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Exploring Claude Vivier: performances in London

(March 2013)

London plays host to two major Claude Vivier events over coming months, continuing the revival of interest in the highly original Canadian-born composer.

The visionary music of Claude Vivier (1948-83) features in two concerts in London: on 17 March with the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Gustavo Dudamel at the Barbican, and in a Music of Today concert devoted to Vivier on 2 May with the Philharmonia Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall.

Gustavo Dudamel has selected Vivier's string orchestra work Zipangu for the Los Angeles Philharmonic's international tour. Following performances at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, Zipangu travels to London on 17 March as part of the orchestra's Barbican residency, and is heard in further programmes at the KKL in Lucerne on 21 March, the Salle Pleyel in Paris on 24 March and Lincoln Center in New York on 28 March.

Zipangu
, as the composer described, "was the name given to Japan at the time of Marco Polo. Within the frame of a single melody I explore in this work different aspects of colour. I tried to 'blur' my harmonic structure through different bowing techniques. A colourful sound is obtained by applying exaggerated bow pressure on the strings as opposed to pure harmonics when returning to normal technique. A melody becomes a colour (chords), grows lighter and slowly returns as though purified and solitary."

The Philharmonia Orchestra's Music of Today free Vivier concert at 6pm on 2 May at the Royal Festival Hall is presented by Unsuk Chin and Paul Griffiths, and the ensemble drawn from the orchestra is conducted by Kwamé Ryan. The two works were composed by Vivier in the years before his death in Paris, and demonstrate the composer exploring the boundaries of his language, drawing on the spectral composers, and moving ever inwards to an increasingly autobiographical realm.

Et je reverrai cette ville etrange
for ensemble searches for melodies, existing for the composer as musical interruptions to the everlasting silence since the creation of time. Vivier describes how "the piece is a return to a certain spot in my life" - the strange place of the title. Themes of "Melancholy and Hope" dominate, seeking to "recreate the time continuum that human life has interrupted". Trois airs pour un opera imaginaire form part of the large-scale Marco Polo operatic project that Vivier was working on at the time of his death. The soprano sings words and syllables from an imaginary language, while the music moves between homophony and florid lines in free rhythm, thinning out towards the high register.

With his tragic demise at the age of 34, Vivier’s output is not large but it journeys across a range of mediums, from his operatic Kopernikus and unfinished Marco Polo, through symphonic works such as Lonely Child, Orion and Siddhartha, to experimental pieces including Wo bist du Licht! and Glaubst du an die Unsterblichkeit der Seele with its uncanny premonitions of his own murder. Moving from the early influences of Stockhausen and Messiaen towards Eastern music and spectralism, his mature idiom is visionary and questing for an inner world which, as Vivier expert Bob Gilmore describes, could be considered "a means of confronting loneliness, darkness, terror…"

A new Vivier brochure with CD sampler offers the first comprehensive guide to cover Vivier's complete output. Copies are available free of charge to promoters and performers. Please request a copy by emailing composers.uk@boosey.com.

> Listen to audio clips of Vivier's music

17 March 2013, 7.30 pm
Barbican, London
Zipangu (1980) 16’
Los Angeles Philharmonic/Gustavo Dudamel

2 May 2013, 6.00 pm
Royal Festival Hall, London (Music of Today – free concert)
Et je reverrai cette ville étrange (1981) 15’
Trois airs pour un opéra imaginaire (1982) 15’
Allison Bell/Philharmonia Orchestra/Kwamé Ryan
presented by Unsuk Chin and Paul Griffiths


> Further information on Work: Zipangu

Photo: JA Billard

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