Festival Présences 2021

Festival Présences 2021

A portrait of Pascal Dusapin at the Présences festival of Radio France

Following the resounding success of his residency with the two orchestras of the Maison de la Radio in 2018-19, Pascal Dusapin will be the central figure of the Radio France Présences festival next February.

A great event ambitiously organised by the creation team of this prestigious institution, judging by the impressive programme of works presented and the performers invited: a version of Outscape by the young and prodigious cellist Victor Julien-Laferrière, the French premiere of Waves by Olivier Latry and the Philharmonique conducted by Alain Altinoglu, a long-awaited performance of Dusapin’s Disputatio, considered across the Rhine as a fundamental work of modernity, the Ensemble intercontemporain and its impressive soloists performing the "classics" Quad and Aria, and, last but not least, the most faithful of the faithful including Sonia Wieder-Atherton (the works for solo cello), Vanessa Wagner (the complete Etudes for piano), Georg Nigl (O Mensch, naturally), Jean-Frédéric Neuburger (the world premiere of the complete Piano Works cycle and a performance of the masterpiece Jetzt Genau), the Quatuor Diotima, and even Bernard Foccroule, all gathered in the name of the composer’s timeless successes written for them.

The present, which of course cannot be underestimated at a “Présences” festival, will even take the liberty of summoning the past for an inaugural evening staged by Thomas Jolly during which Dusapin’s public will not fail to be moved by the world premiere of the composer’s work by Armand Angster and Françoise Kubler‘s Accroche Note ensemble, two artists with exceptional talent and longevity.

Two artists who also defended the composer during his early years and to whom he undoubtedly owes the premises of this Vita Sognata, this "dream life" of a composer, dedicated to them on 2 February at the Radio France Auditorium, highlighting five exceptional days of music and culture at their highest level, introduced by the musicologist Jacques Amblard with the great mastery to which we are accustomed.

Other highlights of musical creation during the festival, with the premieres of Strange Times for orchestra by Éric Tanguy and Al-Icha, the new cello concerto by Benjamin Attahir.

Click here to see the full festival program.

Présences 2021 premieres:

Pascal Dusapin - La Vita sognata
for soprano and instrumental ensemble
World premiere: 2 February 2021
Auditorium de la Maison de la Radio
Ensemble Accroche Note
Françoise Kubler, soprano
Franck Ollu, conductor

A few words from the composer about the work : 

Several years ago, whilst reading, I discovered this female Italian poet whose words immediately seduced me. I have often read and re-read them, searching for some new sadness at the bottom of this brief and fragile life, only 25 years old when, on 2 December 1938, she stretched out in a meadow and ended her life. This voice haunted by doubt, possessed by the absolute, has seduced me to the point of setting it to music with a somewhat strange instrumentarium. I chose three poems: Notturno (Nocturne), Le mani sulle piaghe (Hands on the wounds), La vita sognata (The dream life).

Pascal Dusapin

Consult  the score: 

Pascal Dusapin - Piano works (full cycle)
for piano
World premiere: 3 February 2021
Studio 104 - Maison de la Radio
Jean Frédéric Neuburger, piano

A few words from the composer about the work: 

Following my 7 Etudes (composed between 1998 and 2002), the Piano Works is a new cycle that has followed me for almost 15 years. Indeed, after my studies, I composed greatly for the solo piano, and then one day I cast everything aside because nothing seemed right anymore. It was therefore necessary to find another point of view, so to speak, to change the lens. This cycle now has five pieces which all bear a name taken from a very conceptual book by the German artist Stefan Brüggemann entitled "Showtitles", given to me by my daughter Alice, with 2182 royalty-free titles designed to name more or less whatever you wish... As I leafed through it, I noticed that it suggested to my imagination all kinds of possible configurations.

It all started with no.1091, Piano Works which suddenly suggested to me the entire project. No.60, Did it again, commissioned by the Munich ARD competition in 2017, applied itself perfectly to my own questions: how to write once again for the solo piano? This first piece carries within it all of the possible variations of the same simple musical material. The second is aptly named Next Piece and reveals a sequence previously introduced in Did it again. These first two pieces of the cycle were conceived together. They are undoubtedly very different but multiple underlying harmonic networks bring them together. The third was written and commissioned by Le Louvre at the request of the painter Pierre Soulages for his January 2020 exhibition. Black letters seemed an ideal title.

