Ricercar sconvolto is Philippe Boesmans' second work for organ - it was written in 1983, about ten years after Fanfare II. The title can be translated into English as "ricercar disrupted or broken", which evokes both the link to a tradition (the ricercar is an instrumental form in imitative style, used by composers of the Renaissance and the Baroque period) and its disintegration. To that extent, the composer positions himself in the gestural continuity of Fanfare II, aiming to fragment the Kyrie from Machaut's Mass, which was chosen to serve as material for unprecedented work on the organ's timbres and divisions. Here however, the formal sonic break-up is progressive, after a three-part contrapuntal beginning.
During an interview with Gérald Vinkenbosch (1), Philippe Boesmans described his compositional process thusly: "This is a piece that starts in a style that is imitative, like a ricercar, and neoclassical in the style of Hindemith, with increasingly profuse ornamentation as each voice enters. This develops into a crescendo that reminds me of the organists that I heard at church during my youth, who always added stops after beginning quietly - but at a particular moment, the piece is disrupted and deteriorates completely to become nothing more than a sort of ornament itself, with the exception of the second fragment of the theme, which is on its own, a Baroque figure of ornamentation that persists implicitly throughout the entire work."
Having remained in manuscript form for ages, this is the first time that the work has been published. The manuscript contains dynamic markings and several registrations that refer to the Chant d'Oiseau organ in Brussels where I recorded it the first time on an LP. For this edition, the dynamic markings have been retained and completed - the stop indications have been partially modified, they are simply suggestions, each performer being free to adapt them according to the instrument and their personal preferences. On an organ with three or more keyboards, the performer should not hesitate to use the distinct sounds.
The work is dedicated to Ruthi Simons, who provided unwavering support to Jérôme Lejeune during the early years of the Ricercar company.
(1) This interview appeared on the LP released in 1984 on the Ricercar label, with the title "Philippe Boesmans, Oeuvres de clavier" (RIC 021).
A new recording by Bernard Foccroulle on the organ Thomas in Wissembourg was released by Ricercar in 2020 under the title "For early instruments" (RIC 421).