Cristallin (Crystalline)

Soprano, contralto and 10 instruments (Fl,Cl,Horn,Tpt,2 perc,Hp, Viola,Cello, Cbs)
3 poems by Christine Boulanger
Duration : 28’
First performance on may 25th 1988 in Radio-France by Nell Froger, Nicole Oxombre and instrumental ensemble from CNSM of Paris, all conducted by Pascal Rophé
Editions Billaudot

“Dans 80 ans peut-être…” (extract) :

  1. « Soudain tu as rouvert… »
  2. « Le cœur des poètes maudits… »
  3. « Dans 80 ans peut-être… »

The three poems by Christine Boulanger are the essential source for the structure of the work, as much as in the phonetic subject matter as in the dramatic and poetic catalyst. The text must be considered as the driving force of the musical concept, making use of the different verbal flexions to give as many transfigured, elaborate sound patterns.

The work is built entirely on a cluster of 4 notes (CHRS – or C-B-D-E flat – shortened form of the poetess’s first name) which involves different styles, scales and sequences.

The very developed first poem, alone, constitutes half of the work. Its very diverse musical moods are kindled by the unfolding of a rich and ambiguous narrative.

The second is a shout of despair and revolt where the raging lyricism of the poem is symbolised through an extremely acidic and contrasting instrumental rendition. The words are dissolved as if absorbed in an overstrained vocal composition making the text difficult to understand; a  text which constantly reminds us of the underlying presence of death, the nerve centre of this violent and fleeting vision.

Following on from the previous, the last poem is read first by the two female singers over the chiming of bells. The words then only reappear occasionally, often broken up, the women’s voices blending into the instrumental canvas, more often than not without words.
Jolted back to life again with a few periodic convulsions, this third piece swallows up the destructive energy of the central poem to slowly bring about a mood of calm and serenity.

Cristallin is dedicated to the memory of Christine Boulanger (1954-1980) who left us some wonderful poems as well as this phrase, a veritable challenge aimed at the ephemeral state of existence:

« Never has a gardener died in remembrance of a rose »

Patrick Burgan