Fêtes à tensions : (les) eaux marchent

Composed in
20 Players
Flute (Piccolo-Alto Flute), Oboe (English Horn), Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Bassoon, Horn, Trumpet, Bass Trombone, 2 Percussions, Harp, Piano, 3 Violins, 2 Violas, 2 Violoncellos, Double Bass.
ca. 15′
First performance
October 28, 2012. Leuven (B), Stadsschouwburg (City Theatre), ISCM-World Music Days/Transit Festival. The Ensemble intercontemporain conducted by Jurjen HEMPEL.
Commissioned by
Ensemble intercontemporain
Dedicated to
Philippe HUREL
Luc on “Fêtes à tensions : (les) eaux marchent” :
“Fêtes à tensions : (les) eaux marchent” for 20 players was composed in 2012 as a commission from Ensemble Intercontemporain (Paris, F). They gave the first performance of the work on October 28, 2012 in de Stadsschouwburg (City Theatre) of Leuven (B) during the Transit Festival and the ISCM World Music Days. The EIC was conducted by Jurjen HEMPEL. The score is dedicated to my friend and colleague Philippe Hurel.
The title is a play on words. Translated literally, it means ‘Feasts with tensions: (the) waters march’. When read fast with omission of the word between brackets (“Faites attention aux marches”) it means ‘Watch your step’. Because of this title I included quotations of and references to march (or march-like) music. The attentive listener will thus recognize fragments by Ives (Three Places in New England, 2nd movement), Tchaikovsky (The Nutcracker, March), Berg (Three Orchestra Pieces, 3rd movement) , Goeyvaerts (Aquarius, introduction), Beethoven (9th & 3rd Symphonies), Varèse (Arcana) and Stravinsky (L’histoire du soldat). Just before the conclusion of the piece I also quote a bit from Fêtes (from the Nocturnes) by Debussy, after all, the title obliges me to…
The work consists of two more or less interlocked sections followed by a brief coda. The first section is fast and rather nervous whilst the second is very slow and meditative even if one can always feel some tension underneath it. The coda is moderately fast, based on a percussion ostinato. Most of the rather complex harmonies are derived from ring modulated bell sounds, which means that the sounds are enriched with the sums and differences of their distinct frequencies. In the second section combinations of woodwind multiphonics create the harmonic fields.
The whole music has a certain atmosphere of obstinacy. This is achieved in the first section with moto perpetuo-like motives in the piano (and sometimes the harp) and vibraphone, a nod to the music of Philippe Hurel, the work’s dedicatee. The second section presents a possibly ‘funeral march-inspired’ meditative repetition. The repeated percussion motive launches the final coda.
There is – of course – much more in this music, but I leave it to the listener to discover it. I wish you all a captivating journey.
Luc Brewaeys