Nouvel Ensemble Moderne: “Musique Francophonie I”


Earlier tonight I went to go see the second concert by the Montréal version of Court-Circuit, the ever-virtuosic Nouvel Ensemble Moderne. The concert was titled “Musique Francophonie I” – which is in reference to the mostly French program that this, and a number of their other concerts on this year’s season, features.

Unfortunately, I missed a few Metros and had to listen to most of the first piece (“Les Dances interrompues” by Bruno Mantovani) from outside. I say that this was unfortunate because the next piece (“Blake Songs” by Benîot Mernier) was almost unanimously panned by all of my colleagues. Although I don’t share the intensity of their response, except in the general consensusus on the weakness of soprano Louise Marcotte, I did generally find the orchestration’s imitation of weather patterns (particularly in the framing songs) to be quite interesting. I may even go so far as to agree with John Rea and say that the piece would work much better if the soprano was simply replaced by a clarinet soloist.

The highlight of the evening was a performance of Tristan Murail’s masterpiece “Désintègrations.” This is a work that I have listened to a couple of dozen times on CD and have always found something new and compelling in it. Despite this, nothing could prepare me for the pure bliss that is hearing it live. The NEM did a magnificent job. When the final rumble ended and I opened my eyes for the first time in over twenty minutes I felt surprised to have landed back on earth. Judging from the laughs, silent smiles, and enthusiasm of the audience during the presentation of this almost perfect work it was obvious that my reaction was almost universal. In relation to the work, I was particularly struck by the usage of spatialization (how most of the predominantly electronic passages moved from the back to the front of the hall) and how the orchestra was alternatively subsumed the electronics and vice-versa. It seemed obvious to me that the ensemble had worked on this piece almost to the detriment of the rest of the program. However, when programming and performing such a great piece as “Désintègrations,” it’s hard to not see to why. The only shame is that Tristan Murail did not show for the “table ronde” prior to the concert. However, I doubt that he won’t show for the NEM’s final concert in April which features a commission of a new work by him.

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