In 1988 the department of Dance in the French Ministery of Culture asks Jean-Yves Malmasson to compose some music for the dance examinations of the Baccalaureat F11 (Music or Dance technician). Then he writes 3 Miniatures Burlesques opus 8 for string quartet, three light and humorous pieces composed on a single theme: a lied alternatively melancholic and passionate (Pierrot), a gentle and superficial waltz (Colombine) and a frivolous and ironic polka (Arlequin). In 1995 those 3 pieces are orchestrated for a larger string ensemble and this transcription is performed in 1996 in the Salle Jacques Brel in Montigny-le-Bretonneux (Yvelines, near Versailles, France) under the direction of François Feuillette. After this premiere the composer wanted to expand and equilibrate the suite by adding three more movements; the work becomes then Burlesques, opus 24 for string orchestra. The three additional pieces are a caricatural tango (Scaramouche), a short, slow and calm movement (Intermezzo) and a rapid, virtuoso final (Lazzi). The titles of the movements are taken from the commedia dell'arte but Burlesques is not a descriptive work. It just evokes the clowning and choreographic aspects of the commedia dell'arte and the titles freely illustrate the nature of each movement by analogy with the personality of each famous character:
1. Pierrot (extract: mp3 - 00:42 - 503 Ko.)
A dreamy lied with a central part more passionate. The melody of the lied constitutes the thematic basis of all the suite.
A graceful waltz but a little mechanic and carefree, interrupted by a hasty galop.
The theme dislocates itself, twists itself in an exagerated rythm of tango, even winking at dodecaphonic music.
An extremely slow and quite short movement, a moment of serenity, rest and meditation.
5. Arlequin (extract: mp3 - 00:22 - 276 Ko.)
An ironic, nearly grotesque polka. We can recognize a quietly ironic quotation of a popular piece well-known by generations of piano learners. We can also find here an ardent and respectful tribute to a Master in musical humour: Dimitri Shostakovich...
6. Lazzi (extract: mp3 - 00:32 - 388 Ko.)
The lazzi refer to the comic attitudes and interjections ringing out on every side during the commedia dell'arte performances. It is an dynamic and demonstrative final where we hear, as a traditional way, a quotation of each movement, as it was a salute of the artists before a last pirouette.
Burlesques were performed for the first time in public on 19th November 1999 in Elancourt (Yvelines, near Versailles, France), by the Ensemble Orchestral de Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines under the direction of François Feuillette.
Extracts from the recording of a concert given on 7 décember 2001 in Elancourt (Yvelines, near Versailles, France) by theEnsemble Orchestral de Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, conductor: François Feuillette
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