By Gabriel Prynn, cellist
Part 2/3 Stèles by Éric Champagne
Born in 1980 and recently named Resident Composer at the Chapelle historique du Bon Pasteur, Éric Champagne is one of the most interesting Canadian composers of his generation. Winner of the Prix Opus for Discovery of the Year in 2014, Éric Champagne studied composition with Michel Tétreault, Hugues Leclair, Michel Longtin, Denis Gougeon, Pablo Luis José Evangelista, John McCabe and Gary Kulesha. His music is regularly performed by renowned ensembles, including the Zurich Academic Orchestra, the symphony orchestras of Montreal, Quebec and Vancouver, and the Orchestre de la Francophonie. He has been composer-in-residence at the Orchestre Métropolitain of Montreal since 2012.
Éric Champagne composed Stèles (Stelae, meaning upright stone slabs with an inscribed or sculptured surface, used as a monument, tombstone or commemorative tablet), a work in three movements, in 2014 for the Trio Fibonacci. It will be a great pleasure for us to revisit this work, which is as touching in feeling as it is spacious in its sonorities. He told me about the birth of the piece:
« On March 19, 2014, my father died suddenly at the age of 58. His funeral was held four days later. The event was evidently a shock to me, and a deep emotional collapse after the peaks of joy I had experienced just few days before, when my first symphony was premièred by the Orchestre Métropolitain. »
« It was in this context that Stèles was born, from the urgent need to write, and during the darkest moments of my grief. »
He then talked about the individual movements that make up this trio:
I – Vigil – « A meditative movement, somewhat rhapsodic”. The musical material used here stems from a piano improvisation made some time before my father’s death. It is quiet in atmosphere, though unsettled. Expectation, watching, a sense of fear … This first stela marks the “before”.
II – Chapelle ardente – « Grave, solemn”. The melodic and contrapuntal material entrusted to the violin and cello originated in a piece I composed especially for my father’s funeral: a vocalise for voice and organ, a long melisma in D minor evoking sadness and distant memories. Heart-wrenching pain and the violence of loss are represented here by a dislocated melody and notes played arco grain (a grating, rasping sound produced by excessive bow pressure on the strings).
III – Elegy: An elegy is a lyrical poem expressing sorrow. This dense movement can be seen as the epicenter of my mourning: memories both happy and less happy intermingle. Tragic melodies, tortuous counterpoint and dissonant harmony make up much of the movement. However, a glimmer of redemption and serenity emerges just before the end, bathed in the beauty of natural resonance, before the underlying theme of the movement finally returns in an ultimate gesture, poignant and tragic. »