Cellist Dan Barrett releases a collection of premiere recordings of solo and duo works by French composer Dominique Lemaître. Lemaître's music is characterized by sensuality, melodic contour, and mosaic textures, and reflects the influence of the French lineage of modern composition, from Debussy and Ravel up through Murail and Grisey.
|01||Orange and yellow II|
Orange and yellow II
|Dan Barrett, cello, Stanislav Orlovsky, cello||7:53|
|Dan Barrett, cello, Michiyo Suzuki, clarinet||6:13|
|Dan Barrett, cello||6:18|
|04||Stances, hommage à Henri Dutilleux|
Stances, hommage à Henri Dutilleux
|Dan Barrett, cello, Jed Distler, piano||13:35|
|Dan Barrett, cello||10:10|
Cellist Dan Barrett releases a recording of works for cello by composer Dominique Lemaître. Lemaître (born in 1953), who has written more than one hundred pieces ranging from electroacoustic to vocal chamber music and from pedagogical to concertante works, is a composer of sensitivity and mystery. Aesthetically, his musical palette is tinged with sentimental moods, reminiscent of an early infatuation with recording studios and influenced by his thorough knowledge of the music of Claude Debussy, Edgard Varèse, Giacinto Scelsi, Maurice Ohana, György Ligeti, Gérard Grisey and Tristan Murail.
As for Lemaître’s musical philosophy and language, it is worth mentioning the underlying modality, the palpable attraction of pole notes, the distinct coloring of some light and shadow zones, the stratification of polyrhythmic play, the writing of singular tone sequences, the obsessive combination of relevant poly-textures maintained by loops or swirling effects – all gestures arranged through a practice of inner listening and realized in the privacy of his music studio located in Fécamp (a harbor town in Western Normandy).
Orange and yellow II (2013) for two cellos is a transcription for cello of the piece Orange and Yellow: Homage to Morton Feldman, originally written for two violas in 2009. The cycle explores homogenous duos that could almost be qualified as “stereophonic,” written for identical instruments – or voices. The title, Orange and yellow, makes reference to the eponymous painting created by Mark Rothko in 1956.Read More
Thot (1994) for clarinet and cello alludes to the Egyptian god of scribes, but suggestions of immensity (the sand) and eternity are equally present. Thoth is a creator god, linked to the Moon, the nocturnal double of the Sun. He is also the master of writing, medicine, and liturgy. He is the divine record-keeper of the relationships between beings and things. As Claude-Henry Joubert notes, “Thus prayed the scribes of the 19th dynasty, and thus do the cello and clarinet express themselves as they rush past one another, prolong one another, like shadows, joining together only to go their separate ways the next moment, without idle talk.”
Claude-Henry Joubert remarks that:
“Mnajdra is a Bronze Age temple situated to the south of the island of Malta, the isle of bees or the isle of honey, as it was called in ancient times. Mnaïdra is a lyrical and robust piece. The cello speaks out on all four strings, an oration punctuated by premonitory pizzicatos. Each phrase is opened with a penetrating high B-flat, and it is to this note that it continually returns during the entire first part of the piece. It then wavers, and gathers itself into a diminished octave on the B-natural. The lyricism vanishes, lengthy sustains set in. Suddenly the A becomes the dominant force, illuminating the scene. It is with an embellishment of this note, the A, that the piece will end, in a long melody that soars across four drawn-out notes (A-flat, A, B-flat, B), a melody punctuated by pizzicatos of open strings. The high B-flat will return, five times, like a reminiscence, then will melt away into a harmonic of the A and the piece will fade away, high F-sharp perdendosi… This is a world that has passed, a presence that has disappeared, a voice that has gone silent but of which the echo lingers on, a memory.”
Lemaître openly acknowledges how fortunate he was to have known the famous French composer Henri Dutilleux (1916-2013) and to have received both his encouragement and his compliments. The score for Stances, hommage à Henri Dutilleux (2015) for cello and piano, dedicated to Barrett, which unfolds over roughly fourteen minutes, consists of sixteen adjoined sections made up of three tempos and three pitch reservoirs, which alternate regularly, all fashioned after the same model. This results in a general form that effectively calls to mind the poetic structure of the stanza: a personal meditation on an identical schema that can be seen throughout the piece.
The solo cello piece entitled Plus haut (“Higher”) picks up elements from the “concertante”-style piece Altius, a state-commissioned work composed in 1999 for Anne Gastinel and brought to life in Lyon in 2000 by the dedicatee herself. Made up of three adjoined sections, this solo piece seems to be driven by the same desire for ascension, for elevation, almost for levitation. Indeed, like Altius, which evoked a transition from the Earth element to the Air element, the soliloquy Plus haut seems to lead to a musical metaphor that describes the sensation one feels when leaving the ground.
With this prolific musician, listeners can hear the latent ambiguity that lies between consonances and dissonances, as well as the aesthetic ambivalence persisting between uniqueness and diversity, a principle favoring both melodic monologues (Mnaïdra, Plus haut) and mosaic orchestrations (Altius). So, overall, there is no doubt that Dominique Lemaître has the soul of a philosopher, particularly when dealing with time, as he is continuously À la recherche du temps suspendu (In Search of Suspended Time) – a book about his music in the 21st century, published in 2018.
