Michael Jarrell

Composed in 2011, Jarrell’s Etude for solo piano takes us on a virtuosic rollercoaster ride with intensely passionate but tormented figures, which give way to moments of calm, albeit with troubled undercurrents. The initial hammering motif is reminiscent of Poulenc’s telephone motif in La Voix Humaine and the recurrent frenetic throbbing figures are a parallel to the emotional turmoil experienced by La Voix Humaine ’s protagonist. The final musical paroxysm slowly dies away to leave a barren emptiness devoid of all emotion.

Monsieur Jarrell is delighted that we will be giving the Swiss premiere of his work, hitherto performed in Germany and France but not, as yet, in his native Switzerland.

Ludovic Van Hellemont

“Zwischenhalt” was conceived as a transition between Michael Jarrell’s Etude for piano and Poulenc’s opera "La Voix humaine”. Despite these two works being stylistically very different from each other, they do have motifs and harmonies in common. Improvising with these common features Ludovic Van Hellemont was able to get closer to the language and sound qualities of both the works and develop a form which instigates a dialogue between Jarrell and Poulenc. At the same time one can also perceive the influence of Hellemont’s own role models, including Messaien, Bartok and Ligeti. The resulting work is a composed improvisation.

Francis Poulenc

This cult work has undergone many productions and performances in the sixty years since it first saw the light of day and its appeal remains undiminished. The simplicity of the idea and its accoutrements are attractive: one sole protagonist on stage, one necessary prop (the telephone) and the option of a version with solo pianist rather than full symphony orchestra.

Forty minutes to penetrate the soul of a woman at a crossroads in her life, deserted by the man she has loved and still loves. During this time the nameless ‘Elle’, an ‘everywoman’, reveals a broad emotional range, displaying wit and verve, tenderness and seductiveness, fury and frustration, menace and subterfuge, as well as the low points of all-encompassing despondency and despair. Her moods and outbursts are often contradictory and capricious; her real feelings lie hidden under layers of pretence. It is crucial that the audience cares about her fate, despite its role, at times maybe uncomfortable, as eavesdroppers on a delicate and intimate situation.

The challenge is exciting of unravelling the personality and motivations of ‘Elle’ and decrypting the possible interjections and responses of ‘Lui’. A long-term musical rehearsal process needs, in our view, to precede and accompany the staging rehearsals, due to the close relationship between the voice and the piano, and the intricacy of timing each pause and phrase, so that the audience can find fully convincing this ‘dialogue à voix seule’ that they are witnessing.

© morethanmusic 2017