Benjamin Attahir - "Layal"
A rare occasion in today's musical life, especially when the concert includes a great symphony by Mahler : a leading German orchestra (the prestigious Berlin Staatskapelle) conducted by an undisputed master, Daniel Barenboim will premiere on 2 May a concerto symphony composed by a very young French composer, Benjamin Attahir. Commissioned by the Barenboim Stiftung, the work is part of the fruitful and long-term collaboration between the composer and the virtuoso Renaud Capuçon.
Your loyalty, equally remarkable, to Renaud Capuçon and Daniel Barenboim. The premiere of Layal on 2 May by the prestigious Berlin Staatskapelle, coupled with a Mahler symphony, is a unique event for a young composer. How does Renaud Capuçon's violin-playing inspire you? Could you retrace your relationship with this artist ?
Renaud Capuçon’s style of playing is of a rare quality; combining the utmost refinement and an immense sensitivity with an intimate and deep understanding of the music he is performing. It is a chance for us as composers to have such a herald. I had the pleasure of having my first musical encounter with this artist at the Villa Medici during my residency. It was immediately obvious both in his work-style - so simple and easy with him – and in his all-embracing humanity. I therefore wrote a long solo violin work for him, something that I repeated a year later, but this time I added the voice of an actress within a much larger dramatic work. From one project to the next, we have been able to forge a real bond and an extremely solid trust; I am truly grateful to him. This has led us to present a large work for violin, soprano and orchestra in Toulouse and then in Lisbon last season. In addition to this relationship as a performer, Renaud has continuously presented my music at the various festivals that he directs. This is a rare form of support from such a musician for a young composer.
The concerto genre is "your" ideal genre, the violin is "your" instrument, you have already served both with two works that are pillars in the contemporary repertoire. How have you renewed your style and what are the specific choices concerning to Layal ?
I wanted to base this work on the sinfonia concertante model. Indeed, the violin that is part of the action can lead just as well as it can follow, it can give impetus or it can comment on what is happening all around. This is a fundamental difference to my usual approach to the genre; where everything comes from the soloist. Here we are faced with a form based on little more than two or three musical elements opening onto nocturnal sound spaces. Layal means "nights" in Arabic, which - beyond the general color of the piece - echoes the name of another talented violinist to whom the work pays a very modest homage, the great Isaac Stern, who would have celebrated his one hundredth birthday this year.
2 & 3 May 2020, Staatskapelle Berlin, Renaud Capuçon (violin), Daniel Barenboim (dir), Staatsoper Unter den Linden (Berlin)