Presenters: Caroline Rae and Charles Bodman Whittaker (viola)
As the viola rose to prominence as a virtuoso solo instrument during the last hundred years or so, the importance of British players and composers has long been recognised, but an equally renowned parallel French tradition has been less widely acknowledged, at least in the UK. With the appointment in 1894 of Théophile Laforge as the Paris Conservatoire’s first professor of viola, followed by that of his pupil and successor Maurice Vieux in 1918, a school of French viola playing was established that catalysed a host of new repertoire.
This presentation explores two works belonging to this distinguished French tradition that were composed for, and inspired by, two of the most eminent French violists of modern times; André Jolivet’s Cinq églogues (1967) written for the late Serge Collot and Philippe Hersant’s Pavane (1987) written for Gérard Caussé. Descendants of Vieux’s teaching at the Paris Conservatoire, both Collot and Caussé established international reputations as champions of new music.
André Jolivet (1905-1974) composed a significant body of music for strings over a period of more than forty years that includes a set of experimental works written in the 1960s forunaccompanied viola, violin and cello. The Cinq églogues for solo viola is a substantial, five-movement, virtuosic work thatdistils many features of Jolivet’s late style. Although often overlooked, it ranks among the most significant contributions to the solo viola repertoire after Hindemith. Philippe Hersant (b.1948), a former student of Jolivet, has also written many works for strings including quartets and concertos as well as solo works for viola, several for Gérard Caussé.
The Pavane was inspired by the music of the Scottish viola da gamba player Tobias Hume and evokes the melancholy of the processional dance through exploring a range of expressive dissonances and acoustic effects. Supported with live illustrations performed by Charles Bodman Whittaker, this talk investigates these works from a performer’s perspective through considering issues of technique, notation, gesture, expressivity, language and style, and concludes with a complete performance of Hersant’s Pavane (8 minutes).
Caroline Rae is a Reader in Music at Cardiff University and pianist. She has published extensively on twentieth-century French music and is contributing editor of André Jolivet: Music, Art and Literature (2019), the first book on the composer in English. She is currently preparing a monograph, The Music of André Jolivet, for Boydell in addition to her work as contributing co-editor for Stravinsky and France: Reception, Interactions and Legacy (URP, forthcoming 2023) and Debussy d’hier à aujourd’hui (SFM, forthcoming 2023). She broadcasts regularly on BBC Radio 3, was Series Advisor to the Philharmonia Orchestra for the City of Light: Paris 1900-1950 festival and has also been a programming consultant to the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. As a pianist, she was a pupil of Dame Fanny Waterman from childhood, later studying with Yvonne Loriod-Messiaen in Paris. She was made a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres for her services to French music in 2018.
Charles Bodman Whittaker began his musical training aged 6, studying viola and violin with Cardiff teacher Ted Wilson from the age of 9. After completing his studies at the Royal College of Music with Simon Rowland-Jones, he was a Postgraduate Scholar at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama where he studied with Matthew Jones, receiving Commendation for Excellence in Recital Performance in 2020 and graduating with Distinction in 2022. Charles has a particular interest in contemporary music and gave the UK premiere of Eric Tanguy’s Rhapsodie (2017) at the Highgate Festival in 2022. Other solo recitals include at the Institut français de Londres, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Penarth Chamber Music Festival, Milton Court Concert Hall, Saint David’s Hall Young Artists’ Showcase and Cardiff University. He recently performed at LSO St Luke’s with his Bodman String Quartet and has been invited again for 2022-23. Orchestrally, he currently plays with London’s Southbank Sinfonia.