Recorded and Produced by: Johanne Goyette
December 14-17, 1999 and January 15-17, 2000
Musical adviser: Jean Portugais
Production assistants: Valérie Leclair, Jacques-André Houle
Translation: Jacques-André Houle
Booklet cover: Continuum vert-violet (1999), by Guido Molinari
In our culture it is rare for a performing group to adopt a composer, as the Molinari Quartet did when Olga Ranzenhofer called me on the telephone to say: ''We'd like to perform all your string quartets and we'd like you to write a new one for us.'' Of course my quartets had been performed before, relatively frequently by the Orford Quartet before their retirement. The Molinari proposal was to perform each of the six quartets separately and then combine them in a grand concert in Montreal in December 1999, at which time the Seventh Quartet would be premiered. It was an exciting proposal, but it left me transiently flustered because I'd never heard of the Molinari Quartet. But of course I was curious enough to go to Montreal to meet them. Their enthusiasm for new music was immediately evident. When I said I wanted the cellist to move around during the new quartet, Sylvie Lambert immediately went out and had someone make a harness for her instrument, leaving her free to play walking about or even dancing. I have no idea how many hours were spent rehearsing all the quartets, but each was performed for me with stinging accuracy and abundant subtlety of expression. The Montreal marathon concert really happened! The audience was enthusiastic. The press was generous. The Seventh Quartet was well received. Within weeks a patron approached me about writing an Eighth Quartet ''for the Molinari.'' I could go on happily writing a ninth, a tenth or a hundredth for this marvelous group of musicians.
Birth of Raymond Murray Schafer, on July 18 to Sarnia, Ontario.
Starts his piano lessons.
Enrolls at Toronto's Royal Conservatory of Music and at the University of Toronto. Studies with Alberto Guerrero (piano), Greta Kraus (harpsichord), John Weinzweig (composition) and Arnold Walter (musicology). Receives his only diploma, the L.R.S.M. (Licentiate, Royal Schools of Music). During this period, he meets Marshall McLuhan. Such occasional encounters significantly mark his intellectual development.
He leaves the ''Conventional'' university circuits to become an autodidact. He takes interest in languages (Latin, French, German, Italian and Arabic), literature and philosophy.
Stays in Vienna where he discovers medieval German, among other fields of interest.
Studies in England with Peter Racine Fricker (composition). To earn a living, he works as a journalist (it is during this period that he begins the research that will lead to the publication of his British Composers in Interview) and starts preparing a practical edition of Ezra Pound's little-know opera The Testament (1920-21), which was broadcast on the BBC in 1961.
Returns to Canada. He founds the Ten Centuries Concerts in Toronto, which he directs for some time. The aim of this musical society was to acquaint people with rarely heard music of old and of the present.
Artist in residence at Memorial University in Saint John's Newfoundland.
Part-time lecturer, then full professor at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. Initiates, at the end of the sixties, the World Soundscape Project at SFU. He receives grants from the UNESCO and the Donner Canadian Fondation to support him in this project, whish concerns itself with the study of relationships between man the sounds around him. Thanks to these studies, Canada has taken a lead in this field of research.
Conference tour of Europe. He then buys a farm near Bancroft, Ontario. There, he composes, writes and prepares many musical projects for the local community. After 1984, he buys a new farm at Indian River, henceforth making this his home.
He has received and continues to receive many awards. The principal one are:
His musical and literary output is quite large and several of his books have been translated. His literary catalogue lists over 25 work's the most important probably being : The Book of Noise, The Tuning of the world, E.T.A. Hoffmann and Music, Ezra Pound and Music: The Complete Criticism, Patria and the theatre of Confluence, etc.
Several of his works have been recorded on disc.
More information available at the Canadian Music Centre.
Olga Ranzenhofer and R. Murray Schafer
Since its founding in 1997, the Molinari Quartet has regularly performed Schafer's various string quartets so that audiences may better familiarize themselves with this music, and also because they are convinced that these works form one of the major string quartet cycles of the 20th century. In December 1999, The Molinari Quartet organized a three-day event entitled ''The Quartet According to Schafer'' which included a conference by the composer, an exhibit, a round table, public analysis workshops and a concert presenting all seven string quartets in a single evening. The present recording was carried out on the heels of this important Montreal cultural event.Performing in concert and recording all seven of Schafer's string quartet proved a momentous experience for the Molinari Quartet. It was an intense period of hard work, reflection, research and give and take with the composer and the audience. In working on this body of works with the composer, the Molinari Quartet was in effect retracing the steps of nearly thirty years of musical creation. Yet what most struck the musicians was the great sense of unity that arise from these seven quartets.
