It was a huge honour to welcome the great French poet Yves Bonnefoy to Robinson College, Cambridge, last week, to give a reading of his poetry and to hear a concert of music inspired by poetry. Bonnefoy is unquestionably a major figure in poetry worldwide and his reading drew enthusiasts from far and wide. He read with extraordinary straightforwardness and simplicity, and within this there was a striking dignity and solidity to his words.
Last year I wrote a piece closely based on one of Bonnefoy’s poems. At the time I owned a book of his but had no expectation of ever meeting him nor of his ever hearing my piece. But, through a chain of extraordinarily lucky chances, I ended up putting on this concert in which my piece was given its second performance in front of the poet, alongside other music based closely on specific poems, and with the poem in question read immediately before the music. (This was a fun programme to devise – Richard Causton’s Sleep (based on Seferis); Debussy’s Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l’air (Baudelaire); Machaut/JT: Virelai ‘Dame, vostre doulze viaire’; Cheryl-Frances Hoad’s Bouleumeta (Euripides); Dutilleux’s De l’ombre et de silence (no poem for this one, but it was perfect at this point in the programme) and finally my piece Plus avant que l’étoile, based on Bonnefoy’s poem Deux Couleurs.) These pieces were beautifully played by Sara Minelli and Roderick Chadwick.
M. Bonnefoy was extraordinarily receptive and generous towards the music, and wrote an appreciation of my piece which I shall treasure. I was lucky to spend much of the following weekend with him, which was full of warmth and lively conversation. He has suggested that we take a similar programme of poems and music to perform at Tours next year; it would be wonderful to be revisit and continue what was a truly magical weekend.
I’ve just been to an IMR conference celebrating the 95th birthday of French composer Henri Dutilleux, at the Senate House in London. He’s written some ravishingly beautiful music, which draws the listener deep into a haunting web of memories, emotions and sudden illuminations. The conference was put together by Caroline Rae and Caroline Potter; there were just six of us giving papers, and very interesting they were. There was a very refreshing diversity of new ideas and approaches (and that’s not always the case!), as well as lots of fruitful points of contact between different papers, and some spookily exact correspondances between certain points made by Julian Anderson and by myself, about very precise connections back to Stravinsky and forwards to Gérard Grisey, and also concerning the crucial relation of sonority to form. Ken Hesketh made a tremendously incisive and searching analysis of Ainsi la nuit. And Julian gave a wonderful paper positing Dutilleux as a quiet and under-appreciated explorer/discoverer of many of the radical ideas which (later) made the music of the Spectralists seem so arrestingly new in the 70s and 80s. All in all, a very good day, and much to ponder…
(Click here for details of my book Henri Dutilleux: la musique des songes)
image: nave-moe (Paul Gauguin)
Matthew Schellhorn will be giving the premiere of a short piano piece I wrote for him last summer, fleeting… in Bangor on 14 February. It will be played as part of a wonderful programme including music by Messiaen, Dutilleux, Ravel, and Colin Riley in the Powis Hall, Bangor University.
Matthew is currently planning to record fleeting… along with The Will of the Tones, which was also written for him, and a selection of my other solo piano and chamber music, on a CD to be released next year.
Music by Jeremy Thurlow
My book on French composer Henri Dutilleux is now out: it’s published in French by Millénaire III, translated by Frédérique Aït-Touati and was launched at an international conference on Dutilleux in Paris on 7 December, attended by the composer himself. The book is available from bookshops in France, or can be ordered. (For further information, click here; if you have any trouble finding it, please send a message to this site via the ‘comments’ page.)
Henri Dutilleux, ou la musique des songes
[Henri Dutilleux and the music of dreams]
Translated by Frédérique Aït-Touati. Published by Millénaire III; series editor Nicolas Darbon, December 2006, Paris. 272 pages. 29 Euros.