertenor and Orchestra / Cycle de cinq mélodies pour contre-ténor et orchestre
Poems by Bertrand Laverdure.
Premiere: 23 June 2015, Salle Bourgie, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal (Québec, Canada). Daniel Cabena, countertenor with the Orchestre de la Francophonie (conducted by Jean-Philippe Tremblay).
For this song cycle for countertenor and orchestra, I set to music five original poems written for the project by Quebec author Bertrand Laverdure. In his words, these poems “speak to both the existential pain wrought by death (including the vanishing of humanity) and the obsessive dissatisfaction of artists who cannot content themselves with living and who constantly busy themselves with leaving tangible traces of their passage on earth.”
Musically, I found my point of departure in the union between strength and fragility, characteristic traits of the countertenor voice. This union is equally present in the joining of this type of voice with a full orchestra, a combination that is still relatively rare. In order to highlight the rich diversity of colours, I wanted to highlight similarities and contrasts in texture and timbre by linking the voice with different instrumental subsets of the orchestra. To this end, and in consultation with the author, I closely examined the texts in order to render musically both the written words and that which can be read “between the lines”, with all the ambiguities, shading and nuance that this can imply. As such, the sudden changes in dynamics play a double role: they mirror the leaps in emotional tone and register expressed across the five poems of the cycle and allow the voice to take its place at the heart of this work, while also creating space for the full force of the orchestra to be heard. Thus, in my desire to bring together all these contrasts, I felt a connection to the nuanced themes of the poetry, with this search for vital balance between existential pain and the pleasure of artistic creation.
*Video: Sound: Philippe Bouvrette; Image: Rico Michel