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Tétragramme [score]

string quartet

Tétragramme (2010) was commissioned by Festival Émergence and premiered on October 2, 2010 by the famous Quatuor Danel, the work’s dedicatee. It is structured in four movements.

The first (Allegro) is based on three main elements: a quasi-permanent rhythmic ostinato in regular values, the progressive construction of short melodic-rhythmic motifs that superimpose and complement each other, and sudden modal changes. An interlude comes from time to time to “break the game”, developing as it appears. The coda (conclusion) sums up all the motifs in a final firework display.

The second movement (Andante) is lyrical in character and is built entirely on a single three-bar theme exposed to the cello. This theme is itself subdivided into two parts A and B, B being the reversal (mirror) of A. Imitation writing is omnipresent, the development being done by sudden changes of mode but above all by the superimposition of very different sonorities (pizz., col legno, sul ponticello etc.), each instrument seeming to lead its own life. The end leads us into an unreal atmosphere due to the particular colour of the harmonics.

The third movement (Vivo) is based on a four-beat motif exposed on the first violin, imitated in the second bar by the second violin. The third entry – that of the viola – takes as its starting point not the first beat of the motif, but the third and fourth entries – that of the cello – the fourth beat, giving a “shifted” imitation. All this leads to a second, more homorhythmic motive. The various modulations make us travel between these two themes until the end. The last movement (Adagio) is a meditation in which all the instruments play the same motive (C, G, D, B, E, A, F sharp) starting each one on a different note. The duration of each note is determined by the first digits of the Fibonacci series (2, 3, 5, 8) and its retrograde sound (8, 5, 3, 2). The instruments gradually rise in the high register, remain there, and then gradually descend until the final chord, which aggregates the seven notes of the motif one by one.

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