The belated stage premiere of Claude Vivier's Musik fur das Ende was presented in the Soundstreams series in Toronto in October, within a full evening of musical theatre exploring the composer's music and life.
Claude Vivier’s Musik für das Ende received a belated stage premiere in Toronto’s Soundstreams series in October. The 45-minute work dates from 1971, early in the Quebecois composer’s career but already exploring his later preoccupations with death, eternity and a spiritual release into the cosmos. Vivier described how, "as if in a dream, I experienced the increasingly strange ceremony of beings fainting into forever and becoming ‘an infinite moment’ in eternal silence… The Music of the End is where all is forever erased, where all becomes infinite silence."
Scored for a choir of solo singers doubling on percussion, the work had to wait 40 years for its first concert performance by the RIAS Chamber Choir in Berlin in 2012. The production in Toronto, staged by Chris Abraham and conducted by John Hess, saw Musik für das Ende combined with a monologue drawn from Vivier’s writings and a performance of his final work Glaubst du an die Unsterblichkeit der Seele, with theatrical references to the composer’s biography woven across all three parts.
"So shimmering are Vivier’s drones, so sweetly childlike his invented languages and mystical geographies, so energetic his need to communicate his cravings and insecurities, that the effect is one of warmth…a shadowy, otherworldly rite, almost medieval in its soberly overlapping incantations… Ten live performers sing and play percussion instruments… Their deliberate, enigmatic movements around the space physicalize Vivier’s complex notation of the musical relationship between the singers, who sometimes come together – in pitch, syllable and rhythm – sometimes separate and sometimes remain solitary."
New York Times
Read the entire New York Times review
"…almost an ambient work, relying on one repeated and gradually morphing motif, a few chanted words that sound very much like Sanskrit mantras, with individual voices emerging and disappearing like fishes darting about in a dark tank. The singers are also actors, babbling to themselves in private monologues of anxiety or conversations in foreign tongues as they group, dressed in black, and separate and then regroup… This is at once beautiful and troubling. The repeated melody is the kind of thing one associates with prayer or meditation – the layers of sound lush and complex, exploring overtones and texture – and yet the mood is unmitigatedly sombre, even despairing…"
Globe and Mail
2018 will see special events marking the 70th anniversary of Vivier’s birth and a creative life cut short by his murder in Paris at the age of 34.
Photo: Blake Hannahson
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