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Florentine Mulsant

Chamber Music

Lyonel Schmit, violin
Henri Demarquette, cello
Fabrice Bourlet, piano
Véronique Bourlet, cello


Concert Sonata for solo violin in three movements op. 19
Corail, Dedale and Passacaille on the name of Bach

Lyonel Schmit, violon
1st movement : Corail
2nd movement : Dedale
3rd movement : Passacaille

Sonate for violin and piano opus 21

Lyonel Schmit, violin and
Fabrice Bourlet, piano
Piano and Violin Sonata in one movement op. 21

Trio for piano, violin, cello in 3 movements op. 23

Lyonel Schmit, violin,
Fabrice Bourlet, piano and
Véronique Bourlet, cello
1st movement
2nd movement
3rd movement

Cello Sonata in 3 movements op. 27

Henri Demarquette, cello
1st movement : Very expressive
2nd movement : Lively, mordant
3rd movement : Tiento

Total playing time: 77'18
Art Director: Frédéric Briant, Musica Numeris
Sound Engineer: Frédéric Briant
Mastering: Frédéric Briant and Lyonel Schmit
The first three works of the CD recorded at Chapelle des Carmes, Vannes, France, July 2004.
The "Sonate pour violoncelle" recorded at Studio Right Place, Brussels, Belgium, 18 February 2006.
Booklet: Michel Rigoni.
Florentine Mulsant would like to thank The Hippocrène Foundation and his President Mr. Jean Guyot (1922-2006), Éric Tanguy, Paul Gagnaire, André Furno.

AR RE-SE 2007-0

Chamber Music

Concert Sonata for solo violin in three movements opus 19 (1999-2002)

The tradition of music for solo violin is marked by J. S. Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas, Bartók’s Sonata and also by Eugène Ysaÿe’s Six Sonatas for solo violin. In these works, the writing for the violin is both monodic and polyphonic. Florentine Mulsant’s Concert Sonata is dedicated to Lyonel Schmit who premiered it on May 17, 2003 in Paris during the Musikalia Festival. The work is divided into three movements.

1. Corail (1999)

This first movement was composed during the spring of 1999 after a trip to Bora-Bora in the French Polynesian islands. “The duration of the work corresponds to the duration of a breath-holding dive,” the composer says. “Corail describes first the call from the depths that the diver feels, then the discovery of the underwater world, which is extraordinary, and finally the longing for oxygen which is essential for the diver’s survival.” The work begins slowly with a main motif on a long/brief rhythm which is the basis for the evolution of this large improvisation. The motif imitates the call the divers blow in great conchs before throwing themselves into the sea. In a second phase, some furtive elements (tremolos thrown by the edge of the bow, pizzicati, harmonic sounds) are introduced, like multicolored fish brushing the swimmers. The initial theme takes on a greater dimension in the chord playing of the four strings of the violin, until it climaxes on repeated double strings which whirl around towards an exacerbated tremolo. Corail ends, Majestic, Intense, with a brilliant longing for air.

2. Dedale (2000)

The contrast with Corail is total in Dédale where a rhythmic, panting ostinato is marked by tough off the beat accents and changes of tempo. According to the composer, this movement “conjures up the labyrinthine world of the city, which is always in movement, as well as our interior rhythm, which is also labyrinthine and is described in the central part.” The discourse sets up a sense of perspective through permutations and canons on the main motif (B flat - B, C sharp, D sharp). The scordattura of the violin (G-D-A-E) is often used, recalling the harshness of the strings in Bartók’s works (especially those composed around the time of the Miraculous Mandarin). The central part of Dédale is a meditative Choral, which is played with triple strings and becomes increasingly intense. The end of this episode brings about an ambiguity between the G major and G minor chord. As Nietzsche wrote: “A labyrinthine man never looks for the Truth; he only looks for his Ariadne.”

3. Passacaille (2002)

A chromatic theme introduces the third movement and is developed in ten variations which continuously follow each other, according to the unfolding of a Baroque passacaglia. In these variations, the theme is treated in counterpoint, in an increasing animation with changes of speed, accelerandi and ritardandi which give a feeling of flexibility to the structure. The culmination of the piece is a brilliant Large, where the name of Bach (B flat-A-C-B, which is B A C H in German musical notation) appears in a triumph, as a tribute to the composer of the Chaconne for solo violin which concludes the Partita in D minor. This motto is suggested in the chromatism of the initial theme and is then propelled in the polyphony played by the four strings of the violin.

