Tristan MURAIL


" Le désenchantement du monde "

Symphonic for piano and orchestra

Henri Lemoine


May 4th, 2012 - Festival Musica Viva, Munich, Germany - Pierre-Laurent Aimard, piano - Symphonieorchester of Bayerischen Rundfunks - dir. George Benjamin.

Sponsor: Musica Viva, New York Philharmonic, Royal Concertgebouw

Orchestrated, Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra.


No notes from the composer but an article of Bertrand Bolognesi (Anaclase)

“(…) this new work (…) continues the spectral adventure in the benefit of the increasingly fine contribution of the computer programs exploited by the French composer.

By its title, “Le désenchantement du monde “refers to the German sociologist Max Weber who considered the advent of a definitely scientific era, in the continuation of the Age of Enlightenment, like the access to a world without magic, with the help of the induced trauma: the concept of “rational prosaicness” could attack the feeling of freedom and human responsibility. With the subtitle, symphonic Concerto for piano and orchestra, this page pays tribute to Ferenc Liszt whose were selected the Sonata in so minor S.178 (1853) and the Concerto in major the n°2 S.125 (1861) for formal models (several parts treated of only one feature which mixes them).

The Orchestral manpower is spreading little by little like the multiplication of the piano resounding possibilities, in a progressive amplification of the solistic writing “en escalier”. The more rhythmic section makes taste shininesses which rebound on textures subtly moire where the tones are discreetly declined by the particular colour of the micro-intervals. The play soon advances towards a frankly massive breaking where the pianistic pattern, although relayed in delicacy by the harp, fossilize in an authoritative power. In this interlacing of rationality and imagination, it is undoubtedly the artistic “fantasy” which has the last word: after a kind of thundering false-final, the disenchantment of the world is concluded in an unexpected calm which looks far away.

This creation was introduced by the “Venetian Games” written by Witold Lutos?awski in 1961, at the request of the Chamber orchestra of Cracow and the Venice Biennale.

With this opus, the Polish musician continued an approach of the random, almost “open work”. In margin of the influence of Bartók (which, though characterized, would show soon his limits) and of the Schönberg theory (which he will find finally too constraining), the Polish composer sealed with ”Venetian Games” his fascination for the piano Concerto of John Cage, who appeared ideal of freedom to him, and for the uncertainty usual to the American.

From the first movement, the impression of cluster of not-measured cords, alternating with very precise flat, is seizing. After a conclusion in the scansion extremely impacted by the percussions, the following movement, quasi scherzo, advance in the infinitely small dodecaphonic with a savour that Peter Eötvös reveals closer to Berg than Schönberg, until in its conclusive aphorism by the wind instruments. Undoubtedly, the public is grabbed by this refined interpretation, as testifies the extreme concentration which in an invaluable silence lets breathe the sequences. Thus the melismatic recitative flute, whose certain aspects announce Aperghis, saunters it in all serenity, before the fourth and ultimate play vigorously clash the preceding elements, at all the stations, often apart from the path. At the return of the percussion part largely stressed then it melts itself in the obstinacy of the piano and the chirp of the harp, suddenly definitively stopped. (…) ”

Source: Anaclase website, article written by Bertrand Bolognesi following the concert “Tristan Murail | Le désenchantement du monde”

Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Peter Eötvös, Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest” Concertgebouw, Amsterdam - September 14th, 2012.

" Contes cruels "

For two electric guitars and orchestra

Editions Lemoine

(Le Havre, 1947)

Born in 1947 in Le Havre, Tristan Murail obtains a degree in classical Arabic and the Arab Maghreb at the National School of Oriental Languages and a BA in economics at the Institut d'Etudes Politiques in Paris before turning to composition. A student of Olivier Messiaen, he received the Prix de Rome in 1971 and spent two years at the Villa Médicis. On his return to Paris in 1973, he was co-founder of the ensemble L'Itinéraire with a group of young composers and musicians. The ensemble gets widespread recognition very quickly for their basic research in the field of instrumental playing and electronics. In the eighties, Tristan Murail starts using the computer to further his research of acoustic phenomena. He worked several years with IRCAM, where he taught composition from 1991 to 1997 and participated in the aid program to the Patchwork composition. Tristan Murail also taught at many festivals and institutions, among others, Ferienkurse Darmstadt, at the Abbey of Royaumont Centre Acanthes, etc..

He is currently professor of composition at Columbia University in New York.


"Contes cruels" for two electric guitars and orchestra is not a double concerto in itself: the guitars are surreptitiously broken into the orchestra and give to these cruel stories an unusual colour. Thus the second guitar is tuned a quarter-tone higher in order to reach a wider range of harmonics. Murail also uses the ring modulators, a pedal effects of the seventies, when Murail gradually started making a name as a composer.

"Contes cruels" consists of a string of melodic movement growing and shrinking: transparent colours, which move towards one and within another, opposing actions that do not approach each other only to return with a bound to their starting point.

"Contes cruels" refers to the news of the French writer Villiers de l'Isle-Adam. We can also summarize the form of Murail's work in a series of "tales", even if the composer is quick to remind us that there can be no question here of program music. Sometimes, however, as in the beginning, the soloist plays a theme that Murail based on the words "Once upon a time". Murail also refers, in a humorous manner, to the novel "Le secret de l'ancienne musique" which, according to Murail, is "the bizarre story of a player of Chinese Bells (the Chinese Bells is a tool composed of many percussion bells arranged around a central bar, it is very difficult to prevent it from ringing). The Chinese Bells player is hired to play a solo in a new work by a composer of avant-garde (nineteenth century) - the part consists of crescendos of silence. At the end of the concert, the performer protested publicly against the novelty of this music, so vehemently that he falls into the big drum, tearing its membrane disappearing inside. An attentive listener will hear some humorous references to this tale in my work..." Program note for the world premiere in Amsterdam

French translation: Anna Svenbro