On March 15, the Spectre Ensemble will bring a Homage to Luc Brewaeys at the Bijloke in Ghent. In December 2015, Luc Brewaeys passed away. He was one the most prominent composers in Flanders and an heir to spectralism. Philippe Hurel dedicated So nah, so fern, that will be premiered in this concert, to his memory. Years before, Brewaeys dedicated his Fêtes à tensions: (les) eaux marchent to his French friend and colleague. This piece contains numerous musical references from Tchaikovski and Debussy to Goeyvaerts, amongst which a meditative repetition of a funeral march. Where does a circle end?
“Fêtes à tensions: (les) eaux marchent” for 20 players was composed in 2012 as a commission from Ensemble Intercontemporain (Paris). They gave the first performance of the work on October 28, 2012 in de Stadsschouwburg (City Theatre) of Leuven during the Transit Festival and the ISCM World Music Days. The EIC was conducted by Jurjen Hempel. The score is dedicated to Brewaeys’ friend and colleague Philippe Hurel.
The title is a play on words. Translated literally, it means ‘Feasts with tensions: (the) waters march’. When reading fast with the omission of the word between brackets (“Faites attention aux marches”) it means ‘Watch your step’. Because of this title, Brewaeys 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 he also quotes 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.
Fêtes à tensions: (les) eaux marchent at Donemus