Henri Pousseur
  Cinquième Vue sur les Jardins interdites
 Electric Phoenix

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Daryl Runswick writes: Henri Pousseur (1929-2009) was the great forgotten giant of the high modernist movement of the 1950s and 60s. You can see him in all the historic photos from the Darmstadt summer school alongside Stockhausen, Boulez and the rest, and he equalled and sometimes outdid them in intellectual rigour and difficulty. But at some point he quarrelled with Boulez, I believe over aleatoric and indeterminate techniques, and there was only going to be one winner there. Pousseur retired to his native Belgium and relative obscurity. His works, continuing true to aleatoric principles, continued as wonderful as ever: and he became one of the great teachers.

Pousseur wrote three pieces for Electric Phoenix. Although this is the shortest and least aleatoric it is a jewel in its compression and lyricism. It is also one of the hardest pieces even Electric Phoenix ever attempted. It is Pousseur's fifth reworking of a piece for saxophone quartet, Vue sur les Jardins interdites, hence the title.


Cinquième Vue sur les Jardins interdites is based on – contemplates, one might say, in a contemporary idiom – an instrumental piece by the German composer Samuel Scheidt (1587-1654, a contemporary of Bach). For this vocal reworking Pousseur realised he needed words for Electric Phoenix to sing. He discovered a 17th century chorale text, Ich dank dir, liebe Herre, which fits the Scheidt exactly.

In this recording Electric Phoenix performs the Scheidt as an introductory item before embarking on Pousseur's piece. In the main work disjointed scraps of music gradually assemble themselves into a coherent argument, at the climax of which the Scheidt makes its appearance, fragmentary at first, then more sustained. The aleatory aspect in this work is restricted to certain ambiguities in the rhythmic notation.

Electric Phoenix for this recording are Judith Rees, soprano, Meriel Dickinson, mezzo, Daryl Runswick, tenor, Terry Edwards, bass, and John Whiting, sound projectionist.


Previously unissued

Recorded by John Whiting at October Sound, London, probably early 1990s.

This recording is covered by copyright