-Pierre Albert Castanet (Translation: Chris Clarke, web version edited for length from liner notes)
Produced by Brian Keane and Dan Barrett
Mixed and Mastered by Brian Keane and Jeff Frez-Albrecht at Brian Keane Music, Inc., Monroe, CT
Stances and Thot - Recorded at Carriage House Recording Studio, Stamford, CT, March 31, 2017, by Ian Callahan
Orange and yellow II, Mnaïdre, and Plus Haut - Recorded between March 2018 and January 2020 at Brian Keane Music, Inc., Monroe, CT, by Jeff Frez-Albrecht
Design: Marc Wolf, marcjwolf.com
Cover Image: Shot by Cerqueira (Unsplash.com)
Page 10: Gary Scott (Unsplash.com); Page 22: Andy Holmes (Unsplash.com)
Photo of Dominique Lemaître by Régis David Photo of Dan Barrett by Milton Fletcher, 2011
Essay by Pierre Albert Castanet (English Translation: Isabelle Deconinck)
Notes on the pieces: Pierre Albert Castanet (English Translation: Chris Clarke)
Bios edited and translated by Isabelle Deconinck
The scores Orange and yellow II, Stances: hommage à Henri Dutilleux and Plus haut are published by Editions Musicales Rubin (distributor Robert Martin)
The scores Thot and Mnaïdra are published by Editions Jobert (Editions Lemoine)
Hailed as “a brilliant and driven cellist, composer, and conductor” (Huffington Post), whose instrumental playing is described as “fire and ice” (The New York Times), Dan Barrett is the creator and director of the music ensemble International Street Cannibals (ISC). He has played extensively for BBC America in their TV series Copper, and for the national public television sta- tion PBS, particularly as solo and ensemble cellist for documentaries such as Ric Burns’ Oliver Sacks: His Own Life, Death and the Civil War, The Way West, Andy Warhol, and his 10-part series The History of New York, and for The Great Depression. He has also performed in numerous documentaries for HBO Television and for the national sports station ESPN. His solo performance credits include Festival Radio France, Gulbenkian Festival (Lisbon), Festival Présences (Paris), Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and WQXR. Featured solos can be heard on recordings by Iannis Xenakis (Mode and Vandenberg labels) and the renowned Irish ensemble Cherish the Ladies (RCA), and on the soundtrack of Andy Warhol (Sony). In addition to being the onstage cellist in James Joyce's The Dead on Broadway, Barrett performed with the Orchestra of St. Luke's, New York City Opera, American Ballet Theatre, Philomusica, Brooklyn Philharmonic, Sirius Quartet, ST-X Ensemble, Strathmere Festival Orchestra, Spectrum Orchestra, Stamford Chamber Orchestra, Connecticut Grand Opera, S.E.M. Ensemble and the concert series North/South Con- sonance. His compositions have been performed by the national public station NPR, Absolute Ensemble, International Street Cannibals, West Virginia Symphony Orchestra and New York Mandolin Orchestra. Barrett has con- ducted The New York Bach Ensemble, the Ethos Ensemble, and the Composers Concordance Ensemble, among others. He has also taught at New York University, Outreach Academy (Schwaz, Austria) and the Chamber Music Institute for Young Musicians (Stamford, Connecticut).
French composer Dominique Lemaître (b. 1953) studied literature and musicology at the University of Rouen. He started his training in electroacoustic music by collaborating with the studio of Vierzon, after meeting Nicolas Frize, and studied composition with Jacques Petit at the Rouen Conservatory. He also attended Master classes with Kalus Huber and Maurice Ohana. His catalogue features more than one hundred works, displaying great diversity and ranging from instrumental and vocal works to string quartets, and from orchestral and ensemble works to collaborations with artists and poets.
Performed in more than thirty countries including China, the U.S., Italy, Japan, Russia and in Latin America, his compositions have been performed by a wide range of orchestras and ensembles such as the Orchestre philharmonique de Radio France, the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI, the Orchestre de l'Opéra de Rouen, the orchestras of Picardie and Auvergne, the Orchestre philharmonique de Nice, the Colonne and Les Siècles orchestras, the Symphonic Orchestra of Bulgaria’s National Radio, the Ensemble Orchestral Contemporain, and the Oberlin Percussion Group, among others. Lemaître was honored with commissions from the Ministère de la culture, Radio France, the European Union, the Orchestre de l'Opéra de Rouen, the Orchestre de Picardie, the Orchestre d'Auvergne, the festival Automne in Normandy, the Musique Nouvelles en Liberté and many other festivals and ensembles. In 2018, the French actor Armel Veilhan (narrator) and the Orchestre de l’opéra de Rouen/Normandie under the direction of Patrick Hahn gave the premiere of Le grand silence, commissioned to commemorate the centennial of the end of World War I.
After a first monographic CD recorded at Ircam en 1995, his album Litanie du soleil (2002) received a “coup de Coeur” by the Academy of Charles Cros. Other recordings include a compilation of four works performed by Noëmi Schindler, Gary Hoffman, the Ensemble Orchestral Contemporain, L’Octuor de Violoncelles and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Nice under the direction of Daniel Kawka in 2005; Le Diapason de satin, recorded by Isabel Soccoja, Alain Celo and the ensemble Stravinsky and selected for the Grand Prix Lycéen des Compositeurs 2013; Et le soleil comme désir (2013) recorded by the Atelier Musical de Touraine; Pulsars (2015), devoted to Lemaître’s flute compositions and performed by François Veilhan and the ensemble Campsis; and Quatuors à cordes, String quartets (2019), recorded by the Quatuor Stanislas and soprano Kaoli Isshiki and awarded the Prix de l’Académie des Sciences, Belles-Lettres et Arts de Rouen 2019.
