sound festival 2020 (part 2) review: Ensemble Court-circuit


Ensemble Court-circuit is a French music ensemble founded in 1991 to perform and promote contemporary music. The central work in their programme today was the World Première of a new Trio for Violin, Horn and Piano by Tansy Davies. This piece was a co-commission by sound and Court-circuit. It is entitled Grand Mutation.

Throughout today’s performance but especially in Tansy’s piece and in the Horn Trio, Hommage à Brahms by György Ligeti I was endlessly amazed and impressed by the fabulous ensemble musicianship of the trio of players, Alexandra Greffin-Klein: violin, Jean-Marie Cottet: piano and Antoine Dreyfuss who played horn in Grand Mutation and Hugues Viallon who was the horn player in Ligeti’s Trio.

I was taken with the way in which Tansy made the three instruments in her Trio stand out so completely from one another. The horn had mostly slow lyrical music which flowed effortlessly throughout most of the work. The violin had aggressive jabs and sweeps which contrasted with the horn. The piano had a kind of tinkling music which in parts reminded me of Messiaen. It was amazing though how the precision playing of the three members of the trio in this piece kept the character of their instruments so much to themselves and yet they and the composer made them sound absolutely together. That should not really have been possible, but it was! I know because throughout the piece I heard the music do just that.

Ligeti’s Trio is a splendid work. The four movements are so different. As the instruction in the score suggests the opening movement was indeed con tenerezza. The second movement demands and got vivacity and rhythmic forcefulness. The third movement was indeed a foot tapping march and the finale with its lament had gorgeous playing from the violin and though in many ways it diverts from harmonic tradition, it was beautifully well shaped with some extraordinary sounds from the violin near the end offset by piano chimes.

The first piece in the programme was very different from the other two but equally fascinating. This was Accords Perdus by Gérard Grisey. He was one of the ‘founders’ of a compositional school largely based in France and called Spectralism. It is difficult to sum up what that is in just a few words but it concentrates on the internal shaping of sounds themselves as a basis for composition. The two horns in this piece sometimes blend their sounds and sometimes clash. In the opening movement called simply Mouvement the sounds create beats like the sonic version of visual patterning. In later movements like Cor à cor the instruments throw their sounds from one to the other almost like tennis players. In the final movement Chute they move down in pitch one after the other.

What an amazing concert. My head is swimming while trying to digest all these new sounds and there is still another exciting performance to come.             

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