Welcome to the new generation of MUSE ECHO. Muse Echo is where I blog about what I've composed.
Today's blog is about my wind quintet # 1, Songes d'un cœur épris. Which you can hear here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BpHymVWccu4 (wind quintet # 2 is on the listen page)
I was selected to be the composer to write a wind quintet for the medieval festival celebrating Le Bon Roi René for a couple of reasons. (Commonly asked question) 1) I had an established colleague relationship with Marika Lombardi, the artistic director of OBOEPARIS festivals who is also the oboist and and organizer for quintetto ANEMOS, the wind quintet to perform in this mediaval festival. 2) She understood and played several of my compositions for oboe; solo, oboe duets and oboe quartet and was especially fond of the quartet. (Flying with Ravens into the Night) 3) We became friends. 4) She learned that my last composition teacher, Eleanor Armer studied with Darius Milhaud and that Ellie passed down many of his composition philosophies and concerns to me, which I embraced. 5) Milhaud was raised in Tarascon where the French premiere was to occur.
It just fell into place like magic.
I was thrilled to get the commission, work with ANEMOS and equally thrilled to explore Tarascon where Milhaud lived! It helped me understand his philosophies about how composing is like cooking. Listening to the wind and trees there, experiencing the sky there, all helped me deepen my love for his aesthetics, the gist and layers of expressive nuance in his music. Enjoying the cheeses of the area, smelling the earth, drinking the wines, and water, drinking in the color of the sky, from there deepened my love of life as well as appreciation of aspects of some of the beauty of his earlier years. Listening to his quintet in the same performance as mine, seeing the famous fire place too, was a great lesson in perspective and awareness. (In this video, you may notice an indentation in the stone wall behind the quintet, that is not the fireplace by any means, but it was in the same room) Yes, it was like a fantastic field trip and although exhausted and dreadfully overheated, I was on cloud 9 and a cherished life experience.
It was a unique experience exploring 2 castles while in Europe and it felt creepy knowing that this castle in Tarascon, France was the castle in after, which the Bastille was modeled! What I love most about castles is how the stone steps wear down after centuries of use. The sculptures made by human feet over generations.
Although I knew Marika, I didn't know the other musicians in ANEMOS personally nor had I heard them together while I composed this quintet so I wrote the quintet rather conservatively.
I was inspired of course by how much Roi René loved art and was a writer himself! I studied some of his work and sentiments of expression. I was deeply touched by his convictions of the importance of treating women respectfully, controlling one's passions and about his fear of love. He wrote about the need to be careful, thoughtful, respectful and yet find the courage to love with an open heart.
I decided to express caution, reserve, mindfulness, insecurity and restrained torment of desire in this work balanced with hope of possibility. The cover is perfect for the tormented restrained facets of the work and the cover is used with permission as it is from an Illuminated Manuscript of the Good King René himself.
It was for me a work about poise, deep feeling in a slow elegant way. I didn't want it to be overly dramatic or indulgent yet it was important to me to have moments of beauty and inspiration.
It's only 10 or so minutes long, which was appropriate for the concert with all what else was involved ... which I loved. There was a dramatic actor reading. I could have stopped the world and listened to him all night. That actor had mastered time and phrasing - I live for that level of artistry. I don't remember his name or have the program to that handy - it was a while ago...perhaps by next week when I blog further upon this work - specifically about the musicians, I'll find it....
I was pleased with the care and artistry of ANEMOS in learning, rehearsing, and performing this work. It was very interesting hearing them rehearse/perform this piece and several other works, the week we spent together, in various settings acoustically. This recording was the 2nd performance, first performance having been in Trento, Italy in another STONE castle....with bombastic acoustics. (Something I had never heard before in my life - and taught me a thing or two about composing for chamber music!) While this quintet worked beautifully in the chapel in Northern Italy where they rehearsed, one section of this quintet was a disaster in the very live acoustics in the first castle - yet ALL of the sections of Milhaud's composition, worked! WHOA - back in school for me! - but what a lesson in better phrasing and layering for a quintet...
The mess was in the I (as in after H and before J) section of the quintet which has the most going on contrapuntally.
After the Trento premiere and before the Tarascon premiere, I had a sleepless night figuring out how to work out the dynamics and phrasing in the " I " section of the quintet, so it would work for certain, in the other stone castle, for the French premiere! Marika and I came to the same conclusions and dealt with it in no time at the start of the nest rehearsal. I did leave only open and general guidelines in the score for that section regarding dynamics - (note to self - in highly contrapuntal chamber music, clearly specify dynamics of phrasing IF clarity is desired and just in case the ensemble is playing in a room of stone or gymnasium acoustics) so if I ever create a 2nd edition, it will be full of detail. Simply put - if you happen to have this quintet, just start the phrases mf in the I section and decrescendo as you descend. Horn is brought out always as the horn represents the king - FYI.
That big learning opportunity aside.
What a banner experience hearing these lovely people and sensitive musicians bring this work to life and to enjoy time with them in beautiful Northern Italy and Southern France. All of them stole my heart. I just adore them. For me, a rare treat and not business as usual as I live far away from them. I am forever deeply grateful for the chapter in my life working with them on this composition and experience.
To be cont....
To the Muse!
Kathryn J. Potter