Lemaître was invited as a composer-in-residence by the Conservatoire National de Région de Rouen and the region Haute-Normandie (2001- 2002), by Oberlin College in Ohio (U.S.) (2004), by the Ensemble Stravinsky in Metz (2010), by the Atelier Musical de Touraine in Tours (2012), and by the École Supérieure d’Art et de Design of Havre and Rouen (2012-2013).
Dominique Lemaître’s work is published by Éditions Musicales Rubin, Jobert, Lemoine and Universal Music Publishing Classical (Durand- Salabert-Eschig).
Stan Orlovsky was born in a musical family in St. Petersburg, Russia. He studied with his father, Arkady Orlovsky (former principal cellist of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and the Kirov Orchestra and Ballet), then with Boris Pergamentchikov at the music conservatory of Köln, Germany. Orlovsky has worked with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and as the principal cellist of the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra in St. Petersburg. He is a member of the Arts String Quartet of New York.
A native of Japan, Michiyo Suzuki began her musical studies with piano at age three, violin at age six and clarinet at age thirteen. As a recitalist and chamber musician, Ms. Suzuki has performed extensively in her native country as well as in Europe and the United States. She studied with Charles Neidich at Purchase College Conservatory where she received her MFA degree and at SUNY Stony Brook in the DMA Program. In 1996 she made her New York Debut at Carnegie Recital Hall as an award winner from Artist's International and has been heard with increasing frequency in New York particularly in contemporary repertoire. Ms. Suzuki is a member of ST-X Xenakis Ensemble USA and Absolute Ensemble, and can be heard on "Xenakis Live In New York"and "Iannisimmo" from Vandenburg, and "Absolute Ensemble" and "Absolute Mix" from CCn'C.http://www.michiyosuzuki.com/
Composer/pianist Jed Distler studied with Andrew Thomas, Stanley Lock and William Komaiko and taught for more than 20 years at Sarah Lawrence College. Early in his career, Distler gained acclaim for his transcriptions of jazz piano solos by Art Tatum and Bill Evans, while his new music piano recitals have offered premieres of works by Virgil Thomson, Richard Rodney Bennett, Frederic Rzewski, Alvin Curran, Lois V Vierk, William Schimmel and many others. Distler’s presenting organization ComposersCollaborative, Inc. earned a 2013 Guinness Record for the world’s largest keyboard ensemble, featuring a composition of his scored for 175 electronic keyboards. A Steinway Artist, Distler records for the high resolution Spirio player piano and is featured on an upcoming Steinway & Sons CD release, Cole Porter on a Steinway Volume 1. The TNC label recently released Distler’s solo piano CD Fearless Monk.
As Artist-in-Residence at WWFM’s The Classical Network, Distler is the creator, host and producer of Between the Keys, a weekly program that won the 2017 ASCAP Deems Taylor Virgil Thomson Award for excellence in broadcasting. Distler gained notoriety helping to uncover a scandal of hundreds of recordings fraudulently attributed to pianist Joyce Hatto and was featured in a BBC television documentary on the subject. Distler contributes reviews and articles to Gramophone and Classicstoday.com and is the author of numerous CD booklet notes. His music is available on the Sony, Point, Nonesuch, CRI, New World, Bridge, Steinway & Sons, Musical Concepts and TNC Music labels.
De l'espace trouver la fin et le milieu roughly translates as “From space find the end and the middle,” and consistent with that, the cover image shows an incredible nebulae in some distant galaxy. However, the five premiere recordings performed by cellist Dan Barrett of works by French composer Dominique Lemaître (b. 1953) give a slightly different meaning to the word. The forty-four-minute recording engenders an enhanced sensitivity to space, especially when perhaps the most salient aspect of the cellist's playing has to do with presence. Each moment invites focused attention, such that the listener experiences with him the piece as it develops. And with such a modicum of instruments in play—Barrett alone on two and joined on the rest by a single partner—a spacious quality is conspicuous in each performance.
Reinforcing such impressions are the distinguishing characteristics of Lemaître's music. Texture, shape, and sensuality are prominent, and it's possible to detect the influence of figures such as Claude Debussy, György Ligeti, Gérard Grisey, and Tristan Murail. Mystery and melody are present also, though the latter more emerges indirectly in the form of melodic contour than compact statement. Interplay of light and shadow, oscillation between consonance and dissonance, and focus on singular tone sequences also characterize the album's settings. It hardly surprises that a 2018 book about his music has the title À la recherche du temps suspendu (In Search of Suspended Time).
Cellist Stanislav Orlovsky joins Barrett on the opening Orange and yellow II (2013), a “stereophonic” duet whose title was inspired by a 1956 Mark Rothko painting. Originally written in 2009 for two violas, the transcription sees the cellos entwining for eight minutes, their intense interactions engrossing throughout. During one passage, ascending figures alternate with a recurring three-note theme, but the material, like much else on the recording, resists simple definition when it unfolds like a living organism. Titled after the Egyptian god of scribes, the subsequent Thot (1994) pairs Barrett with clarinetist Michiyo Suzuki, their methodical interplay as unpredictable and focused as the cellists. A meditative, at times querulous quality pervades the work as its shadowy stillness extends across six minutes.
