Eric Lemieux : Suites 1, 2, and 3
Bergmann Edition: 67 pages
This hefty tome is by a Canadian guitarist /composer who also writes poetry and creates original music for all manner of ensembles, and his own recording of the 3 suites is now available as a CD release on the US classical Centaur Records label.
Suite 1 in 7 movements begins with a very short and simple Mot de Bienvenue , a one pager that has long notes and sometimes even longer silences in its brevity. Gradually throughout the first few bars the dissonances get sharper and are mixed with some momentary fast runs that come to a complete stop and silence intervenes. As a ‘Word of Welcome’ it would suggest that the writer is NOT very happy to see whoever has turned up, but we don’t get any preface about the thinking behind the titles in the suites, so it’s anybody’s guess. Tornades is a very fast quaver driven 6/8 whose main theme is a semi tonal run up and down that proves very difficult to read at first. This then lands onto a pattern of three quavers in a two x 2 notes , followed by a bass note but where the top note of the pair is constantly on the move .The occasional group of 4 in the time of 3 makes its presence known every few bars too. These two ideas return but each time with different melodic ideas so that there is absolutely no thinking time. Eventually the pattern becomes a full chord twice followed by a bass note, which leads to a huge climactic close on a Sforzando A Bass. Oh Soleil, Torride Mystificateur ( Oh sun, scorching mystery) is a thoughtful piece full of wide spanned chords that have quite a sharp dissonance to them at times (take for example the opening chord of a D#m on strings 1 to 3 , with an open 4th D bass, a chord that recurs throughout the piece) Movement No4 Farce is a short and bitingly bizarre piece where sudden loud dissonances occur without warning, amidst some sporadic two – voiced sections.A loud arpeggiated chord up and down the strings leads to a final accented bare fifth chord of C. Sahara , movement 5 is marked doux et bien chantant, which seems to imply a sweet singing melody but the sharply atonal sounds that punctuate this movement seem to be fighting against that, for as the piece progresses the part writing gets more complicated until any though t of a key structure is pointless. Some very sharp alternating chords split between 6. 8. 9. 11. 12. 13 and 22 semiquavers to the bar, then lead to a final return to the opening idea now topped by artificial harmonics. Grottes Celestes (celestial caves) has a stop- start hesitance about its two voiced writing in the opening section before a harmonic reminder of the opening idea leads to a faster section where a long top note is mixed with a two voiced off – beat lower part, which leads to a climactic group of fortissimo chords that in turn takes you back to the opening section, now varied, for a final time. Tisons Ardents (Fiery Embers) is in a number of time signatures , beginning in 7/8 but also crossing 5/8, 4/8, 5/4, 9/8, 2/8, 3/8 and 6/8 along the way. As the title suggests it is very fast, very fiery in temperament, and full of very tricky passages along the way.
Suite No2 is in 6 movements, opening with a Prelude (Hommage a Villa – Lobos) that does indeed have some very Villa Lobos type moves, for example sliding chord shapes together with open strings to create a dissonance, and fast runs up and down the fingerboard. The following Nocturne is marked Calm, but the actual unusual rhythms throughout the piece, don’t really sound very calm at all, and the (mostly) three voices in the opening turn larger and more animated as the piece progresses thus making you think that the night piece is anything but calm and restful, but something else entirely. The following Chanson has a very complex set of rhythms throughout and again the piece is so difficult that the title of song again doesn’t really seem to fit the sound that emulates from the guitar. Orage (Thunderstorm) is marked Avec Vivacite) and this really suits the violent mood and abrupt harmony structure of this disturbing movement. The brief Interlude that is No5 is in two and then three voices marked Doux, Tres Doux, and precede the final Fantaisie, a long complex close to an equally complicated suite of some considerable weight.
The final Suite No3 is again in six movements , commencing with a Prelude that begins sparsely and becomes more agitated and louder as it progresses leading to a thunderous coda .Fantasmagorie 1, the next movement is full of complex and constantly changing time signatures that leaves the player feeling restless as it never seems to settle down .The Lento that follows begins more tonal in harmony than many of his other movements, before changing completely as the speed increases into a section of three note chords with much chromaticism atop off – beat bass notes that lead to a reminder of the opening idea. Fantasmagorie II continues in the same vein, multiple time signatures, violent dissonances, and huge chords of great complexity. A momentary Interlude completely in two voices that reach the very heights of the fingerboard leads to the final Passacaille et Fugue, the first part of which gradually increases in complexity whilst getting shorter in note values until the player is dealing with chords involving semiquaver sextuplets. A sudden relaxing leads to a reminder of the opening section, before the Fugue enters and gradually leads into a four voiced section of immense technical difficulty followed by a final chordal section that ends the suite pianissimo.
To say that these three suites are immensely difficult to play is an understatement, as indeed they are some of the most hugely complex works I have ever seen. Put that alongside the fact that the musical language is extremely dissonant and of great rhythmic variety throughout many of the movements and you have three vast pieces that will not suit some players/listeners, but there are obviously many of you out there that really can engage in this kind of writing, and so, if you are very good players, and like your music modern, then this could very well be for you.