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A Trippy Composer

Claude Vivier

Claude Vivier

Thursday at 8:00 pm

Imagine the following scenario for a piece of music: a composer finds himself drawn to a young man on the Metro. The composer writes, “Then he removed a dagger from his jacket and stabbed me through the heart.” At that point the music stops abruptly.

—That’s pretty intense, right? Never mind that it really happened.

Claude Vivier was only 35 years old when a male prostitute stabbed him to death in Paris, 1983. On Vivier’s desk was the unfinished composition outlining that very same scenario. The piece titled Do You Believe in the Immortality of the Soul? predicted its composer’s own demise.

Thursday on The New York Philharmonic This Week, the orchestra presents Vivier’s Orion, which lasts about twelve minutes, and sounds like a cross between Gershwin, Rite of Spring and Lewis Carroll. Vivier’s piece offers stark contrast to the other work on the program, Bruckner’s 9th Symphony.

A melody on the trumpet, again the trumpet, as in Kopernikus, instrument of death in the Middle Ages (see the film by Bergman and read l’Office des morts).

Orion consists of six sections: statement of the melody, first development of the melody laid upon itself, second development of the melody laid upon itself, meditation on the melody, remembrance of the melody, and finally the melody in two intervals.

Eternal homecoming, as in History with a capital H, which always waits impatiently for the return of its redemptive saints and its dictators. I have the impression that I’m sitting still on an airplane; I remain in the same place and yet I go from Cairo to Kuala Lumpur.

Go and find out for yourself!

— Claude Vivier



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