Two pieces feature Barrett alone, the first Mnaïdra (1992) titled after a temple erected in the south of Malta Island during the Bronze Age and the second, 2018's Plus haut (Higher), exemplifying a shape consistent with the title's meaning. Mnaïdra is treated to a bravura rendering by the cellist, his playing captivating in its blend of drawn-out bowed notes and pizzicatos and with dynamics exploited resonantly. The minimal gestures and use of space alludes to a time long past and a physical presence that now exists as little more than a memory. Intensity builds slowly in Plus haut until the ascension-oriented material seems to hover comfortably in the air, Barrett punctuating the performance with aggressive figures and upward swoops.
Appearing in the penultimate position, Stances, hommage à Henri Dutilleux (2015) qualifies as the album's centrepiece, not just for its nearly fourteen-minute length but for the impression it makes; that Lemaître dedicated the cello-and-piano duet to Barrett, who met the composer for the first time at a 2015 summer festival in Lucca, Italy, makes it feel all the more special. The main honouree, however, is French composer Henri Dutilleux (1916-2013), who Lemaître got to know and wanted to pay homage to on the one-hundredth anniversary of his birth. Barrett and pianist Jed Distler bring to life this gripping chamber setting, whose sixteen adjoined sections are structurally grounded in three tempos and three pitch reservoirs that regularly alternate. Like the album's material in general, it's a ponderous, spectral, and texturally focused work that progresses without haste and in accordance with a logic natural to it.
In the release's packaging, Barrett expresses appreciation for his friendship with the composer but also notes that he shares Lemaître's “philosophies of craftsmanship, creation, and musicality.” Certainly evidence of all three is abundant throughout De l'espace trouver la fin et le milieu, the recording reflecting sensibilities and values common to performer and composer.
— Ron Schepper, 9.28.2020
As Terry Robbins says a little further on in these pages, “It’s been a simply terrific month for cello discs.” There are three that I scooped up for myself, beginning with De l’espace trouver la fin et le milieu: Dan Barrett plays Dominique Lemaître – solos and duos for/ with cello (New Focus Recordings fcr276 newfocusrecordings.com/catalogue). French composer Dominique Lemaître, born the same year as John Luther Adams (1953),
studied humanities and musicology at the University of Rouen and later electroacoustics and composition at the Paris Conservatoire. Infused with the music of Bach, Debussy, Varèse, Ligeti and Scelsi, but also with extra-European influences, Lemaître ‘s works blend super- imposed metres, polytextures, looped repetitions and an underlying modality. American cellist Dan Barrett, creator and director of the music ensemble International Street Cannibals (ISC), has been hailed as “a brilliant and driven cellist, composer, and conductor” (Huffington Post), whose instrumental playing is described as “fire and ice” (The New York Times).
The disc begins with the cello duo Orange and Yellow II, performed with Stanislav Orlovsky. It pays homage to Morton Feldman and is a transcription of a piece originally written for two violas in 2009. The title makes reference to the eponymous painting created by Mark Rothko, to whom Feldman himself paid homage in Rothko Chapel, composed for the meditation room of the building of the same name. Although purely acoustic in nature, the layering and looping of the two instruments, and the reverberant space in which it was recorded, give the impression of electronic enhancement. Thot, referring to the Egyptian god Thoth, is an earlier work dating from 1994. It is a duet with clarinetist Michiyo Suzuki that begins from silence with a grad- ually building clarinet tone reminiscent of the Abîme des oiseaux movement in Messiaen’s famous Quatuor pour le fin du temps. The contemplative mood continues throughout the six-minute work, intermittently interrupted by bird-like chirps. The next piece, Mnaïdra for solo cello, opens abruptly and almost abrasively, although it, too, gradually subsides into warmer tones. Mnajdra is a Bronze Age temple situated to the south of the island of Malta, the isle of bees or the isle of honey, as it was called in ancient times.
Pianist Jed Distler joins the cellist in Stances, hommage à Henri Dutilleux, the famous French composer from whom Lemaître received both encouragement and compliments. It was written in 2015 and is dedicated to Barrett. The disc ends with another solo cello composition, Plus haut (Higher), which, although still in a quiet way, is the most virtuosic piece of the collection. Barrett shows himself astute across the spectrum from the softest nuance to the soaring heights.
— David Olds, 10.15.2020
The New Focus Recordings label delivers American cellist Dan Barrett's newest project, highlighting the work of French composer Dominique Lemaitre. This will be the first time an American company has recorded anything focused on Lemaitre's music. The work of Dominique Lemaître, a fan of Claude Debussy's music, is full of inventiveness, sound, and feeling. Also inspired by composers such as Morton Feldman and Giacinto Scelsi, his work is characterized by singular sound sequences and adapts to quartets as well as to ensembles or orchestras.
— n/a, 10.12.2020
Of diverse inspiration, this new monographic CD by Dominique Lemaître brings together five pieces around the cello, played by Dan Barrett and joined, or not, by a second partner.
If the two solo pieces of the album are located more than twenty-five years apart (1992-2018), we nevertheless observe the same economy of means in the material and a vertical / harmonic dimension of the writing, this research in the spectrum of sound that Dominique Lemaître leads with obstinacy in his compositions. Mnaïdra, named after a Maltese temple, is the earliest work in the recording. Hieratic and contemplative, the music develops around a polar note, the B♭, and an interval, the semitone (or its reversal in the major seventh), gradually revealing the sound image of the first vision. It is that of the flight that founds the writing of Plus haut (2018), a fervent quest for light nourished by the resonance of pizziccati that Dan Barrett leads on his instrument, surveying the entire cello register on the steps of a scale. Was it necessary to push the reverberation / amplification of the sound to such a level, to the point of significantly modifying the acoustic qualities (grain and color) of the solo instrument?
