Bruno Mantovani, one of the most significant French composers of his generation and formerly director of the CNSMDP, has written three major works for harp to date. These are: Danse libre (concerto for harp and orchestra); Tocar for solo harp, and the Quintette for Berthold Brecht. Discover more in our interview with Mantovani on the Camac blog.
The Quintet for Bertold Brecht is an extension of some stage music I wrote in 2006. This was for Brecht’s A Man’s a Man, directed by Emmanuel Demarcy Mota. This argument of this play is about unusual social violence: the audience watches a man transform away from some kind of peaceful destiny, into a monster of hate and brutality. Intended originally for solo harp, my score included several very expressionist interludes, in which the harp is often used atypically, in a very percussive manner. I decided to take the material from these interludes, and develop it by means of a string quartet – into this Quintet. While a work in itself, the Quintet keeps the original idea of a strong, simultaneous tension both between the dense sequences, and also in the more enigmatic sections. Here, the rarefaction of the material does not at all signify any relaxation of the discourse.
The parts derived from the stage music serve as a “refrain”, alternating with the new elements. These begin with an opening cadence for solo cello, which presents the rhapsodic character, separate from what is to come. This is followed by the entry of the quartet, in a highly ornamental manner. The entire piece has a form evocative of the concerto genre.
The Quintet for Bertold Brecht received its world premier in Bad Reichenhall on August 22nd, 2009, performed by Sarah O’Brien and the Danel Quartet. They had co-commissioned the work, together with the “Lauers Freunde Quartett”.