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Frederic Pattar - (…de qui parlez-vous?)

For some time I have been thinking about how to integrate into my musical language something – a something that remains undefined – of song. Perhaps the poetry of Maurice Maeterlinck, especially his Quinze Chansons, will allow me to pursue this idea.

Throughout this cycle Maeterlinck uses rhythms recalling those of the fourteenth century ‘lai’. In particular, in the chanson I have chosen, each line is composed of seven feet, always grouped as two plus five, a rhythm I fully respect in the prosody of my setting.

By means of its strange-seeming archaism, this structure allows Maeterlinck to create a dialogue that is as if disembodied. The two characters, mother and daughter, cross without seeing one another, like two phantom presences who appear unable to understand each other. Just as we never know what they are talking about – there is no subject to their exchanges – the poem closes with the question I have made my title: ‘Of whom do you speak?’

Finally, I wanted this dialogue sung by just the one voice, oscillating like a tightrope walker between the lyrical and the plain, the coloured and the white.

Frederic Pattar’s (…de qui parlez-vous?) received its world premiere on Sunday 25 March 2018 in Symphony Hall, for the Debussy Festival.

Tombeau de Debussy
BCMG’s Tombeau de Debussy for the 21st century honours Claude Debussy as a founding father of modernity. In 1920, Henri Prunieres, director of La Revue Musicale commissioned a collection of new pieces by the most famous composers of the day, a tribute to Claude Debussy’s profound impact on musical tradition.

Commissioned by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, with financial assistance from Arts Council England and Stephen Saltaire as Sole Commissioner through BCMG’s Sound Investment scheme.