Claude Vivier weekend review – unruly and utterly distinctive | Classical music

Jhe French Canadian Claude Vivier died in Paris in 1983, aged just 34. For several years, the harrowing circumstances of his death – stabbed by a 19-year-old man whom he had invited to spend the night with him – and the fact that Vivier seemed to have anticipated it, seemed to be more widely known than anyone. which of his music. But his reputation grew steadily, and although British interpretations of his works remain relatively rare, he is often claimed as one of the most important composers of the second half of the 20th century.

The Southbank Centre’s series on Vivier’s music provided an assessment of these claims. Split between the combined forces of the London Sinfonietta and the Manson Ensemble of the Royal Academy of Music, and Soundstreams, the Toronto-based company dedicated to the promotion and performance of contemporary Canadian music, the programs presented a variety of works de Vivier, as well as new pieces by Canadian artists and composers, although the impression left overall remains unconvincing.

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Gamelan tones… percussionist Ryan Scott performs Five Songs before a film by Michael Greyeyes. Photography: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

The first of the Soundstreams programs focused on pieces by Vivier from the late 1970s, when he was still absorbing the various influences of his music – a Roman Catholic upbringing in Montreal, two years studying with Stockhausen in Cologne , travels through Asia, particularly in Japan and Bali, and a first encounter in Paris with the first spectralist techniques of composers such as Tristan Murail and Gérard Grisey. Thus, Stockhausen’s Stimmung is the clear starting point for Love Songs for Seven Singers, though Vivier’s bag of vocal techniques and a multilingual patchwork of lyrics are far more amorphous and unruly than this masterpiece. And the ninth of Stockhausen’s piano pieces is the source of at least the opening passages of solo piano Shiraz, with its swirling whirlwinds of chords, which were brilliantly projected here by Serouj Kradjian, while in Five Songs for percussion (played by Ryan Scott and, like the piano piece, accompanied by a dance film by Michael Greyeyes) the sound universe also obviously comes from Balinese gamelan.

If these pieces never really transcended their models, then around 1980 all of these elements of Vivier’s music coalesced into a very distinctive style. The two pieces that Ilan Volkov conducted in the Sinfonietta program, Zipangu, for 14 strings, and Lonely Child for soprano and orchestra, explore a world of complex harmonies and dazzling instrumental colors that adorn the piece’s rhythmic unisons at strings and support the vocal lines. of Lonely Child in a way that is both ritualistic and consoling. Claire Booth was the wonderfully warm soloist of Lonely Child; it’s quite unlike anything else, and Vivier’s most well-known work for good reason.

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