Sonate for violin and piano opus 21 (2000)

This sonata is the transcription of a work for viola and piano. The music spreads out in a unique movement. Like many of the composer’s works, the Sonata has the character of a bright improvisation with changing atmospheres, but always in a very structured discourse. Three internal movements may be distinguished. First, the piano plays a crystal-like ostinato in the high range. Then the violin appears suddenly, in a lyrical and passionate way. A dialogue begins between the instruments and the sound of the violin becomes melted into the rich harmonic resonances of the piano. One could define this relationship as a changing amorous conversation, full of contrasts between massive or transparent, sweet or lyrical sonorities and with energetic outbursts. The initial motif is developed in a rhythmic and vivid manner between the two protagonists, in a shredded writing in octaves which brings a contrast with the previous section. The second internal movement of the sonata features again the crystal-like piano solo, which introduces a cadenza where the violin deploys its chords inside the resonance of the piano. A theatrical dialogue between the instruments follows a cadenza-like ad libitum by the piano. The two instruments then unite for a common cadenza which may recall the double solo in the Kammerkonzert by that great expressionist, Alban Berg. The final phase consists in a lively movement where the elements of the development are played again with a great rhythmic energy. Lyonel Schmit and Vahan Mardirossian premiered the Sonata for violin and piano opus 21 on 30 August 2000 in Nancy.

Trio for piano, violin and cello opus 23 (2000)

The Trio composed between 1999 and 2000 is dedicated to the Archipel Trio who premiered it at the Festival des Jeunes Interprètes in May 2000. It is a tribute to Robert Schumann and has three movements. The first movement is a vast construction. It can be segmented in three linked parts. At the beginning of the work, the piano presents a low note and some arpeggi in a slow tempo. The violin and the cello successively enter this mysterious climate. Then this theme alternates with imperious fortissimo chords of the piano.

In the second section, which is livelier, the cello introduces a rhythmic theme and the strings engage in a dialogue where they mimic each other upon the furious accents of the piano. The whole thing culminates in a triple forte. In this passage, the theme is repeated in an obsessive way, an intentional reference to Schumann. In the third phase, the listener is immersed in a soft, ecstatic atmosphere with the high-pitched chords of the instruments. Then the piano plays bell-sounding chords in a soft and peaceful ambiance, in the manner of Messiaen. As a reminder of the second part of the movement, a passionate outburst brings the discourse into a flourish of an apocalyptic character. In the second movement, the cello begins alone in the pianissimo nuance, and makes us feel as though the sound were coming from very far away. It delivers the sole motif of the movement, which is an expressive and painful one. The violin then joins the cello and the discourse becomes more intense in the dialogue between the two soloists. Suddenly the piano brings about this theme in the guise of octaves played fortissimo by the piano. The theme is exchanged between the piano and the violin. The movement ends with a solo of the violin and then of the piano and leaves the listener in a climate of expectation filled with an interior pain. The final movement unrolls in three parts. At the beginning, the piano plays harsh triple forte notes in the extreme registers of the keyboard. In a total contrast, a very soft and misty passage follows. The second element is developed in a lively tempo; it is a dancing ostinato played off the beat in pizzicati/arco by the strings. The third part of the final movement begins with the return of the misty, impressionist pianissimo and goes on with the development of the previous motives. The Trio ends with an extremely lively triple forte, with a feeling of catharsis so characteristic of the composer, which can conjure up the line from Rimbaud’s Le Bateau ivre: “O may my keel burst! O may I go into the sea!”

Sonata for solo cello in 3 movements opus 27 (2003)

The Sonata for cello was written for Henri Demarquette between February and June, 2003. Like Henri Dutilleux in his Strophes to Paul Sacher, Florentine Mulsant worked on a transposition in musical notes of the name and surname of the person the piece is dedicated to. Ever since Bach did it, it is a well-known technique to make a name fit with notes according to the German notation (BACH thus corresponds to B flat, A, C and B, as seen above). According to this system, Henri becomes: B - E flat - A - E - C, and Demarquette: D - E flat - G sharp - A - E - D - A sharp - E flat - G - G - E flat. The sonata is divided into three different movements. The first one is built around the musical notes of the first name, the second around those of the surname and the last movement proposes a synthesis of both.

