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ClassicsOnline Home » LAMPEL, D.: Chamber Music - String Quartet / String Sextet / Piano Sonata / Violin Sonata / Prelude and Chaconne, "Homage to Bach"
Each of the works on this disc embodies Swedish composer David Lampel’s
paradoxical idea that ‘music can be heard before it starts, and continues after the last
note’. All are performed by the musicians for whom they were composed or to whom
they were dedicated. Lampel’s musical imagination transforms his Piano Sonata into
a game of hide-and-seek. His String Sextet and Prelude and Chaconne pay homage to
Schoenberg and Bach respectively, while the String Quartet and Violin Sonata
reinvent Classical and Romantic style within an accessible modern idiom.
By David Denton
David Lampel (b. 1959)
String Quartet • Piano Sonata • String Sextet • Violin Sonata
Prelude and Chaconne, ‘Homage to Bach’
David Lampel was born in Stockholm in 1959. After studying in Sweden, Switzerland and France he now mainly
divides his musical activities between France and Sweden. In 2002 he founded Sounds of a Summer’s Night, a Franco-Swedish music festival which takes place every year in Sweden. He teaches composition and has written a manual
on the subject, published by Lemoine editions in 2001.
The String Quartet was written in 2002. It has five
sections which link together without pause. The
introduction presents a motif that undergoes constant
transformation and becomes the building block of the
whole piece. Then follows a swift section acting as the
scherzo, succeeded by a slow section that forms the
centrepiece. Next, another fast section containing two
contrasting themes, a reworking of classical sonata form.
In the final slow movement we hear material from the
preceding sections. A recapitulation of the whole piece,
which finishes as started, in the middle of a musical
phrase. This embodies the idea that music can be heard
before it starts, and continues after the last note, an idea
that I tried to apply to all my subsequent music.The
quartet is dedicated to the Parisii Quartet, whom I met
during the conception of this piece.
After writing the quartet I wanted to renew contact
with “ my ” instrument, the piano, that faithful companion
I use for much of my composition work. The Piano
Sonata is a birthday gift for Sebastien Risler, who for ten
years was my professor at the Geneva Conservatoire,
teaching me everything I know about the piano and much
about music. The sonata consists of a fairly short refrain
that appears at the beginning and, after some variations,
finally ends the work. This refrain and its variations are
alternated with more developed “couplets” which,
themselves, have common threads. This is what, in
classical music, would be called a Rondo; but the presence
of a theme right after the first refrain, which is then
repeated in the last movement, also brings to mind sonata
form. This is a game of hide-and-seek with the classical
form, a game which I play in all the works on the disc.
The String Sextet is also a gift, given to the soloists of
Uppsala for their unpaid participation in the first Franco-Swedish festival I created in Sweden, Sounds of a
Summer’s Night , in 2002. This and subsequent festivals
have become one of my main projects outside
composition. The instrumentation is distinguished by
replacing the second cello with a double-bass which gives
it a particular profound and sombre colour. It also pays
homage to Schoenberg’s Transfigured Night, which I
consider to be one of the finest pieces for string sextet.
Here again, the piece has a corrupted classical form in
that the first section has a “theme” followed by a series of
variations with the same motifs and the same structure.
However, the fact that all the movements form one
seamless group gives unity to the music, a unity that is not
usually found in classical variations.
The Sonata for Violin and Piano dates from 2005. It
consists of five continuous movements running in the
form of an arch, a device used by Béla Bartók among
others. The musical material of the slow introductory
passage is found again in the fifth and final slow section
but in inverted form, i.e. an ascending motif becomes a
descending motif and vice-versa. Similarly, the theme of
the second part, a fast scherzo, is inverted in the fourth
part, a fast rondo; the third, slow section has its own
material. Although the composition is atonal, it uses
processes that hark back to romanticism. The sonata is a
joint birthday gift to the violinist Régis Pasquier and the
pianist Emmanuel Strosser.
As for the Prelude and Chaconne, ‘Homage to Bach’,
it has a singular story behind it. For a long time I had
wanted to write for solo cello and when I set about the task in August 2005, I used the Bach Suites as models, which
of course are an unavoidable reference within the genre.
Having more or less finished the piece, I was surprised to
discover the motif B.A.C.H. transposed into all the music
I had written. An unconscious homage or an intrusion
from the hereafter? Anyway, this explains the work’s
The Chaconne, a form inherited from the Baroque
period, deserves some explanation. A persistent bass line
is repeated a number of times, each time reinforced with
a new variation. In the case of this piece the length of the
bass phrase does not always fit that of the variation, thus
producing an offset layering. Also the bass rises by a
semitone at each appearance and is built on a widening
and narrowing of intervals as well as rhythmic tightening
and stretching. The work finishes with the return of the
prelude, followed by a coda on the ascending B.A.C.H. It
is dedicated to the cellist Henri Demarquette.
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