Written in 1970, the first quartet is the work of a young and fiery composer whose musical language already manifests a strong personality and much originality. As early as this first work, the fondations are laid for Schafer's writing for string quartet. It contains long unison sequences by all four instruments, catchy rhythmic motives, dramatic intensity, powerful lyricism, songful violin strains and the expressive use of quarter tones and glissandos.Schafer's metrical structures are at times absolutely precise and unequivocal, at times marked by wondrous freedom and breadth. Written timing acting as guides for duration allow for this type of ''controled'' freedom. The first quartet opens with a section of uncommon intensity, lasting over four minutes.
The four instruments are commingled, and each one tries as best it can to free itself from the clutches of the group. Finally it is the second violin who breaks loose, and this rift leads to a calmer more lyrical section. Full of tranquility, this section comes as a surprise. After some hesitation (quarter-tone glissandos), the first violin starts up on a strain over a microtonal sequence of eight notes within a half-tone interval, played by the other instruments. An expressive dialogue between the violins frames the two microtonal sections, the second of which is adorned with chromatic scales by the first violin.Then commences a rhythmic interplay giving the impression of clocks increasingly out of phase with each other. This interplay between the second violin and the viola shows that the instruments are no longer quite bound together, and that the breach has become inevitable. However, the four instruments then converge anew for a long unison sequece starting pianissimo and with hesitation. Each musician attempts once again to free himself from the clutches of the group, as if trying to jump from a train speeding ever more out of control. A new cleft leads to the coda, which takes the form of snapshots recalling the various episodes of the quartet.
Recording realized in the presence of R. Murray Schafer
"No-one can step into the same river twice."
The second quartet was inspired by the work of the World Soundscape Project in which Schafer studied the acoustic phenomena of natural and urban environments. This quartet is subtitled Waves, and depicts the rhythm of the breaking and backwash of the waves on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of Canada. Schafer's research has shown that the rhythm of the waves is always asymmetrical but that the time elapsed between them is almost always between six and eleven seconds. The structure and rhythm of the second quartet are based on this nautical time span. An impressionistic work replete with subtleties, the second quartet contrasts greatly with the first.Although the composer assures us that the music in this quartet is non-descriptive, one feels when listening to Waves the subleties and murmuring of calm waters as well as the might and the surging of waves on the high seas. Eloquently rich and refined, the quartet's textures are very impressionistic and always seem to rush forward in ever-changing transformations. Schafer's writing is evocative of fluidity, using, for example, motives that interwine, dissolve, burst forth and disperse.
The many motives that run through the work are constantly reintroduced under new rhythmic guises, with new dynamics and new tempos. Like a modern Heraclitus, Schafer evokes the unceasing motion of water through dynamic undulations of crescendos and diminuendos, and through continually variegating motives.
Like the natural rhythm of the waves, this quartet unfolds a succession of six-to eleven-second cycles.The spatial movements of the players begin only in the final minutes of the second quartet. Moreover, the physical position of the instrumentalists at the end of the work is the same as will be found at the beginning of the following quartet.
The third quartet is a work filled with contrasts and is of great dramatic power. It is the only one of Schafer's seven quartet written in three movements. The work opens on an extended cadenza by the cellist, who is alone on stage. Built around the note A, this section is very dramatic and brings out microtonal frictions. These produce very powerful pulses when the tension between two notes is at its peak. Gradually, a melodic phrase emerges from the ascendancy of the tonal pole of A.Appearing alternately from the wings and from behind the audience, the two violins and the viola play highly contrasting and non-convergent passages, as though the instrumentalists were playing for themselves instead of with the group. Indeed, the writing in this movement is very horizontal and the various parts are always independent of each other. The movement ends when the four string players are finally reunited on stage, in the traditional quartet layout.The central movement has great emotional and dramatic impact. The attack of notes and accents are reinforced by vocal effects that bring to mind karate cries (bê, djê,dzi).
