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Attahir : "Al Asr" by the quartet Arod Attahir :

Posted by Durand Salabert Eschig on 29 September 2017

Creation of "Al Asr" of Benjamin Attahir by the quartet Arod

After the great success of Al Fajr’s creation in Berlin by the Boulez Ensemble and Daniel Barenboïm, the Arod Quartet will be performing the premiere of Al Asr on October 2nd at the Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord in Paris of the second part of the Salah cycle, set up until 2019 by Benjamin Attahir.

Interview of Benjamin Attahir : 

This Autumn will be busy for you with the premiere of Al Fajr in addition to the premiere of a string quartet composed for the Arod Quartet. How challenging is it to compose a quartet? Is there anything left to be said in this musical format, which seems to be nearing perfection? What are your models for this “noble” genre? Do the references in your score to the oud and certain “vocal” lines reminiscent of Mediterranean melismata reflect an Eastern influence? 

I must admit that the string quartet genre, one that has been handed down to us by our forebears, from Haydn to Dutilleux, Ligeti and Dusapin, can be rather “paralysing” for a young composer. To alleviate my anxiety, I focused on creating the most compact and cohesive object possible. To do so, I approached the quartet as a single instrument, returning to the backbone of my writing: embellished monody, freely inspired by the music of the Near East.

What are your thoughts on the 103rd Surah on Time?

Al Asr is the afternoon prayer. I tried to translate the atmosphere at that exact moment of the day into music. Glaring light, sweltering heat, the diffraction of the air as it touches the ground; my mind was filled with images as I wrote this piece. But Al Asr is also the 103rd Surah of the Quran that speaks of Time and the future of all beings. The structure in three verses served as the foundation for this quartet, though the holy text itself is not highlighted. Poetry and allegory have always guided me in my work.

What are your upcoming projects?

I am currently working on Adh Dhorh, the second piece in the cycle I mentioned, which will premiere next January with my friend Patrick Wibart on the serpent, accompanied by the Orchestre National de Lille, conducted by Alexandre Bloch. Next I will be writing a double monologue for two women, in partnership with the Quanzhou Liyuan Theatre and the Philharmonie de Paris, in a joint work for an ensemble of Chinese musicians and a Western ensemble, with a singer and actress from Beijing Opera and Portuguese soprano Raquel Camarinha.
Looking further ahead, I am delighted to be working once again with Renaud Capuçon on a violin concerto – the fourth piece in the cycle – Al Maghrib; then I will be diving into the world of Maeterlinck with an Opera based on the Trois petits drames pour marionnettes, which I will be directing at La Monnaie in Brussels in September 2019.

Interview of quartet Arod 

What is the origin of the project? How was this collaboration built? 

The project found its origins a year ago when the idea of making our first order started to develop in our minds. Looking at current composers, Benjamin's choice was obvious. We had been friends from our conservatory days, so for a long time, we had followed his evolution with an attentive eye and were already very impressed by his style. His writing touches us as it mixes influences, colors, includes romantic flights and very rhythmic passages, almost folklore, which are extremely enjoyable to play.

What do you think about Benjamin Attahir’s new opus? What mark  of his can you perceive? Can you hear any influences or references? 

This piece is part of a broader cycle based on Muslim prayer and the call of the muezzin. Muslim inspiration is what makes this quartet’s particularity and globally most of Benjamin’s music. It is also what drove us to contact him: to immerse ourselves in a universe little known to us, to make us travel and to make the public travel!

What are your expectations about contemporary creations? 

This is what we seek in contemporary music: strong personalities who take us into their universe. And that of Benjamin is large enough for us to explore it for a long time. 

August / September 2017

Concert dates : 

5 Oct. Théâtre de Coulommiers - Coulommiers
17 Oct. Kammermusiksaal Deutschlandfunk Koeln - Cologne
19 Oct. Staatstheater Darmstadt - Darmstadt
29 Oct. Festival Pornic Classic - Pornic
21 Nov. Mozarteum Salzbourg - Salzbourg
6 Dec. Arsenal de Metz - Metz
13 Dec. Salvia Hall - Yokohama
14 Dec. Oji Hall - Tokyo
15 Dec. Ensemble Hall Murata - Kyoto
28 Jan. Fonda on Calouste Gulbenkian - Lisbonne
27 Feb. De Harmonie - Leeuwarden
28 Feb. Bozar - Bruxelles
7 March Centre des Arts Pluriels Ettelbruck - Ettelbruck
14 March Concertgebouw - Amsterdam
11 Apr. Opéra de Lille - Lille
16 Apr. Tonhalle - Zürich
10 June Collégiale - Gerberoy

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