About this Recording
8.572106 - LAMPEL, D.: Chamber Music - String Quartet / String Sextet / Piano Sonata / Violin Sonata / Prelude and Chaconne, "Homage to Bach"
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David Lampel (b. 1959)
String Quartet • Piano Sonata • String Sextet • Violin Sonata
Prelude and Chaconne, ‘Homage to Bach’


David Lampel was born in Stockholm in 1959. After studying in Sweden, Switzerland and France he now mainly divides his musical activities between France and Sweden. In 2002 he founded Sounds of a Summer’s Night, a Franco-Swedish music festival which takes place every year in Sweden. He teaches composition and has written a manual on the subject, published by Lemoine editions in 2001.

The String Quartet was written in 2002. It has five sections which link together without pause. The introduction presents a motif that undergoes constant transformation and becomes the building block of the whole piece. Then follows a swift section acting as the scherzo, succeeded by a slow section that forms the centrepiece. Next, another fast section containing two contrasting themes, a reworking of classical sonata form. In the final slow movement we hear material from the preceding sections. A recapitulation of the whole piece, which finishes as started, in the middle of a musical phrase. This embodies the idea that music can be heard before it starts, and continues after the last note, an idea that I tried to apply to all my subsequent music.The quartet is dedicated to the Parisii Quartet, whom I met during the conception of this piece.

After writing the quartet I wanted to renew contact with “ my ” instrument, the piano, that faithful companion I use for much of my composition work. The Piano Sonata is a birthday gift for Sebastien Risler, who for ten years was my professor at the Geneva Conservatoire, teaching me everything I know about the piano and much about music. The sonata consists of a fairly short refrain that appears at the beginning and, after some variations, finally ends the work. This refrain and its variations are alternated with more developed “couplets” which, themselves, have common threads. This is what, in classical music, would be called a Rondo; but the presence of a theme right after the first refrain, which is then repeated in the last movement, also brings to mind sonata form. This is a game of hide-and-seek with the classical form, a game which I play in all the works on the disc.

The String Sextet is also a gift, given to the soloists of Uppsala for their unpaid participation in the first Franco-Swedish festival I created in Sweden, Sounds of a Summer’s Night , in 2002. This and subsequent festivals have become one of my main projects outside composition. The instrumentation is distinguished by replacing the second cello with a double-bass which gives it a particular profound and sombre colour. It also pays homage to Schoenberg’s Transfigured Night, which I consider to be one of the finest pieces for string sextet. Here again, the piece has a corrupted classical form in that the first section has a “theme” followed by a series of variations with the same motifs and the same structure. However, the fact that all the movements form one seamless group gives unity to the music, a unity that is not usually found in classical variations.

The Sonata for Violin and Piano dates from 2005. It consists of five continuous movements running in the form of an arch, a device used by Béla Bartók among others. The musical material of the slow introductory passage is found again in the fifth and final slow section but in inverted form, i.e. an ascending motif becomes a descending motif and vice-versa. Similarly, the theme of the second part, a fast scherzo, is inverted in the fourth part, a fast rondo; the third, slow section has its own material. Although the composition is atonal, it uses processes that hark back to romanticism. The sonata is a joint birthday gift to the violinist Régis Pasquier and the pianist Emmanuel Strosser.

As for the Prelude and Chaconne, ‘Homage to Bach’, it has a singular story behind it. For a long time I had wanted to write for solo cello and when I set about the task in August 2005, I used the Bach Suites as models, which of course are an unavoidable reference within the genre. Having more or less finished the piece, I was surprised to discover the motif B.A.C.H. transposed into all the music I had written. An unconscious homage or an intrusion from the hereafter? Anyway, this explains the work’s subtitle.

The Chaconne, a form inherited from the Baroque period, deserves some explanation. A persistent bass line is repeated a number of times, each time reinforced with a new variation. In the case of this piece the length of the bass phrase does not always fit that of the variation, thus producing an offset layering. Also the bass rises by a semitone at each appearance and is built on a widening and narrowing of intervals as well as rhythmic tightening and stretching. The work finishes with the return of the prelude, followed by a coda on the ascending B.A.C.H. It is dedicated to the cellist Henri Demarquette.

David Lampel

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