06/05/2022 - Paris, Maison de la Radio et de la Musique, Auditorium - Hélène Devilleneuve (oboe), Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Pascal Rophé (conductor)
Volutes belongs to a cycle of three concertante pieces, the two others being Phonus (2004) for flute and orchestra and Quelques traces dans l'air (2018) for clarinet and orchestra.
These three pieces share a common trait - the solo instrument is extended, reverberated and augmented by the corresponding instruments in the orchestra.
However, the sound treatment for the soloist - influenced by my work with electronics - is different in each of the three pieces.
In Phonus, homage to Debussy's fawn, the two orchestral flutes are limited to briefly responding in echo to the soloist or to creating passing textures together. In Quelques traces dans l'air, the role of the two orchestral clarinettists is much more important. They often have the same part as the soloist, though in rhythmic canon, creating different sorts of electronic delays. In addition, they enhance the soloist's phrases by blending into them, giving the impression of live electronics or even providing colouring with microtonal intervals or extended techniques during the soloist's sustained tones. That said, the perception of the three clarinets tends to be polyphonic and spatialized.
In Volutes, apart from the cadenza when they are treated polyrhythmically in echo, the solo and three oboe parts are generally written in homorhythms to create a single fused sound. The sound, for example, resembles treatment obtained by using a harmonizer, with parameters that can be changed very rapidly.
When writing the score, I had the feeling that the solo oboe should materialize out of the orchestra, being rooted within it as a complex timbre with a source situated not only in front and to the left of the conductor. I admit that my fondness for mixtures of oboes (or bassoons) lead me to write this way, the result being rich in harmonics, particularly in the low register where it becomes granulated and almost electronic.
With regards to the title, Volutes, describes the arabesque shaped motive, or descending/ascending ornament, that is the basis for almost all of the score. An identifiable gesture played by the soloist, always inextricable from the two oboe parts. The soloist achieves autonomy little by little, evading the orchestral companions to become the piece's real protagonist, only being "overwhelmed" by them during fleeting moments.
The piece is dedicated to my friend Hélène Devilleneuve with whom I have worked since 1988.