Black Letters is indeed a piece whose harmonic blocks at the beginning resembles the broad strokes of the Outrenoir, the famous colour by Pierre Soulages. The fourth and fifth pieces, commissions by Radio France for the Présences festival, are named respectively Repetition cancels memory, referring directly to its method of composition which reiterates all the ideas of the first three works (though everything is concealed...), and When not to stop whose musical flow, we will perceive when listening, is without ambiguity.

In recent years I have focused on composing large orchestral works and operas, as I still do today. But I have always written chamber music "on the side", what I like to call my satellites or my travel works. And as time went by, though I had long been suspicious of this instrument that upset me so much during my teens, the piano has become increasingly important to me. 

These new works are therefore reflections, explorations, catalysts and sometimes even outflows from other, larger works. I don't have a piano in my studio, but I finally learned by writing for it that I loved it. And though I am still at odds with the instrument, I am not finished with it...

Pascal Dusapin

See the video we made for the creation of Piano works N ° 3 "Black Letters":


Pascal Dusapin - Waves
Duo for organ and orchestra
French premiere: 5 February 2021
Philharmonie de Paris
Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France
Olivier Latry, organ
Alain Altinoglu, conductor

Consult the score : 


See the video we made for the world premiere of Waves at the Elbphilharmonie in January 2020:


Éric Tanguy - Strange Times 
for orchestra
World premiere: 4 February 2021
Auditorium de la Maison de la Radio
Orchestre National de France
Kristiina Poska, conductor

A few words from the composer about the work: 

D'un seul tenant, la partition s'articule, dans une couleur modale consonante, en plusieurs sections aux caractères mélodiques et rythmiques spécifiques. Un sentiment tourmenté traduit la réalité du contexte dans lequel elle a été en partie composée. Je n'ai pas pour habitude de donner, par le titre, des indications autres que poétiques, car j'aime l'aura singulière du mystère des mots, mais la situation d'enfermement que nous avons tous vécu de mars à mai aura très certainement et particulièrement influencé le contenu émotionnel de cette pièce. Achevée quelques jours avant le premier déconfinement, en des temps si étranges, j'ai pu mesurer à quel point l'écriture m'avait permis de vivre dans l'espoir de jours meilleurs et retour du partage de la musique en concert.

Débutée dans une joie sonore intense, l'œuvre s'achève presque soudainement, après avoir exploré ses multiples variantes musicales, par une coda elliptique très douce et apaisée.

Éric Tanguy

Consult the score: 

Benjamin Attahir - Al Icha
Concerto for cello
World premiere: 6 February 2021
Auditorium de la Maison de la Radio
Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France
Jean-Guihen Queras, cello
Pascal Rophé, conductor

A few words from the composer about the work:  

The fifth and final work in a cycle organised around the five moments of Muslim prayer in the day, Al Icha is a dive into the deep and warm night. It is the final call that closes the passing of the Hours, a slow passage from one sensation, from one colour to another.

A closer listen leads us to think we heard a half-forgotten Yiddish melody, a dreamt Gregorian clausula, the reverberant echo of muezzins in the four corners of a town almost fast asleep...

A move from one towards the many, then the many become one, the Three merge.

Four times, they will raise their hands up behind their ears. Four times they will pronounce the invocation. Four times they will recite. Four times they will bow down.

And it will always be the same time. And it will always be a new time.

Benjamin Attahir

Consult the score : 

See the available recordings of the works performed during the Presences 2021 Festival: 


Pascal Dusapin - La vita sognata (2020) - World premiere
Ensemble Accroche Note
Françoise Kubler, soprano
Franck Ollu, conductor

Pascal Dusapin - Anacoluth (1987)
Françoise Kubler, soprano
Armand Angster, clarinet


Pascal Dusapin - Immer (1996)
Sonia Wieder-Atherton, cello


Pascal Dusapin - Attacca (1991)
Javier Rossetto, Célestin Guérin, trumpets
Rodolphe Théry, 


Pascal Dusapin - O Mensch! (2008-2009)
Paul Gay, bariton
Vanessa Wagner, piano