TO HELL AND BACK
The savage genius of Berlioz.
Issue of 2003-03-31
For decades, modern French composers have been devoted to
precisely the sort of stylistic purity and progressive ideology that Berlioz
disdained. But a recent concert of the music of Marc-Andr� Dalbavie at the
Dalbavie, who is perhaps the most widely performed of French composers younger than fifty, has written a fair amount of music of the twittering, skittering, Boulezian kind. But the three pieces heard at the Guggenheim broke free of modernist clich�s. �Palimpsest,� for violin, viola, cello, flute, clarinet, and piano, conjured an extraordinary variety of sounds from fragments of a Gesualdo madrigal, at one point erupting into furious scales right out of a Vivaldi concerto. �Sextine Cyclus� was a beautifully arranged though somewhat overextended anthology of medieval songs; Jean-Paul Fouch�court sang them with loving eloquence, and members of the Orchestre de Paris provided a glistening accompaniment.
Most striking was �Chants,� for six singers and a chamber ensemble, based
on Ezra Pound�s adaptations of classical poetry and troubadour songs. This was
a world premi�re, and a significant one. Tonality seemed to dissolve and reform
several times, as if a new language were struggling to be born. The splendid
vocalists of the