Francesconi: Daedalus and the Maze. WP at the Pierre Boulez Saal, Berlin

Francesconi: Daedalus and the Maze. WP at the Pierre Boulez Saal, Berlin

Daedalus, the new composition for flute and ensemble by Luca Francesconi, commissioned by the Daniel Barenboim Foundation, will be performed in Berlin on January 26.
The performance features flutist Emmanuel Pahud and the Boulez Ensemble, conducted by Daniel Barenboim.

The following is an excerpt from the program notes for the world premiere of Daedalus, written by musicologist Johannes Knapp after he met with Luca Francesconi last December. It appears courtesy of the Pierre Boulez Saal, Berlin.

In recent years Luca Francesconi has focused almost exclusively on works for large orchestras, but his latest composition was written for a chamber music ensemble, featuring flute, clarinet, vibraphone, piano, violin and cello. It’s an interesting combination, and was used by Pierre Boulez in Dérive 1 (1984), as well as by Schönberg in Pierrot, in which he introduced Sprechstimme and eliminated percussion. Francesconi’s score comes tagged with the dedication “Pierre Boulez in memoriam”. It’s only natural, then, that the world premiere of Daedalus should be staged at the Pierre Boulez Saal in Berlin. 

In terms of composition, however, Daedalus is no reverential tribute to the great avant-garde master, who passed away in January 2016. That would not in any way be indicative of Francesconi’s spirit and his own personal musical language, nor would it reflect the spirit of Boulez himself, who often interpreted esthetic appropriation as a sign of a weak character, a lack of proper distancing, or judgmental uncertainty. Nonetheless, Francesconi has taken up some of the key principles expressed in Boulez’s work, which served as a starting point for his work on Daedalus. He was fascinated by Boulez’s declared intent to eliminate from his lexicon all traces of the past, and exclude all outside stylistic influences. Francesconi also taps into the unrestrained, almost maniacal fury unleashed in certain passages of Dérive 2 (1988/2006), creating an interesting interaction with the Boulez logos. 

“The formal structure of my new work is labyrinthine, and takes its cue from Hampton Court Maze,” explains Francesconi. Indeed, the maze at Hampton Court is Europe’s biggest, and was constructed in the late 1600s. Hampton Court lies just southwest of London, and was one of the many estates owned by Henry VIII. “The use of the maze marks my first attempt at restoring order to a chaotic world. And of course, the myth of the maze is one of the world’s oldest,” continues the composer. In the process of creating Daedalus, Francesconi focused intensely on the question of the origins of madness, from a perspective of the history of ideas (“mania”). […] 

In his latest work, Francesconi takes us on a journey inspired by the rational drive to establish order, represented by a “reconstructed” fragment of Derive 2. This compulsion becomes increasingly radical, and winds up clashing with the mysterious forces of matter; it aspires to freedom that originates in intuition and even creative madness. The orientation of the musical narration, which runs for approximately thirty minutes, is set by musical high points and recurring layers of harmony, which Francesconi borrowed from Boulez’s hexachords in Dérive 1. But the order is deceptive – how could it be otherwise inside a maze? Of fundamental importance is the part of the flute soloist, whom Francesconi has made the “spiritual leader” of the ensemble – the world premiere features Emmanuel Pahud in the role. “I’m proud to be working with people like Emmanuel Pahud and Daniel Barenboim, and the powerhouse musicians of the Boulez Ensemble – they’re the perfect interpreters for an adventure like this,” says Francesconi. 
Johannes Knapp, January 2, 2018

The following is an excerpt from the program notes for the world premiere of Daedalus. It appears courtesy of the Pierre Boulez Saal, Berlin.

Credit image by Volker Kreidler