Christian Mason (*1984) Voix Céleste
[str orch] 2021 Duration: 15'
World premiere: Clermont-Ferrand, May, 27, 2021
Commissioned by Orchestre National d’Auvergne
When I was a child we had an old harmonium in the house, with pedals for pumping air and a variety of stops, which I enjoyed pushing and pulling to change the sounds… Of all the stops, my favourite was always the voix celeste. So it is probably no coincidence that more recently many of my compositions feature tremolo harmonicas which employ the same principle of having two reeds slightly ‘out-of-tune’ with one another, in order to create a gently beating, pulsating tone. This piece doesn’t include any harmonicas or harmoniums, but it does take that special timbre as a starting point for my treatment of the string orchestra with some of the strings (A’s and E’s of the violins) being slightly retuned throughout, warming the tone, and creating a certain fragility; doing for sound what heat haze does for vision, when the view of the distance seems to tremble. With the turmoil that the pandemic has cast us into during the past year, our view of the future has never seemed more fragile and uncertain. Maybe because of this I felt the need for this music to hold us in a warm and comforting, if also melancholy, repetitive embrace.
Looking the other way, to the past, I have a fond memory of my first visit to Clermont-Ferrand, before we even saw the pandemic on the horizon. After a nice lunch, Roberto (Forés Veses) and I climbed the Puy de Dôme, breathed the fresh air and took in the beautiful panorama. Hopefully the music can also convey that spirit of freedom and spontaneity. With that in mind I dedicate this piece to him.
(Christian Mason, April 2021)