About this Recording
8.573687 - DUBUGNON, R.: Arcanes Symphoniques / Triptyque / Le Songe Salinas (Gubisch, DoliƩ, Orchestre National de France, Petitgirard, Waldman, Gabel)
English  French 

Richard Dubugnon (b. 1968)
Arcanes Symphoniques • Triptyque • Le Songe Salinas


Arcanes Symphoniques, Op. 30 (excerpts, 2001–02)

This work is the result of a long musical study based on the Tarot of Marseille, a concept first explored in 1994 in my Septuor, Op. 14 and Horrificques, Op. 13, wherein I first used some of the musical motifs seen in Arcanes Symphoniques. My ambition was to create a musical game, where each of the twenty-two major arcana (the trumps in a tarot pack) would be illustrated by a symphonic movement which could be performed in any order. Arcanes Symphoniques is a set of studies for orchestra each lasting 2–6 minutes, exploring a large variety of colours, modes, chords, rhythms and instrumental techniques in order to illustrate the meaning of the cards. Short motifs, which I call ‘Theme-symbols’, are shared by all the Arcanes and appear in varied forms throughout the work as leitmotifs. They are a musical rendering of the symbols, allegories and characters of the cards (The Cross, The Infinite, The Moon, The Raising, The Angel…). The main colours of the cards—red, blue, yellow-gold, flesh-coloured—are sometimes orchestrated by distinct groups of instruments. The numbers of the cards (0–21) are used to create rhythmical patterns, scales of notes, or for the whole structure of the movement. Hebrew letters have also been used for their relationships with each card and for their numerological values.

This imposing work is not meant to be performed in its entirety, but rather in sub-groups of movements picked randomly or chosen by the conductor, in the order and quantity he (or she) desires, like music ‘à la carte’. The permutations of movements ad libitum means that each performance has a different musical meaning. Eighteen of the twenty-two major Tarot arcana are composed for large orchestra. The four remaining (II, III, IV and V) are the Arcanes Concertants, Op. 38 (2006), a concerto for organ, percussion and string orchestra, whose movements are fixed. The first group of Arcanes on this recording had their broadcasting première in December 2001 on the Alla Breve show (Radio France), and a public première at the Présence Festival in 2002.

The remaining thirteen Arcanes were composed between 2002 and 2007, and performed by various international orchestras.

Triptyque, Op. 23 (1999)

This is the first work written in collaboration with French novelist Stéphane Héaume, with whom I have written three song cycles and the Cantata obscura, Op. 39. It was commissioned in 1999 by the New Music and Russian Music Festival at the Royal Academy of Music in London. The work is scored for an unusual combination of solo baritone with three groups of soloists, triangularly staged: trumpet, horn, trombone and harpsichord on the left, flute (doubling piccolo), oboe (cor anglais), clarinet (bass clarinet) and celeste on the right, and timpani, vibraphone percussion and double bass in the middle. The piece was subtitled ‘meloclip’ because I intended first to make a video clip with it. The very quick changes of images in the text are crying out for the use of cinematic or video effects transposed into musical techniques, which is what I tried to do. The work includes some early uses of my ‘Themesymbols’ (The Cross, The Moon), motifs later used in Arcanes Symphoniques.

Ecce Homo is a little Faustian tragedy. A man, alone in a temple, faces Christ on a cross. He is full of guilt and passion. The Devil appears and takes him with his horses to Purgatory where he tempts him, proposing that he sit on a wooden throne. The man resists, returns, and awaits his judgement. Broken and vanquished, the man surrenders himself to Christ and begs him to kiss his ‘blue ash-sullied little eyes.’ Déserts is perhaps an image of Longinius, the Roman soldier who pierced Christ’s right side with a spear. The man recalls his betrayal and sees Christ on a cross, imploring, his flank open. The man runs away in caves where he hallucinates. When he returns to the desert, by night, he sees Christ on a distant hill ‘illuminated by pieces of moon which fell to bless him.’ Le Nain (The Dwarf) is a discreet homage to the eponymous play by Oscar Wilde. A dwarf is enslaved as a buffoon at the court of a palace. He complains about his fate and cannot see his twin brother who lives in the neighbouring palace and shares the same miserable life. Only in death will they be reunited in the grave.

Le Songe Salinas, Op. 36 (2003)

This is the most ambitious of my works based around Stéphane Héaume’s texts so far. It is scored for mezzo-soprano and large orchestra with six horns and five clarinets (including two bass clarinets). It is a short opera for one singer, and reflects the strong desire that I and Stéphane had to compose larger works together. The story of Le Songe Salinas is tinged with orientalism, placed half-way between Shéhérazade and Salomé. Each section uses different orchestration: the outer movements (I and V) are for full orchestra, while the inner sections (the dreams) are scored for chamber-like ensembles. Le Jardin (II) is a concerto grosso with two groups of soloists: Concertino 1 (three solo violins and a celeste) and Concertino 2 (two harps and three flutes) against the ripieno tutti. The third movement, L’Oasis, uses North African percussion instruments such as the bendir and darbouka and also contains extended solos for the oboe, cor anglais and bassoon, to evoke Arabic reed instruments. Movement IV, La Lagune, is scored for woodwind, harps and vibraphone only, to conjure the aquatic nature of the text. Some sections are separated by short symphonic interludes which symbolize the narrator’s descent into sleep. As in Triptyque, Op. 23 I have used some cinematic and video techniques to the musical notation: zooms in and out, flashbacks, image superimpositions, inversions of colour and light and others. Throughout the entire work there is a recurrent musical motif:

I. Torpeur: The two lovers are falling asleep, Salinas and the unnamed woman. The female character has a premonition of danger in her sleep. She calls for dreams to come to her. (Interlude: Premier Sommeil – First Sleep). II. Premier Songe: Le Jardin (First dream: The Garden). She dreams of a medieval garden in an unknown castle, where she is waiting for her lover Salinas in a belfry. She sees him from afar, arriving with a rope under his arm. She hopes he has come to liberate her, but the next thing she sees is Salinas hanging, dead: ‘Who pushed you, oh, my lover?’ (Interlude: Second Sommeil – Second Sleep). III. Deuxième Songe: L’Oasis (Second dream: The Oasis). She dreams of an oasis in a ruby-red desert. She is the ‘dancer of one night’ and Salinas’ ‘cup of pleasures’. She goes away on her horse to take a swim, but on her return Salinas lies dead, his ‘hand covered with fish scales’. IV. Troisième Songe: La Lagune (Third dream: The Lagoon). She sees a ‘large lake full of grey flamingos’. Salinas is drifting on a small boat, and they both end up stranded on an island. She pulls a dagger out of her sari. V. Réveil (Awakening). She awakes in the bed next to her lover. There is blood on the sheets, in her fist ‘a slimy dagger’ and ‘scarabs invade the torn silk of the canopy’. She has killed Salinas in her sleep. She calls for the guards to come and take her to the gallows where she will pay the ultimate sacrifice.

Richard Dubugnon

Close the window