In Geneva, the OSR unveils a work by Michael Jarrell

The OSR in the reflections of Michael Jarrell

Published today at 5:12 p.m.

The ties that unite Michael Jarrell and theOrchestra of French-speaking Switzerland could give life to narratives that go back several decades. We would encounter titles of works signed by the Genevan composer and created by the accomplice group. We would also come across renowned conductors and soloists who have been involved in these musical adventures.

This story continues at the Victoria Hall with “Reflections”, Jarrell’s second piano concerto, which music lovers were able to discover for the first time during the Covid-19 pandemic. At the time, in 2021, streaming had overcome the prohibitions. Today, we find the work in much better conditions, in the company of an exceptional pianist, Bertrand Chamayou and the chef Krzysztof Urbanski, which debuts on the Geneva scene. Interview with the composer.

What does the title of the concerto, “Reflections” say?

This term must be understood in its English meaning, which encompasses two meanings: reflection and reflection. This piece followed the disappearance of a figure that I particularly appreciated, Eric Daubresse. Someone I respected and who counted a lot within the High School of Music, where he invested a lot. There is therefore a meditation, a reflection on death, on its disappearance and at the same time a reflection of the character traits of the deceased, particularly in the second movement.

Bertrand Chamayou created the piece at the Philharmonie de Paris in 2019. What links do you have with the performer?

I met him through mutual friends and pretty quickly I wanted to work with him. This aspiration was motivated in particular by its impressive technical facility. By listening to it, I forget the difficulties of a work and I find a quality perceived in Maurizio Pollini, in this horribly complicated piece that is “Petrouchka”. The relationship with Bertrand evolved naturally, as if it were obvious. He is a very open-minded musician, who has a precise vision of what music should be and who has strong spiritual demands.

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Kazuki Yamada directed the creation of your piece. The conductor Krzysztof Urbanski will be at the Geneva concert. How do you approach these changes?

I don’t know the guest conductor, and it is natural in these cases to feel a certain worry, since we wonder about his way of working and approaching the work. Knowing also that the OSR has already played it and considers it an integral part of its repertoire, there will be very few rehearsals. Therefore, it will be necessary to demonstrate efficiency in preparing for the concert. Bertrand Chamayou has already worked with Urbanski and he told me that he was very serious, that he asked for the score well in advance before agreeing to direct “Reflections”. Still, I’m still a little nervous. The time available is short and there is a dynamic and energy in the rehearsal that the conductor must manage. Some are afraid of losing the helm, of no longer being the captains on board. Marek Janowski said that when the composer is present at rehearsals, things can quickly turn sour…

Was he right?

Maybe. In any case, a composer always tends to worry about a thousand details, while the conductor thinks first of all about ensuring the bulk of a work.

Your first piano concerto, “Abschied”, dates back to 2001. What has changed since then in the way you relate the instrument to the orchestra?

Between the two pieces, decisions were made that generated fundamental differences. “Abschied” involved working inside the piano: we plucked strings, we made harmonics, in the microtonality and natural intonation that I was discovering at the time. This is no longer the case in “Reflections”. Then there is the place occupied by the instrument.

In the first case, there is a sort of battle between the soloist and the orchestra, we hear an autobiographical element linked to the disappearance of my father, which occurred at the time when I was writing the work. In this piece, the fight for life ends with a rise to the high notes, symbolizing a kind of peace and serenity. In “Reflections”, the idea of ​​the concerto is much more pronounced. The soloist directs the dialogue with the orchestra, and the latter, by reflection, takes up the ideas of the piano. Finally, from a harmonic point of view, the second concerto is much brighter.

This season, you are in residence at the OSR. What does this kind of experience bring to your way of working?

Each residence has its particularities. Often, it is linked to an order or to pieces that are performed. For example in Besançon, where I was welcomed for two years, there was that, but I was also expected to go to the Conservatory, to the Beaux-Arts to give lessons, to meet music teachers and that I respond to other requests. In Geneva, it is about making a sort of synthesis of work and a relationship with the OSR that has been consolidated for a long time. It is a joyful occasion, and I am also happy to meet the many new musicians who have joined the orchestra.

OSR, Krzysztof Urbanski (dir.), Bertrand Chamayou, May 16 at 7:30 p.m.


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Rocco Zacheo joined the editorial staff of the Tribune de Genève in 2013; he deals with classical music and opera and devotes himself, on an ad hoc basis, to literary news and disparate cultural events. Previously, he worked for nine years at the newspaper Le Temps and worked with RTS La Première. More informations

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