Jean Barraqué


Jean Barraqué

Jean-Henri-Alphonse Barraqué (January 17, 1928 – August 17, 1973) was a French composer and writer on music who developed an individual form of serialism which is displayed in a small output of highly complex but passionate works.

Life

Barraqué was born in Puteaux, Hauts-de-Seine. The family moved to Paris in 1931. He studied in Paris with Jean Langlais and Olivier Messiaen and, through Messiaen, became interested in serialism. After completing his Piano Sonata in 1952, he suppressed or destroyed his earlier works. A book published by the French music critic André Hodeir, titled "Since Debussy", [Hodeir 1961.] created controversy around Barraqué by claiming this work as perhaps the finest piano sonata since Beethoven. As the work had still not been publicly performed, and only two other works by him had at this time, the extravagant claims made for Barraqué in this book were received with some scepticism. Whilst with hindsight it is clear that Hodeir had accurately perceived the exceptional features of Barraqué's music—notably its searing Romantic intensity, which distinguishes it from the contemporaneous works of Boulez or Stockhausen—it could be said that at the time the tone of "Since Debussy" did the young composer some harm and did not improve his prospects for the serious and sustained public exposure which eluded his music throughout his lifetime.Fact|date=November 2007 Nor can the fact that Hodeir explicitly pitched the work of Barraqué much higher than the extensive achievements of his much better-known contemporary Pierre Boulez have eased relations between the two, at a time when Boulez was arguably the most powerful advocate for new music in France.Fact|date=November 2007

As Paul Griffiths' recent biography has clarified, Boulez had in fact attempted to get the Barraqué Piano Sonata performed for some years after it was finished. [Griffiths 2003,Fact|date=November 2007 ).] When that failed to materialise, Boulez had given Barraqué prominent early performances at his famous Domaine Musical concerts in Paris, even taking on the world première of "... au delà du hasard" at relatively short notice, when an earlier commission for it had fallen through.Fact|date=November 2007 Even following the publication of "Since Debussy", Boulez wrote to Barraqué asking him for a new work—this was eventually to be the Concerto, but complications surrounding this venture meant that the work received its first performance in London in 1968.Fact|date=November 2007 Barraqué's music was published starting in 1963 by the Florentine businessman Aldo Bruzichelli, [Griffiths 2001.] who provided much-needed material assistance for the composer, but whose promotion could not perhaps compete with that of the better known Universal Edition in Vienna who published Boulez, Berio, and Stockhausen. In any event, Barraqué did not obtain ready access to the better-known new music festivals and concert series until much later than they.

Barraqué was involved in a car accident in 1964, and his apartment was destroyed by fire in November 1968. [Janzen 1989, 241–42.] He suffered from bad health for much of his life. Nevertheless his death in Paris in August 1973, at the age of 45, was sudden and unexpected, and he appeared to have resumed serious work on a number of larger compositions from the "Death of Virgil" cycle.

Music and Reputation

Barraqué stated that he wrote about 30 works before those that he eventually acknowledged; as far as is known they were destroyed by him. They included a "Nocturne" and "Mouvement lent" for piano, at least three piano sonatas, a sonata for unaccompanied violin, and a Symphony in C sharp minor. [Henrich 1997, 7-8.] The presumably fourth, but un-numbered Piano Sonata, for which he gave the date 1952, was his earliest acknowledged work. Barraqué then produced his only electronic piece, the musique concrète "Etude" (1954), made at Pierre Schaeffer's studio. Subsequently he planned a large-scale cycle of pieces, "La Mort de Virgile", based on Hermann Broch's novel "The Death of Virgil", a book which Barraqué's friend and sometime lover Michel Foucault recommended to him. This cycle, along with other pieces deriving from it or acting as commentaries upon it, he envisaged as his principal life-long creative project. Following the scheme of the novel, it was to be divided into four sub-cycles: 'Water (The Arrival)', 'Fire (The Descent)', 'Earth (The Expectancy)' and 'Air (The Return)'. Most of Barraqué's creative efforts went into the works which were to take their place in 'Fire (The Descent)', which - to give an idea of the projected scope of the whole design - was to have consisted of thirteen works. [Halbreich 1987, 7.] Before his death he completed two of the projected parts: "Chant aprés chant" (1966), and "Le temps restitué" (1957/68). Fragments of some of the other parts exist.

