À la recherche d’Eden perdu

Cello Sonata No. 2 (2021)

Duration: c. 17 mins

  1. Eau vivante
  2. Intermède (Purgatoire)
  3. Entre les jardins du paradis et de l’enfer

This sonata attempts a détente with the artistic world of Paris, circa WWI.  The first movement deals with Gabriel Fauré’s late song Eau vivante from La chanson d’Ève: a miracle of unstable continuity. In Fauré, a constantly refreshed single line weaves through the piano beneath an unbroken surface of delicate harmony: a perfected vision of water in the Garden of Eden.

Eau vivante is an attempt to analyse, synthesise and dip into this spring of harmony, yet is in a process of constant failure. I find it fascinating when a series of musical events which achieve a harmonious result in Fauré can be run aground, taken to extremes and led into impossible dead-ends. I have tried, more than a century later, to reconstruct the rarefied atmosphere conjured by the isolated, near-deaf Fauré at the turn of the 20th Century. Can we really dream of an untrammelled natural world in 2021?

If this movement is a thwarted, unreachable heaven, the second movement is a short, paralysed Purgatory, effortfully going nowhere.

The last movement attempts a more Proustian synthesis between remembered images of heaven and hell, initially presented strictly in alternation but the one continually bleeding into the other to form an unholy, messy reality. Bacchanals, bells and an unexpected berceuse transform dying embers of Fauré-memory and purgatorial inertia into an uneasy repose.

The complete work is commissioned by Kim Williams AM for Blair Harris.

Eau vivante is commissioned by the Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM) as part The ANAM Set (2021), written for Oliver Russell and given its world premiere on 30 October 2021 at the Abbotsford Convent, Melbourne. The ANAM Set was funded by the Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand (RISE) Fund – an Australian Government Initiative.

Listen to the first movement, Eau vivante recorded at ANAM by Oliver Russell and Leigh Harrold


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