1. The first movement was composed in a great hurry in just two days. The composer was overwhelmed by the death agony of a friend who suffered from cancer. The piece is like an incantation, a supplication, played in the medium-high register of the cello. It is first centered around the note B, then develops ornamentations around the notes of the main theme. It is worth noticing the use of double notes with knell-like pizzicati based on the two natural deep strings. The intense discourse of the beginning becomes more resigned and concludes itself in a distant, ghostly character, like a human being who sees how life abandons him for good.

2. The Vif, Mordant (Lively, Mordant) is based upon an ostinato: a toccata with tough syncopated accents on the open string fifths of the cello. In a phase which is written Piu lento the instrumentist is given the leeway to express him or herself through very lyrical double strings. As it is the case in many of the composer’s pieces written in a lively tempo, an episode named Mysterious (with bow-struck notes) precedes a mighty finale which concludes in an apotheosis Quasi cadenza.

3. In 1994, Florentine Mulsant had composed a piece for theorbo entitled Tiento. She used this title for the final movement of this sonata. The Tiento is a form structured on imitations which was very popular in 16th century Spanish music. It is a noble genre in its expression, a Ricercar for organ or lute which was authoritatively used by Cabezon in his Fantasias. A tribute to the art of the counterpoint. The Tiento develops an ample melody, which evolves under the shape of a full three-voice polyphony. The playing is increasingly virtuous until the final phase in vigorous arpeggi. In all the works featured on this recording we are made to feel all the ardor, energy and musical expression taken to its heights which characterize composer Florentine Mulsant’s style.

Michel Rigoni
Translation: Jennifer Arenson-Escorcia and Alexandre Escorcia

The Press covers it !

ouest france
« After taking part in a CD featuring French Music from Women (Musique française au féminin) published by Triton, Florentine Mulsant is releasing a record with only her own chamber music: Concert Sonata for violin op. 19, Sonata for violin and piano op. 21, Trio for piano, violin and cello op. 23 and Cello Sonata op. 27. Why not start with the most difficult part? In this demanding exercise, the composer, whose work is worth discovering, displays a rigorous construction, an intensive idiom and a taste for refined tones. Here is a sharp, sometimes dazzling spirit! This record takes hold of the listener and does not let go. There is no superfluous note in Florentine Mulsant’s writing. Her works are wonderfully performed by Lyonel Schmit (violin), Henri Demarquette (cello), Fabrice Bourlet (piano) and Véronique Bourlet (cello). »

Ouest-France, 7th May 2007, Gérard Pernon

« Every work featured on this monographic CD captures a different aspect of Florentine Mulsant’s creativity. The Concert Sonata for Violin takes expressionism to its heights. This work made of inner turmoil is fiercely (there is no other word) rendered by Lyonel Schmit, who purposely goes to the lowest moans of his instrument. The idiom becomes more lyrical, with a tinge of neoclassicism, in the Sonata for violin and piano which is made up of short melodic-rhythmic motifs that run into each other without really finding each other. A dramatic and even heartrending spirit is to be found again in the ascetic central cadenza, before a finale which alternates slow and agitated moments, all wonderfully interpreted by the Schmit/Bourlet duo. The same atmosphere is conjured up again in the Trio for piano, violin and cello which bears the same pattern of short, very lyrical phrases interspersed with dissonant chords and rhythmic contrasts. Ethereal sections come after violent episodes, without any continuity save the one provided by the constant work on the motifs. The idiom, while very personal, may remind of Olivier Greif (especially in his War Sonata). A more recent work, the Cello Sonata features a more homogenous discourse while displaying the same emotional intensity. It is of course remarkably carried out by Henri Demarquette, who knows how to explore different tones to adapt to the score’s demands and does not limit himself to sounding the notes, but really inhabits this work. Although oppressive, restive and tormented, Florentine Mulsant’s musical universe is never negative or pessimistic. Through this CD, new horizons open up. », 4th April 2007, Maxime Kaprielian