Barraqué also wrote "... au dela du hasard" (1959) for three female voices and ensemble, and a concerto for clarinet, vibraphone and ensemble in 1968, which are related to "The Death of Virgil", but not actually part of that cycle. ("... au dela du hasard" is described as a commentary on "Affranchi du hasard", which was to have been the eleventh piece of 'Fire (The Descent)' but was not actually composed. [Halbreich 1987, 7.] ) The only other extant piece by Barraqué is "Séquence" (1955-56), a setting of Nietzsche for soprano and ensemble which is partly a re-working of three songs for soprano and piano from the early fifties. [ The songs are published in Henrich 1997, Abb. 21–23.]

Barraqué's use of tone rows in his work is quite distinctive. Rather than using a single tone row for an entire piece, as Anton Webern did, or using a number of related rows in one work, as Alban Berg or Arnold Schoenberg sometimes did, Barraqué starts by using one row, and then subtly alters it to get a second. This second row is then used for a while before being slightly altered again to make a third. This process continues throughout the work. He called this technique "proliferating series". [Riotte 1987]

Harry Halbreich has written that "Barraqué's whole work is marked by terrible despair, lightened by no religious or ideological faith, and entirely dominated by the great shadow of Death". [Halbreich 1987, 7.] His relatively small output has left him as a somewhat obscure figure, although his work is often praised,weasel-inline and the sonata in particular is seen as one of the great pianistic challenges of the twentieth century.Fact|date=November 2007 In 1998 the record company CPO issued his entire output on CD, in performances by the Austrian ensemble Klangforum Wien, and since then performances of his work have been increasingly frequent. Leaving aside the more excessive claims a few specialists have occasionally made on his behalf, Barraqué is now recognised as one of the most important and distinctive French composers since 1945; the lyrical passion and explosiveness of his finest music—notably "...au delà du hasard" and "Le temps restitué"—is steadily finding the wider, non-specialist audience it deserves.Fact|date=November 2007

The major reference work on his music in English is a biography entitled "The Sea on Fire" by the British music critic Paul Griffiths (2003). In German, Heribert Henrich's book of 1997 is its complement. His music is now published by the German firm of Bärenreiter.

Writings

Barraqué wrote many articles on other composers (including Alban Berg, Monteverdi, Mozart and Messiaen) and on theoretical aspects of contemporary music. His major prose work is his book on Claude Debussy (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1962). He also made numerous analyses of works in the standard repertoire from J.S. Bach to Honegger, some of which he used in his teaching. [ Full list in Henrich 1997, 276–78.] His few pupils included the British composer Bill Hopkins.

Compositions

Completed Works

* "Trois Mélodies" for soprano and piano (1950) (texts from The Song of Solomon, Baudelaire and Rimbaud)

* "Séquence" for voice, percussion and chamber ensemble (1950-55) (text by Nietzsche; incorporates material from the "Trois Mélodies")

* Piano Sonata (1950-52)

* "Etude" for 3-track tape (1952-3)

* "Le Temps Restitué" for soprano, chorus and orchestra (1956-68) (text from Hermann Broch, "The Death of Virgil", in French translation by Albert Kohn)

* "… au delà du hasard (premier Commentaire de 'Affranchi du hasard' et du 'Temps Restitué')" for four instrumental groups and one vocal group (1958-9) (text by Barraqué 'around a quotation of Hermann Broch')

* Concerto for six instrumental groups and two solo instruments (vibraphone and clarinet) (1962-8)

* "Chant après Chant" for six percussionists, voice and piano (1965-66) (text by Barraqué and Hermann Broch)