Schafer also insists the musicians yell out other sounds to the rhythm of the music (ba chi, om ba, da ba). Energy, strength and endurance are all required to carry throug this movement whose drama occasionally takes a comic turn.
The unisons and mystic calm at the start of the last movement are in striking contrast to the previous music. The spellbinding quarter tones create here a very moving meditative atmosphere. The gradual breaking up of the unisons and the exit of the first violin shroud the end of this stunning string quartet in ponderous mystery. Indeed, it is in this conclusion that Schafer introduces what he calls '' phantom sounds,'' which leave the listener wondering as to the actual end of the work. Do we really hear the first violin's notes D-C-A, or do we only have the impression we hear these sounds conjured up by our memory?
After a seven-year break from string quartet writing, Schafer took up the pen again thanks to a commission from the Purcell Quartet. Begun at the end of 1988 and finished in January 1989, this work rekindles and integrates elements from his important trilogy Patria. The quartet opens on mysterious chords that underpin the first violin's initial strains from backstage. After this very lyrical beginning, dramatic tension mounts as the trio executes brilliant unison passages. The first violin then finally appears onstage to launch the dialogue. Calmness briefly returns before the lively and rhythmical outburst of the work's second section, reminiscent of Shostakovitch. Here, brilliant upsurges, ostinatos, glissandos and cascading pizzicatos express joie de vivre and happiness.
This section is A - A': the components of the first part are modified, developed and presented in new succession.The premature death of his friend, the renowned poet bp Nichol, influenced Schafer in the composition of this quartet. Not long before his death, Nichol had participed in the great cycle Patria, and had acted in the capacity of announcer. To honour his memory, Schafer integrates one of the theme played by Nichol into his quartet. the third section is heralded by three violent aggregates of dissonant chords, like blows dealt by fate. After such commotion, could the mysterious, introspective music that follows represent the composer's meditation on the death of is friend? In any case, the emotion here is very real.At the end of the work, when-accompanied by the quartet's harmonic - a voice and a violin sound from backstage, the atmosphere becomes unreal... as if these voices were reaching us from the hereafter. We will leave the composer to conclude on the subject : ''Another influence for the voice is perhaps E.T.A. Hoffmann's story. The Cremona Violin (Rath Krespel) in which a mad violinmaker has a daughter with a beautiful voice whom he never allows to sing. When she does so one night, she dies, and at the moment of her death her father's Cremona violin cracks. She had been the soul of the instrument. The singer will return again in the seventh quartet as an insane apparition.''
Molinari Quartet at work with R. Murray Schafer
Schafer's fifth string quartet was commissioned by the Toronto businessman Stan Witkin as a gift to his wife Rosalind for her fiftieth birthday. Written as a continuation of the fourth quartet, the present work opens with the exact final phrase of the former and resumes its lyrical qualities.At times very romantic and sensuous in nature, this work - subtitled Rosalind - also delivers very lively and entrancing sections with layers of complex rhythms. The great variety of interplay between different moods and the speed with which the episodes follow each other distinguish this quartet from the previous ones.In December 1999, the composer disclosed in Montreal his intentions concerning the fifth quartet : '' My main preoccupation was to write a work that conformed to what I might call existential time. What do I mean by that? I mean the passage of time as we experience it between a cup of coffee and a toothache. Everywhere in our lives time is structured for us. Music is also one of the structures; rhythms, meters, tempi, forms, movements-there is an artificiality about all of them when it comes to our mood changes. I wanted to create a work that modulated from one state to another without the listener being able to put a finger on the precise moment when things changed.For a young composer, bridging from one idea to another is the ardest thing to achieve. It is easy to get ideas; it is hard to fuse them. The ability to create undetected modulations from state to state is still, for me, the mark of the greatest composer-and it is strange that this is so flows exatcly in this way''The two main themes of the quartet are taken from Patria, Schafer's cardinal work. These are the wolf theme
a free musical transcription of the animal's howl, and ariadne's theme
whose amplitude gives it a lyric character. The latter theme incidentally, weaves like Ariane's thread throught many of the quartet, and always assumes particular signifiance. These two themes are varied and even juxtaposed throughout the fifth quartet.
The shimmering sound of the crotala played by the members of the quartet at the very end of the work produces a striking effect at precisely the moment when we hear Ariane's theme for the last time.
