Voyage par-delà les fleuves et les monts
20/11/2010 - Nice, Festival Manca, Opéra - Orchestre Philharmonique de Nice, Igor Dronov (conductor)
This concerns a work particularly representative of a type of painting that flourished in the 10th and 11th centuries during the reign of the Northern Sung Dynasty (960-1127), which brought renewed unity to Chinese painting. The "northern" style, initiated by Ching Hoa and Kuan T'ung, reached the stage of utmost tension with Fan K'uan (fl. 990-1020) and his Travellers Among Mountains and Streams represents and epitomizes painting by the great classical masters of the period. The art of calligraphic strokes was used to treat the rock faces and surfaces, as well as the ripples of droplets that help reinforce the sensation of height. There exists, in this painting, a certain contradiction between the distance of things and the abrupt character of a primordial wall that compels with an absolute prominence. We observe an impressive rocky cliff ripped from the abyss and thrust skyward, like a jut of inaccessibility, overhanging a steep landscape and further sharpening the jagged and tortured contours of the vegetation in the foreground. Vertically, a scrub of distant forests seems to cling to the summits. On the right, the breathtaking drop of a waterfall cascading from the heights unwinds like a silk ribbon. In the fore, a group of boulders nearly blocks the view of a mule caravan, lower down, with the almost imperceptible strokes conveying the insignificance of human beings as opposed to the immensity of nature. We also remark the strict denuded style of this majestic landscape, its austere and solemn appearance underlining the sacred character of the mountains - dwelling place of the gods - in the monumental landscape painting of the Northern Sung. Elevation is the true persona of this famous work, a lightly coloured ink painting on silk, belonging to the collection of the National Palace Museum in Taipei, Taiwan.
I tried to transfer this plenary sensation of nature to a large orchestra, such that the articulation of breath would never be interrupted by fortuitous notation or vague development. The piece progresses as a single gesture, like a basic framework, resembling a continuation where any interruption is arbitrary. A distinct rhythm runs through it enveloping opposing tensions - ascension and suspension, emergence and weightiness. An instrumental grouping dominates, that of the clarinet section allied with the trombone section, employing playing modes that push the trombones into the extreme low register and diffract the clarinet sounds into a multiphonic tremor. Two composers, Ivàn Solano, clarinettist, and Dominique Delahoche, trombonist, kindly guided me through this inventory of new instrumental techniques. It is difficult to discuss the form of the work, because it consists of an incessant, constituent transformation in the manner of a form-flux that is continuously being renewed and pulled toward a perpetual endeavour of integration and abridgement. The form is no longer an obscure and negative power that merges with the rhythm of the colour or the mass.
An ever-present backdrop of "harmony-timbre" suggests range and depth, acting, if you will, as a sort of spatial background that becomes the actual expanse of the landscape. The only events that give emphasis to the process are the "force flows" that extend beyond all defined boundaries and suggest varied dynamic systems.
This Voyage par-delà les fleuves et les monts, d'après Fan K'uan, was a joint commission by the Nice Philharmonic Orchestra and the CIRM.
1 CD Timpani (1C1195)
Hugues Dufourt: Lucifer d'après Pollock - Voyage par-delà les fleuves et les monts
Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg
Pierre-André Valade (conductor)