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2008 String Quartet

Hével

Commissioned by the contemporary music festival of the Biennale of Venice, in 2008.

Performed by the Kreutzer Quartet at the Teatro alle Vergini, in Venice, in October 2008.

Performed by the Doelen Kwartet in Ostrava, for the festival Ostrava Music Days, and in Amsterdam, at the Concertgebouw aan’t IJ, during the Gaudeamus Music Week of 2009 – finalist of the International Gaudeamus Composer Competition, in September 2009.

Partly performed by the Algoritmo ensemble in Rome, for the final concerts of the Music Academy of Santa Cecilia, in November 2009.

Broadcasted by Radio 3 RAI.

Instrumentation: String quartet

In Hebrew, Hével means vanitas - according to the Vulgata. The translations of the Qohèlet Book I have translate this word by spreco (waste) (Erri de Luca, for Feltrinelli), fumo (smoke) (Ceronetti, for Einaudi), niente (nothing) (Ceronetti, for Adelphi, in 1970) and of course vanità (vanity) (CEI version, in 1974). The image that can be restored from the Hebrew is that of a wisp of smoke that vanishes in the air. So a wisp - of sound - is at the beginning of the composition, a faint presence produced by a cluster of eight undetermined harmonics, as high-pitched as possible (high-pitched, but not strozzato at hearing). The way followed by this wisp is directed to the discovering of the many fundamentals that generate it and by and then tend to the C of the fourth string of the cello. In such a perspective, the fifths of the open strings of the string instruments constitute a group of pitches that belong to the harmonic spectra used and, thanks to their highly connoted sound print, explicitly emerge from the sound environment they are in. Actually, I repeat it, they are from the same original family, that is to say from the same sound generator, a low-pitched Ur-tone which is necessary for the formation of all spectra used. As for its form, the piece is divided into two sections. In the first one (bars 1-110) occurs a continuous perturbation of the initial sound wisp, made through emphasized figurative articulations and gestures (glissatijeté, etc.). The sound object used, as already said, is a high-pitched sound that goes down-pitched and then turns high-pitched back again. Such an evolution is cyclicly repeated through the section and, each time, the object is defined differently (though its nature is the same from the beginning to the end of the composition); for instance, the part which goes from bar 21 to bar 28 is a sort of time stretching of the first two opening bars and, from bar 44 to bar 49, the glissati of the violins at bars 3-4 are expanded. The second part tends more decisively to one particular of the sound object, the glissato (or, better, the inflexion) that is found in the violins at bar 3, and puts it under an enlarging lens. The result of the observation emerges in bars 196 and 197, when the identity of the vibrato and the glissato is sanctioned: both are oscillations, the first around, the second to a certain point. At the end of the composition occur, on the contrary, a distillation and a filtration of the initial sound: the instruments play with the bow on the edge of the sounding board, near the f, producing a low but still audible whispering.