Thursday, November 15, 2007
New music from the old world
Interesting article in French over on ConcertoNet.com about twentieth century music in general and Alex Ross' new book in particular. (Flaky machine translation here.) The writer is sometime Overgrown Path contributor Antoine Leboyer who highlights some overlooked contemporary European composers, and particularly recommends exploring Philippe Boesmans (above right), Guillaume Connesson, and Pascal Dusapin.
Connesson and Dusapin are both French, but Boesmans is Belgian. Today, Belgium has been without a government for 157 days, and as time ticks by the possibility of a permanent split between the country's Dutch and French speaking communities comes closer. It is a story that has attracted surprisingly little international media coverage, and that is not because Belgium is of little importance. It was the German invasion of the country in 1914 that caused Britain to enter the First World War, a conflict that changed the world political landscape for ever.
Since 1831, when the country was created by the Catholic Flemings and Walloons separating from the Protestant Netherlands, Belgium has had an identity crisis. This is shown by the following list of Belgium born figures from the arts who are commonly thought to be French, César Frank, Georges Simeon, Jacques Brel, and Renée Magritte, whose Ceci n'est pas une pipe (below) connects him with Simeon's Parisian detective Maigret.
Composer Philippe Boesmans was born in 1936 in Tongeren, in French speaking Wallonia. He worked as a producer of Radio-Télévision Belge de la Communauté Française (RTBF), and since 1985 has been resident composer at the Théâtre Royal de La Monnaie in Brussels. The 1993 premiere of Boesmans' opera Reigen was given at La Monnaie. This performance took place against a back-drop of possible federalisation, as this article from the New York Times recounts.
My header photo shows Boesmans (right) talking to director Luc Bondy during the production of the composer's new opera Julie at La Monnaie in 2005, and the lower photo is from that production. Julie is a one-act chamber opera is based Strindberg's play, Miss Julie, as is William Alwyn's eponymous opera from 1976. If you want to sample new music from the old world, Philippe Boesmans' Julie is available on Cypres Records in a live recording from La Monnaie.
More on new music in Europe here. And as Christmas is approaching why not visit Le village de Noël in César Frank's birthplace, Liège?
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