Connesson, Guillaume: E chiaro nella valle il fiume appare

E chiaro nella valle il fiume appare 

GUILLAUME CONNESSON
BORN: May 5, 1970, Boulogne-Billancourt, France
COMPOSED: 2015. Commissioned by the Besançon International Music Festival and dedicated to its director Jean-Michel Mathé

WORLD PREMIERE: September 20, 2015 at the Théâtre de Besançon (France), as part of the 54th International Young Conductors Competition of the Besançon Music Festival, by the Basel Symphony Orchestra, led by the three finalists

SFS PERFORMANCES: FIRST AND ONLY—At these performances

INSTRUMENTATION: 2 flutes; 2 oboes; 2 clarinets; 2 bassoons; 4 French horns; 2 trumpets; 3 trombones; tuba; timpani; 2 percussionists playing xylophone, vibraphone, glockenspiel, triangle, chimes, bass drum, suspended cymbal, cymbals, tam-tam, crotales; and strings

DURATION: About 11 mins

THE BACKSTORY  Noted French Composer Guillaume Connesson is widely recognized for eclectic yet accessible compositions that are inspired by a broad range of sources—including silent films, American Minimalism, pop, and the cosmos. His composition style bears resemblances to Ravel, Messiaen, and Stravinsky, and his works have earned numerous French accolades (among them the Nadia and Lili Boulanger Prize). A multifaceted musician, Connesson has taught orchestration at the Conservatoire National de Région d’Aubervilliers, directed the Chorus of the University of Paris, and served as an associated composer at the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Among his most important teachers are composer Marcel Landowski, conductor/pedagogue Dominique Rouits, and composer/conductor Alain Louvier.

Having attracted international attention for his wonderfully individual and imaginative compositions, Connesson began receiving high-profile commissions when he was still in his twenties. His 1997 piece Supernova was commissioned and premiered by the Montpellier Philharmonic Orchestra; the following year, it earned Connesson the Cardin Prize of the Institute of France. His early catapulting on to the classical stage has been in part due to a championship by the illustrious French conductor Stéphane Denève, who continues to record and present his music worldwide at a number of much-lauded engagements. The Royal Scottish National Orchestra commissioned Connesson’s orchestral work A Glimmer in the Age of Darkness (Une Lueur dans l’âge sombre) as a celebration of its first season under music director Denève, who led its premiere with that ensemble in 2005; Denève also led the San Francisco Symphony’s first performances of that noteworthy piece—part of Connesson’s “Cosmic Trilogy”—in February 2016.

THE MUSIC  Guillaume Connesson’s Flammenschrift (2012), E chiaro nella valle il fiume appare (2015), and Maslenitsa (2012) constitute another symphonic trilogy in the composer’s impressive catalogue of works. This musical triptych pays homage to the culture and music of three different countries: Germany, Italy, and Russia. We hear the first SFS performances of the middle movement of this trilogy—a part ethereal and languorous, part corporeal and passionate, homage to Italy—at these concerts.

Jeanette Yu

Guillaume Connesson offers these comments on E chiaro nella valle il fiume appare: E chiaro nella valle il fiume appare (The river is clear in the valley) is a single slow movement whose title and narrative is inspired by [early nineteenth-century Italian poet] Giacomo Leopardi’s La quite dopo la tempest (The Calm after the Storm). I wanted to compose a piece that celebrated the beauty of the Italian landscape—the calmness and lyricism that naturally emerges after a storm. Built around two main themes (the first, disparate and without harmonization; the second, simmering and sensual), the piece features rhythms that are constantly in flux that crisscross each other until they culminate in to a great, luminous fortissimo (increase in loudness). In the eerie calm that follows, listeners hear an old Neapolitan song, Voca Voca, in the distance, played by the clarinet and trumpet. Then lyricism returns, leading to a peaceful episode where distant bells recall Italian cities at sunset.

Translation from the French by Jeanette Yu

Jeanette Yu is Director of Publications at the San Francisco Symphony.

MORE ABOUT THE MUSIC
Recordings:
Stéphane Denève conducting the Brussels Philharmonic (Universal Music France) 

Readings: Guillaume Connesson’s website at guillaumeconnesson.net

(May 2018)