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ClassicsOnline Home » GIRARD, A.: Cercle de la Vie (Le) / Eloge de la folie / Les Noces d'Orphee / L'Effroi de la nuit froide (Fessard, Bihan, G. Girard)
Anthony Girard is a unique voice in contemporary French music. He is at once heir to the tradition established by Fauré and Debussy, whilst he has also absorbed elements of Minimalism and oriental music. Poetry and mysticism are at the heart of his works, notably reflected in his vibrant Eloge de la folie (In Praise of Folly) and the mythic Les Noces d’Orphée (The Marriage of Orpheus), composed in 2004. Le Cercle de la vie (The Circle of Life) is an important set of 24 piano preludes exploring a circular inner journey.
Anthony Girard (b. 1959)
Eloge de la folie • Les Noces d’Orphée • L’Effroi de la nuit froide • Le Cercle de la vie
Eloge de la folie (In Praise of Folly)
Sonata for clarinet and piano (1995)
Eloge de la folie is a homage to the dervishes of Anatolia, mystics who worship God by performing a series of ecstatic, whirling dances:
We are those fearless lovers,
reason and thought are not our friends.
We are drunk on the wine of love,
never does it daze our wits.
Abu Hamid (14th century)
That sense of intoxication is represented here by an incessant five-quaver ostinato on the piano, above which the clarinet, with its vibrant and incandescent timbre, plays long, insistent incantations. Then it in turn takes up the endless loops whose aim is to make us relinquish all control over our thoughts, while the piano explores a vast palette of polytonal chords, both statically and rhythmically.
We need to follow the advice of the Sufi mystic and poet Rumi and “renounce everything that stems from reason”, relying instead on intuition, our creative instinct and, to some extent, folly.
Les Noces d’Orphée (The Marriage of Orpheus)
Trio for clarinet, cello and piano (2004)
Les Noces d’Orphée takes the form of a musical fairy-tale. In this version of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, however, there is no story as such, and nothing very much happens. Although it is about births—of some very strange children named Mystery and Truth—and marriage, the music does not seem to be there to illustrate the tale, rather the opposite: the text, poetic and enigmatic, prepares us for the music. A little like a prelude to a dream:
A long time ago—and perhaps never—in a place, a land
whose name I have forgotten, there lived an extraordinary
being, a man by the name of Orpheus. His song created
the world, it was always full of spirit and enthusiasm…
Way back then there also lived a wonderful young woman
named Eurydice. She was grace itself, and lightness and
joy, and wherever she went all things and creatures were
rendered beautiful. She only had to pass by and all became
One day, so legend has it, Eurydice was bitten by a
serpent.… She did not die, but she lost her mask and her
true face was revealed, as was her true name: Illusion.
Orpheus and Eurydice fell passionately in love and their
first child was born, a son, whose name was Mystery.
Orpheus and Eurydice planned a wedding to celebrate the
A few years later, they had a second child: a daughter. They
named her Truth.
Brother and sister, Mystery and Truth were born to
understand one another.
As they dreamt of a second celebration, more splendid still,
Eurydice said to Orpheus:
“I am no longer wearing a mask, but you, who are you?”
Orpheus laughed as he replied:
“Is it the illusion which is so beautiful, so joyous in you? Or
are both beauty and joy nothing but illusion?”
Orpheus picked the apple from the Tree of Knowledge,
while the serpent kept its distance. Then the mask of
Orpheus slipped, and his face was revealed. And his true
name became known.
L’Effroi de la nuit froide (Fear of the cold night)
For solo clarinet (1988)
There is fear of the night. There is also what comes to light once the fear has passed. Fear of the night means living in a dark and cold world, where conversation has become impossible, where our voices collide with the silence, with indifference.
The first part of this short work brings together two motifs, one melodic, initially brief and dense, then gradually more generous in scale, expanding into lyricism (if a troubled, impulsive lyricism), the other more rhythmical, in repeated notes in the lower register, and restarted by rocketing downward arpeggios whose energy is regularly refuelled. These two motifs—which together symbolise mounting fear—culminate in what is essentially a cry of desperation. Played by solo clarinet, this climax cannot match an orchestral paroxysm, but tries its best to do so.
At the end of this ordeal a door opens. The troubled melodic motif of the opening is transformed into a tranquil cantilena, “like plainchant”. And the propulsive rhythmical cell also becomes very calm, conjuring an enigmatic ambience with its mysterious “slaps”.
The night remains cold, but the fear has vanished.
Le Cercle de la vie (The Circle of Life)
Twenty-four preludes for piano (2007)
A piano prelude may seem to be just the germ of a composition, a sketch, the start of “something” which will not end up being fully exploited or expressed. Composing a cycle of twenty-four preludes is therefore an attempt to give some kind of meaning to a succession of one-off moments.
Let us think of life as a circle, and music as points situated around its circumference: like a journey around the world where the north and south poles would be Joy (Prelude 1) and Sorrow (Prelude 7), and the halfway points would be Anxiety (Prelude 4) and Tranquillity (Prelude 10); the first twelve preludes follow that pattern. The second set of twelve work on the same principle: we rotate from Light (Prelude 13) to Darkness (Prelude 19), from Dream (Prelude 16) to Reality (Prelude 22). The twenty-four preludes therefore describe a circular inner journey passing through the whole range of different states of mind.
© 2012 Anthony Girard
Translated by Susannah Howe
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GIRARD, A.: Cercle de la Vie (Le) / Eloge de la fo...