The Molinari Quartet in recording.
The sixth quartet borrows its form, structure and impetus from the series of 108 movements of the Chinese martial art T'ai Chi. In this quartet, the bounds that unify Schafer's quartet cycle are more present than ever. Indeed, nearly all the musical material of this quartet quite an amazing feat! Only one new theme appears: that of the forest. The theme is called Tapio and is of a Catchy rhythmic caracter.
It will be repeated and developed abundantly in the seventh quartet. As an example of Schafer's great mastery of compositional technique, note that in several episodes of the sixth quartet, the four instrumentalists simultaneously play passages taken from five different quartets! By way of illustration, here is a brief description:
The first violin presents the wolf theme of the 5th quartet as well as a motive in thirds taken from the 3rd quartet. The second violin, viola and cello simultaneously evoke three distinc passages from Waves (2nd quartet), while the pizzicatos of the cello are taken from the 4th quartet. Finally, the last motive played by the viola in this passage is taken from the 1st quartet.The source of inspiration for this quartet is the Chinese martial art of T'ai Chi, an exercise in mental as well as physical gymnastics. Those who practise it acknowledge its many beneficial effects, such as increased concentration, stress reduction, greater flexibility and better coordination and balance. The movements of T'ai Chi are generally slow. The sixth quartet borrows and integrates into the music the characteristic spirit of T'ai Chi. Following the composer's prescription, the work can be performed with or without the participation of a T'ai Chi master who executes the Chinese gymnastic movements in synchronization with the music. There is no redundancy however between the intensity of Schafer's music and what can be observed of the T'ai Chi master's movements. For instance, great musical energy can correspond to extreme physical restraint.The complete sequence of T'ai Chi involves 108 movements, 58 of which are different. The quartet follows the same pattern, with 108 sections based on 58 distinct ideas, themselves stemming from common themes. The manuscript score of the quartet clearly identifies each of the 108 sections by the name of the T'ai Chi movement in Chinese and English.The fluidity of this quartet's music is remarkable. Its momentum is never hindered thanks to the subtle transitions Schafer provides between the various sections. Since all the music is borrowed from the former works, we encounter in it all the rhythmic vigour, the flights of Lyricism, the compositional mastery, the freedom of inflection and the rich imagination so characteristic of Schafer.
Soprano Marie-Danielle Parent, the Quatuor Molinari and R. Murray Schafer taking a bow at Chan Centre during the Festival Vancouver 2000.
A musical work at once violent and gentle, effervescent and static expressing both distress and joy, this quartet with obligato soprano distinguishes itself from Schafer's other works by it profound break woth conventional string quartet writing.The formal innovations in this work are apparent in the many solo, duets, trios, quartets and quintets that allow for unique and original sound effects. More than in any of the previous quartets, spatial unity has ceased to exist. The stage, backstage area, wings and aisles are as many places from whence the music comes forth. The music moves.
Julie Trudeau in her costume for the 7th Quartet by Schafer at Chan Centre before a performance at the Festival Vancouver.
A special harness was even contrived so the cellist could move about while playing. This opening up of the playing area serves to enhance the spacing and remoteness of sound, quadraphony, minute time-lags and staging.For the present recording, the Molinari Quartet and R. Murray Schafer settled on a version where the movements of the musicians were reduced to a minimum, in order to assure a better sound quality within the confines of stereophony.Despite the formal upheaval, the seventh quartet nevertheless maintains close ties with the intire corpus. The work's first phrase played by the cello and the viola is a reprise of the sixth quartet's very beginning. A dramatic entry of the fist violin follows, declaiming a dissonant variation of Ariadne's theme.
Shortly after, the return of the Tapio theme is easly, recognizable, and will become obsessive throughout this quartet. These highly apparent quotes must not mislead us, though; each new work proposes a fresh reading and an enrichment of the musical ideas from the previous quartets. Everything leaves its mark: new material is repeated in novel guise, fresh ideas foster our understanding of familiar motives, all the ''sound matter'' imposes itself with a quasi-organic necessity. The perpetual variation of common material constitutes in our opinion Schafer's ''musical signature'' of sorts.An obligato soprano and the colourful sounds of percussion instruments (woodblock and cheng cheng) are here added to the classic string quartet. The stucture of the seventh quartet has the string quartet as an entity alternate with the soprano's interventions. However, when the soprano sings, the quartet finds itself obliged to act as accompanist. The many interruptions imposed by the soprano upon the quartet and her strange comments (the textes of which are taken from the diary of a schizophrenic woman) clip the wings of the strings, who reassert themselves only in the absence of the singer.
