François-Bernard Mâche (1935)

François-Bernard Mâche, born in 1935, is in my opinion one of the most interesting and original French composers from a generation among which I’m hard put to think of anyone considered “major”, maybe because they overshadowed by the two giants from the generation before: Xenakis (1922-2001) and Boulez (1925-2016). Although Mâche certainly had his share of commissions and official honors in France, his recognition isn’t up to his compositional originality, even more internationally than in France, and he’s has relatively limited representation on record. A founder with Pierre Schaeffer of the Groupe de Recherches Musicales (GRM) at the French public radio, he’s a pioneer of mixing acoustic instruments (including voice) and tape, and later, with technological advances, sampler. He’s also an ethnomusicologist, and his compositions are infused with extra-european influences. One of the most fascinating and appealing aspects of his compositional output is when he models his melodic lines after natural phenomena analyzed and abstracted, whether spoken language or birdsong. Because of that, he’s been called a “naturalist” composer, for whatever that’s worth: but his music is definitely NOT evocative of Schaeffer’s or Pierre Henry’s “musique concrete”: whatever sounds of nature he goes from, they are so metabolized as to become abstract sound-forms. All this makes him an independent, one not enslaved to the rules and strictures of Boulez’ serialism and post-serialism, part of no school, which may explain why no school has championed his work.

Here are the works and CDs of Mâche that I’ve reviewed:

Styx (1984) and Léthé (1985) for two pianos eight-hands, recorded March & April 1994, Muziekcentrum Vredenburg, Utrecht in Dutch Pianists’ Quartet / Nederlands Pianisten Kwartet: Works for two pianos eight hands (with works of Robert Nasveld, Theo Loevendie, Ton Bruynèl, Maurice Ravel, Graham Fitkin). Attacca Babel 9481 (1994)

Styx (1984), Areg (1977), Mesarthim (1987), Léthé (1985), Nocturne (1981), recorded May 2001-December 2004 at Maison de la Musique, Nanterre, France by Martine Vialatte, Clotilde Ovigne, Hélène Bellanger, Christine Chareyron, Leonor Lopez Cossani in François-Bernard Mâche: Music for Pianos (with Maurice Ohana: Sorôn-Ngô). Naxos 8.557988 (2006)

Eridan, String Quartet op. 57 (1986), recorded July 1990 at Studio Stolberger Strasse, Köln by WDR Köln, featured on The Arditti Quartet Edition: Arditti String Quartet & Trio Le Cercle play Compositions for String Quartet & Percussion Trio by Georges Aperghis, François-Bernard Mâche, Iannis Xenakis, Allain Gaussin. Disques Montaigne 782002 (1991)

Comments are welcome