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Jacques (c) Hétu: Symphony No. 5, Op. 81 (TSO Commission/World première)
Born: Trois-Rivières, August 08, 1938
Died: Saint-Hippolyte, February 09, 2010
Jacques Hétu was born in Trois-Rivières, Quebec, in 1938, and died February 9, 2010. He completed his Symphony No. 5 in August, 2009. The work runs approximately 40 minutes in performance, and is scored for 2 flutes, piccolo, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion, harp, choir, and orchestral strings.
Jacques Hétu describes his Symphony No. 5:
I – Prologue (Paris before World War II) The city slowly awakens and gradually becomes something resembling a giant merry-go-round. Noisy children, murmuring throngs, joyous processions and the confusion of an approaching fun fair interact and blur into one.
II – The Invasion (The War) Breathless, agitated, violent, dramatic music. A motif is heard in the unison winds with continuous embellishment from the strings. This culminates in dense polyphony in which different sections of the orchestra compete for prominence. The short and somewhat calmer passage of this scherzo is a lament that will be developed in the following movement. The opening section is heard again in abridged form.
III – The Occupation (The German Occupation) A sort of funeral march. The music proceeds slowly, in a supplicating manner. This is halted by an anguished cry consisting of the overtone series of the note C piled up in an enormous tutti. Unison strings lead to an expressive motif that will become the subject of a series of developments while accelerating. A more tranquil episode is heard in the winds, following which comes an abridged return of the opening march material. A final transformation in the brass leads to the coda, where the anguished cry is amplified.
IV – Liberty (The hope for liberation) Thousands of copies of Paul Eluard’s poem “Liberté” were dropped over occupied France by R.A.F. planes during 1942. The poem expresses the desire to write the word “liberté” in every way possible at every stage of a life. This incantatory poem, a hymn to all periods of a person’s life, still has universal reverberations today. Musically, each stanza is treated in the manner of a short dramatic scene. The orchestral colour and vocal treatment vary from stanza to stanza. The last line of each stanza, “J’écris ton nom” (I write your name) serves as a recurring motif. The first main section comprises the stanzas concerning recollections from childhood – “cahiers d’écoliers” (schoolboys’ copybooks); “images dorées” (gilded images) – and communion with nature – “chaque bouffée d’aurore” (every whiff of daybreak), “sueurs de l’orage” (labour of storms). The second, more intimate section opens with the a cappella choir evoking first the gentleness of night – “Sur la lampe qui s’allume” (on the lamp that kindles), next tenderness, sensuality – “toute chair accordée” (all accordant flesh) and hope. Then the tone becomes discouraging, with “refuges détruits” (devastated shelters) and “marches de la mort” (steps of death). In the powerful final section, “Sur la santé revenue…par le pouvoir d’un mot” (On health returned…by the power of a word), the word “liberté” surges forth like a victory march.
Programme Note by Jacques Hétu, December, 2009
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