A brief reflection on crossing the threshhold

Wednesday 3 December 2008

I haven’t been getting out as much as I’d like to lately, but I did make it to the Philharmonia Orchestra’s (free!) performance of GĂ©rard Grisey’s Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil on Sunday evening. Frankly, it’s mind-boggling that we didn’t have to pay to hear something as extraordinary as this music.
The cycle of songs was Grisey’s last completed work, before his sudden death in 1998. Over ten years after the completion of his remarkable Les espaces acoustiques, his abilities in creating and balancing new sounds had deepened in skill and sensitivity. My reservations about his reliance on dramatic gestures in his earlier work did not apply: this meditation on death hovered like a final breath, both frail and terrible, suspending time and revealing the profound emotional depths of which music is capable.
Nothing felt forced, everything felt natural yet utterly strange; every development in the music was unexpected yet inevitable.
By a fortunate coincidence, Inconstant Sol has recently posted a recording of the complete work, taken from a performance in Paris earlier this year – having earlier given us a complete Les espaces acoustiques. The Quatre chants are well worth a punt on your bandwidth.