On the duo side, it is from an obstinate rhythm that the rhythm of the two cellos is developed in Orange and yellow II, a transcription of the eponymous piece for two violas whose title is borrowed from the painter Rothko. Repetitive and incantatory as Lemaître's music readily is, the work exploits the canon-echo process between the two cellos, a phenomenon of double player and feline shadow magnified by the generous amplification that prevails throughout the album. Bringing together the cello and the clarinet (Michiyo Suzuki) in Thot (1994), Lemaître seeks the effects of textures between the two instruments: the clarinet interferes in the spectrum of the cello or, conversely, the cello is inscribed on the multiphonics of the clarinet, elaborating a material of a sensitive and delicate complexion.
Stances, a tribute to Henri Dutilleux written for the centenary of the departed master (2016) is the album's most endearing piece. In an interior and dreamy journey, the cello line evolves on the harmonic canvas of the piano, the two complementary instruments here keeping a certain autonomy. The cello explores the full scale of its register, venturing into the fragile and demoralized zone of high harmonics. Sixteen chained sections articulate this "in memoriam" inviting the listener to an immersive listening. Dan Barrett, who is the dedicatee, displays a large timbral range alongside Jed Distler's radiating piano.
-English translation via Google Translate; French original below:
D’inspiration diverse, ce nouveau CD monographique de Dominique Lemaître réunit cinq pièces autour du violoncelle, celui de Dan Barrett rejoint, ou non, par un second partenaire.
Si les deux pièces solistes de l’album se situent à plus de vingt-cinq ans de distance (1992-2018), on y observe pour autant la même économie de moyens dans le matériau et une dimension verticale/harmonique de l’écriture, cette recherche dans le spectre du son que mène avec obstination Dominique Lemaître dans ses compositions. Mnaïdra, du nom d’un temple maltais, est l’œuvre la plus ancienne de l’enregistrement. Hiératique et contemplative, la musique se développe autour d’une note polaire, le si♭, et d’un intervalle, le demi-ton (ou son renversement la septième majeure), dévoilant progressivement l’image sonore de la vision première. C’est celle de l’envol qui fonde l’écriture de Plus haut (2018), une quête fervente vers la lumière nourrie par la résonance des pizziccati que mène Dan Barrett sur son instrument, arpentant tout le registre du violoncelle sur les degrés d’une échelle-harmonie. Fallait-il pour autant pousser la réverbération/amplification du son à un tel niveau, au point de modifier sensiblement les qualités acoustiques (grain et couleur) de l’instrument soliste ?
Côté duo, c’est à partir d’un rythme obstiné que s’élabore celui des deux violoncelles dans Orange and yellow II, une transcription de la pièce éponyme pour deux altos dont le titre est emprunté au peintre Rothko. Répétitive et incantatoire comme l’est volontiers la musique de Lemaître, l’œuvre exploite le procédé du canon-écho entre les deux violoncelles, phénomène d’ombre double joueuse et féline grossie par l’amplification généreuse qui prévaut dans tout l’album. Réunissant le violoncelle et la clarinette (Michiyo Suzuki) dans Thot (1994), Lemaître recherche les effets de textures entre les deux instruments : la clarinette s’immisce dans le spectre du violoncelle ou, inversement, le violoncelle s’inscrit sur les multiphoniques de la clarinette, élaborant une matière d’une complexion sensible et délicate.
Stances, hommage à Henri Dutilleux écrit pour le centenaire du maître disparu (2016) est la pièce la plus attachante de l’album. Dans un cheminement intérieur et rêveur, la ligne de violoncelle évolue sur la toile harmonique du piano, les deux instruments complémentaires gardant ici une certaine autonomie. Le violoncelle explore toute l’échelle de son registre, s’aventurant dans la zone fragile et détimbrée des harmoniques aigus. Seize sections enchaînées articulent cet « in memoriam » invitant l’auditeur à une écoute immersive. Dan Barrett, qui en est le dédicataire, déploie un large nuancier de couleurs au côté du piano irradiant de Jed Distler.
— Michèle Tosi, 2.06.2021
French composer Dominique Lemaître is new to me, even though he has written over a hundred works and was born in 1953. I was, therefore, intrigued by this disc and the opportunity to review it. The composer's output encompasses a great variety of music and he has acknowledged a wide range of musical influences. He is particularly fond of the cello and this shows in this very effective offering.
The second work, Thot (1994) is scored for cello and clarinet and refers to the Egyptian god of scribes and the record keeper of the relationships between things and humans. There is a sensuousness about this music as the two instruments come together, but a sense of the eternal, and timelessness as they grow apart. At times the texture and sounds make you think that more than two instruments are involved, yet at other times, an almost lunar-like emptiness makes one listen intently. This is a beautiful piece encapsulating time and space.
Mnaïdra for solo cello, written in 1992, takes its name from a bronze age temple situated in the south of the island of Malta. Historically it has been known as 'The temple of bees' or as 'The temple of honey'. Perhaps this is portrayed by the drawn out note that begins each phrase. The accompanying booklet gives a detailed analysis. To quote Claude-Henry Joubert, 'This is a world that has passed, a presence that has disappeared, a voice that has gone silent but of which the echo lingers on, a memory.' To me, this sums up very well this work, especially the second half of it.