Unfinished Works

* "Sonorité jaune" (1957 sketch based on Wassilly Kandinsky, "Der gelbe Klang")

* "Discours" (c. 1961): sketch for a work for voices and orchestra, text from Hermann Broch, "The Death of Virgil", in French translation by Albert Kohn)

* "Lysanias" (c. 1966-9; 1972-3): sketch for three solo voices and orchestra (text by Barraqué and Hermann Broch)

* "Portiques du Feu" (c. 1968; 1972-3): sketch for 18 solo voices (text by Barraqué and Hermann Broch)

* "Hymnes à Plotia" for string quartet (1972-3)

Notes

ources

* Goye, Jean-Philippe, and Patrick Ozzard-Low. 1987. "Barraqué – Broch – Heidegger". "Entretemps" 5:43-58
* Griffiths, Paul. 2001. “Barraqué, Jean.” "The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians", ed. S. Sadie and J. Tyrrell. London: Macmillan.
* Griffiths, Paul. 2003. "The Sea on Fire: Jean Barraqué". Eastman Studies in Music 1071-9989. Rochester, NY: Rochester University Press. ISBN 1580461417
* Halbreich, Harry, 'Jean Barraqué: Complete Works', essay (1987) translated by Elizabeth Buzzard and first published in programme-book of 1989 Almeida Festival.
* Henrich, Heribert. 1997. "Das Werk Jean Barraqués. Genese un Faktur". Bärenreiter. ISBN 3-7618-1386-4
* Hodeir, André. 1961. "La musique depuis Debussy". Paris: Presses universitaires de France. English edition, as "Since Debussy: A View of Contemporary Music". Translated by Noel Burch. Evergreen original, E-260. New York: Grove Press, Inc.; London: Secker and Warburg, 1961.
* Hopkins, G.W. 1966. “Jean Barraqué” "Musical Times" 107, no. 1485: 952–54.
* Hopkins, Bill. 1972. “Barraqué’s Piano Sonata”. "The Listener" (27 Jan 1972)
* Hopkins, Bill. 1978–79. “Barraqué and the Serial Idea”. "Proceedings of the Royal Musical Association" 105:13–24.
* Hopkins, Bill. 1993. “Portrait of a Sonata”. "Tempo" new series, no. 186 (September): 13-14.
* Jack, Adrian. 1972–73. “Jean Barraqué”. "Music and Musicians" 21, no. 4:6–7.
* Jack, Adrian. 1973–74. “‘A Contract with Death”’. "Music and Musicians" 22, no. 2:6–7.
* Janzen, Rose-Marie. 1989. “A Biographical Chronology of Jean Barraqué”, translated by Adrian Jack. "Perspectives of New Music" 27, no. 1 (Winter): 234–45.
* Lyon, Raymond. 1969. "Propos impromptu". "Courrier Musical de France" no. 26:25–80. Reprinted in "Jean Barraqué: Écrits", edited by Laurent Feneyrou and Raymond Lyon, 177–84. Paris: Université de Paris I [Panthéon-Sorbonne] , 2001.
* Lyon, Raymond. (ed.). 1973. "Portrait de Jean Barraqué”. "Courrier Musical de France" no. 44:130–32.
* Ozzard-Low, Patrick. 1989. “Barraqué – Broch – Heidegger: A Philosophical Introduction to the Music of Jean Barraqué”. "Cahiers d’Etudes Germaniques" no. 16:93–106.
* Poirier, Alain. 1988. "L’histoire 'toujours recommencée' …: introduction à la pensée analytique de Jean Barraqué". "Analyse musicale" no. 12 (July): 9–13.
* Riehn, Rainer, and Heinz-Klaus Metzger (eds.). 1993. "Jean Barraqué". Musik-Konzepte no. 82. Munich: Edition Text+Kritik.
* Riotte, André. 1987. "Les séries proliférantes selon Barraqué: Approche formelle". "Entretemps" 5: 65–74.


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