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ClassicsOnline Home » DUBUGNON: Piano Quartet / Incantatio / Frenglish Suite
By Gary Higginson
By Anastasia Tsioulcas
Richard Dubugnon (b. 1968)
The Piano Quartet (1998), is a substantial work, a homage to Gabriel Fauré. It was commissioned by Chris Tinker from the Whitgift School to whom I am particularly grateful. The first movement is an extensive sonata form starting with an introduction leading gradually to a first theme, marked Allegro risoluto, inspired by Faurés Piano Quartet in C minor. After a long development section the second theme appears in 12/8. A second development leads to the recapitulation, which culminates later with the second theme. The movement ends quietly with reminiscences of the introduction. The second movement combines two movements: a frantic Presto with a mournful Adagio which both alternate several times. The opening rhythmical pattern was inspired by the frightening noise of an old electricity meter in the house of my grandmother, which I used to hear in the morning when I was a child.
The Incantatio, for cello and piano was first conceived to represent a spirit summoning ceremony. It bears the influence of the later works of Scriabin, tinged with similar pseudo-mysticism. The performers were meant to wear robes, light candles and carry out some ceremonial gestures. I decided later to give up these theatrical ideas which would have complicated the performance of an already quite demanding work, but most of all, the music seemed strong enough to stand on its own. Evocatio is a slow and expressive movement representing the call of the spirit and its first manifestation. Apparitio (subtitled "ectoplasmic") depicts the apparition of an ectoplasm. There follows a long cello cadenza in which the performer converses with the spirit. Finally, in Saltatio (dance in Latin) participants and spirit join in together in a devilish dance. This last movement was written in 2000 especially for Matthew Sharp and Dominic Harlan.
Trois évocations finlandaises (Three Finnish Recollections), was written after I returned from a trip to Finland. I decided to dedicate my first composition for my own instrument to the forests and lakes of this beautiful country. Menuet Carélien (Karelian Minuet) is a fast and fiery movement. The melody in the Trio was inspired by a folk-tune from Karelia. Hämärä (Dusk) is a slow and mysterious piece, subtitled le coucou chante dans le crépuscule (the cuckoo sings in the dusk). Dithyrambe is a joyful and virtuoso A-B-A dance with a waltz in its middle section. I gave the first performance of this piece myself in Paris in 1992 and I have been performing it regularly since.
The Five Masques, for solo oboe were written in 1994-5 for my friend Anne-Catherine Bitsch, whom I met at the Paris Conservatoire while I was still a student there. She had a collection of little mural masks and I decided to write a piece for each of them. She gave the first performance of the piece live on Swiss Radio in 1995. Faune Florentin is a smiling faun from Florence, Masque de Pompei is a mysterious bearded mask found in the ashes of the Roman city, Arlequin, parce quil est triste (because he is sad) is a Venetian mask of a lonely Arlequin, Démons Indiens is three different Indian devils: one from India, another from Tibet (I quote a real Tibetan theme in the middle of the piece) and an American-Indian mask from the Iroquoian tribe. Finally, Masque Etrusque is a funeral Etruscan mask radiating some strange and unholy magic.
In the relatively short Canonic Verses, for oboe, oboe damore and cor anglais, we have a progressive suite of one, two and three canons of various complexity, separated by little strophes. The First Verse is a straight canon with each instrument playing at the interval of a third from the other. There follows a strophe in imitations and in the Second Verse we have two canons where the three instruments play at three different speeds in straight and inverted motion. After a short strophe and a mini-cadenza for the oboe, the Third Verse is a set of three little expressive canons using rigorously the same theme in inverted and retrograde motions and in diminution at the end.
Frenglish Suite, for wind quintet was commissioned by the Woolwich plc to celebrate its 150th anniversary and was first performed at the Royal Academy of Music in 1997. Frenglish is an altered version of the word Franglais, as I tried to mix influences from various English and French composers. The main thematic material of the piece is based on the English folk-song Geordie. After a short overture, the song appears in its complete form played on the oboe then bassoon, with a simple tonal accompaniment. It is followed by a set of five very contrasted variations. There is also a French folk-song À la claire fontaine which appears in Variation III and in Funèbre Lullaby. I combined these two tunes in the Fermeture in a contrapuntal climactic explosion. The result is a joyful and colourful piece, although a real tour de force for the performers
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DUBUGNON: Piano Quartet / Incantatio / Frenglish S...