The composer Henri Dutilleux, who died in 2013, aged ninety-eight, was known to Lemaître. Stances, homage à Henri Dutilleux was written in 2015 as a tribute to this great twentieth century composer, and also to acknowledge his important works for the cello. It also served to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of Dutilleux's birth which occurred the following year. This work is quite substantial, over thirteen minutes long and is scored for cello and piano. It is my personal favourite work on this disc, and echoes of Dutilleux can be felt throughout, in particular of Tout un monde lointain, a Dutilleux work which I also love. This strangely compelling Lemaître work is at times elegiac and at others more impassioned. Even though the work is made up of sixteen adjoined sections and three different pitch 'reservoirs' and tempi, there is a unity that connects the whole work, which is the repetition and extension of the opening note flourish on the piano.
Lastly, Plus Haut, composed in 2018, evokes an elevation from the earth element to one of air. It is scored for solo cello, is in three sections and is drawn from elements of an earlier concertante work for cello and ensemble that Lemaître wrote in 1999-2000 called Altius. As the work progresses, one senses a feeling of leaving the ground and ascending upwards. This is especially evident in the final section as the melodic line climbs ever higher and with increasing intensity before it dissolves into the distance.
This is a remarkably interesting CD and one that I enjoyed very much. All the artists involved, and especially cellist Dan Barrett, produce truly inspirational music making. The music itself is honest and original, and I would certainly like to hear a lot more by this composer. I hope, even if contemporary music is not your 'thing', that you give this disc a good listening. Unlike much contemporary music, it is easily accessible on first hearing and has much to recommend it.
The first work, Orange and Yellow II - Homage to Morton Feldman, was originally written for two violas in 2013 and is part of an ongoing series of duos that started back in 2005. The work is in one movement. As the work is stereophonic in nature, yet the parts intertwine at the same time, a good sound system or stereo headphones are essential. The composer shows great skill in writing for the cello and employs many different techniques to provide a varied and interesting soundscape. The percussive plucked notes, harmonics and playing on or close to the bridge are particularly effective and the eight-minute work is never dull and is performed with consummate skill.
— Geoff Pearce, 10.24.2020
This gorgeously recorded collection of Lemaître's cello music, played with mastery and a deep connection by Dan Barrett, was my introduction to the French composer. Based on these jewel-toned pieces, which often tingle the spine and always engage the mind, I'm ready to deepen the friendship. The album opens with Orange and yellow II (2013), in a transcription from the original two-viola version, making full use of the eight strings as Barrett duets with Stanislav Orlovsky. Inspired by Mark Rothko and written in tribute to Morton Feldman, the two cellos pursue a dialogue that is as riveting as listening in on a conversation by dazzling intellects. Like many of the pieces, the highly resonant acoustic is almost another instrument, with notes hanging in the air and echoing in the distance.
Mnaïdra (1992) and Plus haut (2018) are the two solo works here and a good measure of how Lemaître's work has developed over the years. The former is lyrical and almost folk-like, with gentle strums and tidy melodies, while the latter is an epic of abstract yearning, ending with a series of piercing repeated notes ("higher" - as implied by the title) that will stay with you for some time. Pianist Jed Distler is on hand for Stances, hommage à Henri Dutilleux (2015), which has single notes from the keyboard decorating long, ruminative lines from the cello, like sunlight sparkling on water, and you would likely not need the title to recognize Lemaître's debt to his fellow French master. The album also includes Thot (1994), which has Barrett playing with clarinetist Michiyo Suzuki in a wonderfully hushed exploration of woody textures. Read the notes and you will find that Lemaître is, in some ways, what you might expect from a cultured French composer: elegant, well-read, well-traveled, and with phenomenally assured technical skills. But that doesn't mean that this music isn't quietly surprising and the fact that it is surpassingly excellent is likely a result of all those qualities. There's something to be said for new music made old school!
— Jeremy Shatan, 11.08.2020
Le violoncelliste américain, Dan Barrett, consacre un album à Dominique Lemaître, compositeur fécampois. De L’Espace trouver la fin et le milieu réunit des œuvres écrites pour solo et duo entre 1992 et 2018.
Il a seulement fallu deux rencontres pour que les deux hommes s’apprécient et émettent le souhait de travailler ensemble. Le premier, Dan Barrett, est un violoncelliste virtuose, le second, Dominique Lemaître, est un compositeur qui compte une centaine d’œuvres. Le musicien américain a enregistré 5 pièces de l’artiste fécampois sur un disque monographique, De L’Espace trouver la fin et le milieu.
Ce sont 5 partitions pour violoncelle, en solo ou en duo avec clarinette ou piano. Avec la flûte et les percussions, le violoncelle reste l’instrument préféré de Dominique Lemaître. « J’aime sa voix. On dit qu’il sonne comme un chanteur baryton. J’aime aussi sa chaleur, son groove, son lyrisme ». Dans ces musiques, le compositeur le fait résonner de manières sensible et sensuelle. La mélancolie se mêle au mystère. Orange et Yellow II est inspiré d’un tableau éponyme de Rothko. Thot évoque le dieu égyptien des scribes. Mnaïdra et Plus Haut abordent le thème de l’ascension. Quant à Stances, dédiée à Dan Barrett, cette pièce musicale pour violoncelle et piano est un hommage à Henri Dutilleux dont Dominique Lemaître a fait maintes fois référence.
