PHILIPPE MANOURY (b.1952): lab.oratorium for 2 Actors, Soprano, Mezzo-Soprano, Chamber Choir, Large Choir, Live Electronics and Orchestra
Catalogue Number: 05W066
Reference: WER 7396 2
Description: This extraordinary work, unclassifiable in conventional terminology, combines oratorio, electroacoustic orchestral extravaganza, theatrical play, and spatialised composition with an integral, complex, electronic component. If this sounds like an avant garde free-for-all, that is exactly what the dramaturgically precise, meticulously choreographed work is not. Broadly, it is a commentary on the contemporary humanitarian crisis of migration and exile, and their resulting loss of life, throughout Europe, using texts by Ingeborg Bachmann and Elfriede Jelinek (and, in one wrenchingly tragic section of the piece, Trakl's "Grodek"). The whole is presented, with an element of satire, as a nightmarish tourist cruise, with the ten sections of the work representing destinations; the contrast between Bachmann's "Vision" of sunken ships and innumerable corpses and the complaining of cruise passengers aggrieved by the hijacking of their indolent, seaborne diversions by a humanitarian catastrophe is as jarring as it is dramatically effective. Massed choral and orchestral effects abound, on a stirring, monumental, scale, but the actors and soloists bring the drama into close focus and propel the narrative forward. Manoury's idiom, in the surging orchestral sections, is far from outlandish; he eschews noise effects and microtones, for instance, and though amply dissonant his harmonic thinking is not so very far from that of the Turangalila Symphony and frequently displays a tonal richness that one might associate with Rihm, for instance, among Manoury's peers. He has long espoused the concept of spatial disposition of sounds as a composed, thematic element of his music (citing Stockhausen’s Gruppen as a pioneering cornerstone of the field, with which it is impossible to argue), and it is an essential part of this work, which features ground-breaking developments in the computer manipulation of sound at IRCAM and a sound designer from the institute as collaborator and integral part of the performing forces. The electronic part acts as a virtuosic "virtual performer" in its own right, circling the acoustic forces with roulades of superhuman figuration in unearthly timbres, erecting planes of acoustic "scenery" in spectral textures, and selectively transforming instrumental sounds in real time. What is undeniable about the piece, whatever form of multimedia art it ultimately is, is its sheer impact; there is no possibility of emerging from this immersive mælstrom unmoved. No texts. Rinnat Moriah (soprano), Tora Augestad (mezzo), Patrycia Ziolkowska, Sebastian Rudolph (actors), SWR Vocal Ensemble, lab.chor, IRCAM, Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne; François-Xavier Roth.