At the end of the work, the five musicians find themselves on stage together for the first time and endow us with brilliant and unifying music.
The meeting of two great artists, R. Murray Schafer and Guido Molinari, bestowed this quartet with an important visual element that should be mentioned here, even though this aspect cannot be grasped on disc. The four primary colours so dear to Molinari are each associated with a musician and colour their individual musical lines.
The musicians and soprano Marie-Danielle Parent in their colorful costumes for the 7th Quartet by R. Murray Schafer.
The red of the first violin represents fire, the blue of the second violin symbolizes water, the green of the cello is that of Tapio the Forest Spirit of the Finnish Kavala legends and the yellow of the viola is the symbol of light. The composer explains the particular role of the soprano :''I didn't want to write a piece in which the singer sits around while the quartet plays three movements and then joins them for a glorious finale. In trying to find her role in the work I began to think of her colour (white). It symbolises purity, bue it is also the colour of hospitals and therefore illness, and in ancient China it was the colour of death and funeral processions. The fortuitous discovery of some texts by an anonymous schizophrenic woman in a mental asylum gave me the solution: the singer would come and go throughout the music as an intruder, singing texts that are simultaneously sexual, musical and absurd.''For the work's complete staged version, Guido Molinari created paintings and sculptures integrated into the performance of the quartet.In our opinion, it is through repeat hearings of the quartets that one can become familiar with each of them and hence fully appreciate their particular beauties. We also believe that by listening to the complete cycle of seven quartes in a row, all the treasures and profound unity of this music will become apparent.
The musicians' instruments gathered with sculptures created by Guido Molinari for R. Murray Schafer's Seventh String Quartet.
Moan if you will
and steel and groan and cry
soar and zoom
you chugging flame
grind and roll
bring us closer, closer, closer ...
But do men know when you ask them?
They say it's streamlined ... it shines... and it gœs like
a bat out of hell
a bat out of hell
a bat out of hell.
And why did William Shakespeare write?
I ask you.
A simple thing ... he lived.
Each song should be as beautiful as mine
each voice should ring as clear
but dark and evil years
good and evil years
evil and good years
are pulsing, whirling, rolling, lagging,
singing, singing, singing ...
Thanks for tossing the crystal brambles my way sir,
they may come in handy,
so thank you, thank you ...
It wouldn't have been the same if you had
It wouldn't have been the same if you had
It wouldn't have been the same if you and I
had our noses in the earth.
If you and I were music ... real music ...
I could explain.
But we must wait for that, I mean the music ...
when each note is weighed
when emotions are expressed carefully by contrapuntal —
however in the meantime just an ordinary thanks.
By the way I like your nose.
Music, you're coming near
music, I wait for you
stealing softly, harmoniously ...
while others lie dreaming and wait
I hear your note- like footsteps everywhere
beating, beating, beating, beating,
stir those jarring atoms
I want music
I want to sing.
Soprano Marie-Danielle Parent leads a remarkable career on the opera and the concert stage and as a recitalist; she is equally at ease in the great classical repertoire and in contemporary music. On the lyric stage, Marie-Danielle Parent has notably distinguished herself at the Opéra de Québec and the Opéra de Montréal where she has sung many roles.In concert, she has performed with many Canadian orchestras including a number of appearances with the Montreal Symphony under Charles Dutoit.She has also participated in several productions by the Grands Ballets canadiens, singing in Carl Orff's Carmina Burana and Catulli Carmina, Poulenc's Stabat Mater and Gloria, and Mozart's Exultate jubilate! Excelling in the interpretation of contemporary works, Marie-Danielle Parent has had the privilege of premiering many important works by Quebec composers.Among these works can be mentioned Lonely Child by Claude Vivier, Avec (Wampum symphonique) by Gilles Tremblay, Offenes lied by John Rea, Heureux qui comme ..., Éternité and Complainte de la passion by Denis Gougeon.