Cet album traverse ainsi diverses époques, de 1992 à 2018, dans le répertoire de Dominique Lemaître. « Je fais partie de ces compositeurs qui ne renient pas leurs vieilles pièces. Je ne renie pas mes enfants les plus âgés. Je sais que mon écriture a évolué. Et ce, par petites touches. J’ai creusé un sillon ». Le compositeur est ravi de ce nouvel enregistrement. « Cet album est un joyau, de l’orfèvrerie. Dan Barrett a pris beaucoup de temps et joue avec méticulosité, avec une précision chirurgicale ».
DAN BARRETT : « LA RÉPÉTITION N’EST PAS UNE ROUTINE MAIS UN PIEUX RITUEL BIOLOGIQUE »
Votre projet musical a évolué au fil du temps pour décider enfin de consacrer cet album à la musique de Dominique Lemaître. Pourquoi ?
C’est exact : les plans originaux de l’album comprenaient plusieurs pièces de Dominique, d’autres compositeurs européens et une suite d’un compositeur américain. Mais il est devenu de plus en plus clair, pour mon producteur et moi, que le CD devait vivre et parler comme un organisme vivant, qu’il avait besoin de son propre langage : une modalité linguistique gouvernante, une « voix » compositionnelle unificatrice. J’ai fait la connaissance de Dominique au cours de l’été 2015, dans une petite église de Lucca en Italie. Dominique m’a entendu jouer une œuvre solo d’Alastair Greig de Londres. Les souvenirs d’enfance du compositeur sur la guerre des États-Unis au Vietnam constituaient le sous-texte psychologique de la pièce. Dominique m’a abordé après le concert, suggérant d’écrire une pièce pour moi. Peut-être avait-il noté quelque chose dans le ton de mon jeu ? Peut-être a-t-il entendu comment j’avais appliqué une sorte d’« éclairage » théâtral tonal aux idées musicales d’accompagnement ? Ou peut-être y a-t-il entendu un langage instrumental d’intimation et de suggestion, plutôt qu’un langage de simple explication et présentation ? Je connaissais déjà, et j’aimais, le travail de Dominique sur les mythologies et la civilisation classique. Et j’ai appris à bien connaître, un peu comme une langue maternelle, la manière générative dont il traite ces groupements de sons intimidants et ces petites flaques de notes qui, dans sa musique, se propagent et s’entrelacent perpétuellement.
Comment qualifiez-vous la musique de Dominique Lemaître ?
Il ne s’agit pas d’une œuvre qui révèle des formules. On y reconnaît un être hybride. Son visage, sa silhouette et ses moyens de propulsion multiformes sont charmants et délicatement monstrueux, comme une merveilleuse créature des grands fonds, dont la silhouette seule peut être perçue. Ses diverses méthodes d’examen sont ses rêveries : une espèce de rêve analytique. Il s’agit d’une diction de cétacé, à la fois fluide, cellulaire et pointilliste. Elle ne peut être abstraite ou arrachée à sa tradition – son héritage de la langue, ses iconographies matérielles et sonores qui constituent sa « voix » psycho-historique.
Dominique Lemaître qualifie votre interprétation de « précision chirurgicale ». Comment avez-vous travaillé les œuvres ?
La sculpture du terrain et de la « géographie » d’une œuvre demande des facultés à la fois analytiques et réflexives. Dans ma méthodologie, je sollicite l’aide de l’art de la boxe – un art où la maîtrise de la technique, de la puissance animale héréditaire et de l’espace sont des questions de vie et de mort. Quand on « répète » des morceaux de musique, plusieurs voix intérieures provoquent les différentes vitesses et la manière dont on délivre le geste. Une voix incite à continuer à répéter « le coup ». Cette répétition n’est pas une routine mais un pieux rituel biologique; et nos matériaux musicaux sont la cible chérie de la livraison de l’acte physique. En conséquence, les corrections et modifications sont autorisées plutôt qu’imposées. On continue et répète le geste à des vitesses différentes, et dans des directions séquentielles opposées et modifiées, appliquant souvent des alternances expérimentales dans la chorégraphie de l’arc et des doigts. Chaque passage d’une pièce est ainsi sculpté. Il faut aussi un repositionnement perpétuel de l’angle de la main ou du violoncelle lui-même, la distorsion ou la contorsion d’une technique séculaire. Ce processus pourrait être appelé une modification de « la position, le positionnement et le jeu de jambes ». Et après avoir positionné et repositionné ces diverses branches musicales, brindilles et fragments, ils devront ensuite être façonnés par ma propre imagination.
Pourquoi avez-vous choisi un vers de Baudelaire ?
Depuis mes 20 ans à ce jour, j’aime copier, un peu comme un accro, des textes littéraires et musicaux. Parmi ceux qui m’ont le plus marqué sont les mètres poétiques, les visions et les incantations de l’éternel adolescent Baudelaire (à ne pas confondre avec l’éternel adulte, Rimbaud). La phrase des « Plaintes d’Icare », est la chanson de chaque âme – et de Dominique. Cette phrase exprime parfaitement, à travers l’instrumentalité de chaque pièce, la manière dont le compositeur définit l’espace et recherche ses origines.
