The small and scintillating score of Éclat (the term means brilliance, sharp and cutting edges, shimmering – but also fragment, cf. Eclat/Multiples) was greeted with a slightly skeptical sense of wonder, as the composer had long made us wait for these few minutes of music as a surprising “musical aerolith” (Claude Rostand). In fact, the work, which is not without evoking the brilliance of certain Ravelian scores, amplifies the “hedonistic” vein of its author, inaugurated with Le Marteau sans maître (1955).
It is written for fifteen instruments, which are divided into two categories: a “soloist” ensemble with resonant sounds that are sometimes long (piano, vibraphone, bells), sometimes short (mandolin, guitar), sometimes mixed (glockenspiel, harp), and a “continuo” that is more of a background sound under the solo figures and composed of two brass instruments (trumpets, two woodwinds (alto flute and English horn), and two strings (viola, cello), with more punctual sonorities that must be “maintained” if necessary (the essential role here of the trill).
When listening, a first balance of the work is clearly perceptible between active phases of the playing (rocketing strokes, chords, rapid “diagonal” interventions of one or more notes) and contemplative phases where the sound of the resonant instruments once emitted is heard for itself, possibly maintained and then led to extinction by the conductor or the instrumentalist.
A second characteristic of Eclat consists in the possibility of permutation within certain sequences framed in the score: a limited number of sound interventions (four, for example) are numbered (from I to IV), and it is up to the conductor to indicate at the last moment which one to start with (Il-III-IV-I, or IV-I-II-III, etc.). As the tempo and intensity of these sequences are also optional, and decided on the spot, the interpretation of Eclat depends directly on the conductor. It is almost a “concerto for conductor and small ensemble”. And even if the different options chosen imply “paths” that are hardly perceptible to the listener, this system induces a great tension in the performance – the conductor “plays” confirmed instrumentalists as if they were thinking instruments – all requirements that contribute to the “brilliance” of the work.
The meeting of these two data (opposition of sequences where the sound is led and others where it leads us on the one hand, instantaneousness of certain decisions in the order of configurations, tempi and intensities on the other hand) leads to a new conception of musical time, where the deep influence of oriental music plays a role, a time that becomes plastic, random and by instant non-directional.
© Dominique Jameux | 1981 | Festival d’Automne’s program, cycle Boulez | Paris