— Maryse Bunel, 12.17.2020
It is a surprise to find a composer on the New Focus Recordings label who is older than I am. Dominique Lemaître was born in the Normandy region of France in 1953. Among his influences, he includes the music of Debussy, Varèse, Scelsi, Ligeti, Ohana, and the Spectralist composers. Only a handful of his works have been recorded, so this new CD will introduce his music to many of us.
All of the works included here include a cello, either as a soloist or joined by another instrument. According to the booklet note writer, the cello has “a privileged place” in the composer’s output. Cellist Dan Barrett has a privileged place of his own in the composer’s musical life. Lemaître met Barrett in 2015 in Lucca, Italy, and Barrett subsequently premiered Stances (with Jed Distler) in 2016 and Plus haut in 2018, both in New York.
The same booklet note writer invokes Henri Bergson and states, for example, that Plus haut “seems animated by a metaphorical transformation from Earth to Air elements.” I don’t find that particularly helpful, so perhaps it is better to let Lemaître’s music speak for itself, which it does quite capably, and without pandering. Repetition and variation are, in large part, what fixes music in the ear and draws it into the brain, and those elements are present in Lemaître’s work, even though his language his modern. And, even though his language is modern, his music is never discordant. Sometimes it is even pretty, and it is motivated by a desire to communicate with the listener.
Stances, the longest work on this CD (13:34), also is the work that makes the strongest initial impression. Dutilleux’s influence is apparent, and if you like that late French master’s output, Lemaître’s music—particularly in this work, but not exclusively—is the music of a younger man carrying a long-burning torch into the new century.
Orange and yellow II, whose precursor was inspired by a painting by Mark Rothko, and whose subtitle was Homage to Morton Feldman, gives similar material to both cellists, who push it back and forth between the two of them. Again, Dutilleux is an obvious influence. Feldman? Not so much. In the Spectralist Thot, the timbres of the cello and clarinet sometimes are held apart from each other, and sometimes brought together, as if to melt the two instruments into each other. Mnaïdra, from 1992, and the earliest work on this disc, is a quietly ecstatic monologue for the cello. Its abstractions are anchored by periodic returns to the cello’s highest register. Plus haut, also for solo cello, makes good on its title by emphasizing yearning, upwardly striving lines. Again, the music is abstract and yet anchored by repeated gestures and by a sense of development across the work’s 10-minute duration.
This music holds no difficulties for Dan Barrett, who immerses himself entirely in its sound world. Like the music itself, his playing creates visceral sensations whose core is sensuality and an aspiration for transcendence. The other musicians who perform on this CD are of a like mind. The synergy between each of them individually and Barrett are part of what makes Lemaître’s music catch one’s ear.
The engineering is a little artificial, although not unpleasant. The instruments are brought into the foreground, and a reverberant nimbus surrounds them—so strongly, in fact, that it seems to have been added after the fact. The booklet says nothing about this, and I am wondering if this reverberation is central to the composer’s ideas of what his music should sound like. This could not be duplicated in a concert hall, I think, without amplification.
Don’t judge this unusual but not off-putting CD after playing it one or two times. Invite it into your listening space for several hours, and you likely will notice that the music gets better and better with each hearing. I’m not sure that I “get” Lemaître’s music entirely, but it is free of gratuitous effects and seems to have something worthwhile that it wants to say, so I am willing to give it the continued benefit of the doubt. Raymond Tuttle
— Raymond Tuttle, 1.01.2021
Dominique Lemaitre (b. 1953) is new to me and apparently to ARG as well. He studied musicology at the University of Rouen and composition with Jacques Petit. He has written more than 100 works and has a fine reputation and several recordings already. Brace yourself! This recording is extravagant in sound. The echoes suggest more instruments than are actually playing. It opens with a transcription of a work originally written for two violas in 2009, here heard with two cellos, written in homage to Morton Feldman. There are lots of sound effects and suggestions that we might be going somewhere, but though the cellos chase each other about and join each other in varied ways, they are really out there to surprise and shock us, not to play music. A clarinet enters for Thot, notably pure in sound, then joined by cello harmonics, etc. The sound is fascinating. The world comes in from outer space. Dan Barrett is left alone by himself in Mnaïdra, where he plays and plucks. There are lots of sonorous harmonics and whispers and exclamations, but we’re going nowhere. In comes a piano, moving the cello away from the microphone for Stances. Here we become engulfed in “pitch reservoirs”, as the liner notes inform us, for nearly 14 minutes. It’s all sound, though no fury; harmonics, scalar passages, harmonic discrepancies, and occasional noses in the grindstone, inspiring criticism but not real enjoyment. Finally, we’re back to lonely cello in Plus Haut, a 10-minute piece that tries first to put us to sleep, then shocks us awake. Finally it deafens us with an endless high-register note, after which we are out of danger, I hope! If this seems less than positive, don’t let me discourage you from it just because I found it more sonoric than musical. It is recorded with clarity and played with conviction. Perhaps it is significant that it is presented by International Street Cannibals.
— David W. Moore, 1.13.2021
The classical cellist devotes a whole program to the works for modern French composer Dominique Lemaitre. Well suited to this minimalist, recital setting, Barrett shows the command of his instrument that other cellists who have done virtual solo recordings have demonstrated to fine effect. You can even feel echoes of experimental Zappa lurking in the grooves as this could pass for out takes from “Chrome Plated Megaphone of Destiny” minus the speed bumps. A modernist feast.
— Chris Spector, 8.25.2020