A cleverly arranged program such as Léo Warynski likes

ConcertClassic - Alain Cochard
Symphonie chorale

In concert and on record, Léo Warynski and his Métaboles spoil us! We found the conductor and his choristers at the Rencontres musicales de Vézelay, on August 25, for what constituted their first appearance as part of the event as an ensemble associated with the Cité de la Voix (until 2025) ; an appointment all the more eagerly awaited as the Métaboles presented themselves in large numbers in a program including one of the most extraordinary choral achievements of the end of the last century: the Choral Concerto by Alfred Schnittke. The score will only have had more impact placed as it was at the end of a program (entitled “Choral Symphony”) cleverly arranged as Léo Warynski likes them.

Kaleidoscope of images

The motet Spem in alium for 40 voices by Thomas Tallis opens the evening: taking possession of the immense space of the basilica by the choir (arranged in a circle on the stage for this piece), all the more striking for the listener that Warynski immediately demonstrates all his mastery of a sound material that the ear has the sensation of palpating. In its full expansion, as in its most infinitesimal expression: we measure it with the Tutto in una volta by Francesco Filidei (1973), a 2020 piece on a poem by Nanni Balestrini (where the writer plays on fragmentation, the word , the syllable: a way of returning, in Italy in the 60s, to what Marinetti and his futurist friends (1) offered before the First World War, claiming an approach no less anti-bourgeois) during which , according to Filidei, the music accompanies the text “by stringing together series of chords that cause the color to mutate slightly at each moment in a kaleidoscope of images. » A process that Warynski and his choristers translate and poetize with a confounding art of tiny nuance... of almost nothing...
Mahler transformed by Gérard Pesson

Change of climate with Gérard Pesson's transcription of the famous Adagietto from Mahler's 5th Symphony. For the head of the Metaboles, it is a question of kneading with both hands the material of a transcription in which Pesson draws on extracts (chosen by Martin Kaltenecker) from the Venetian Sonnets and the 1824 Diary of August von Platen. A true feat is the transition from the orchestra to the choral universe, accomplished with an extraordinary sense of timbre: the piece takes its place very high in the list of transcriptions from the orchestra to the choir. Iridescence of the female music stands, abysmal depth of bass, flexibility and density without heaviness of the choral mass... The illusion is all the more perfect as Warynski has, as we know, a pronounced taste for such arrangements and can count on the interventions of admirable soloists: Anne-Laure Hulin (sop.), Laura Muller (alto), Marco van Baaren (tenor). His success is also due to his deep attention to the meaning of words; those of Von Platen in this case, a German homosexual poet who took refuge in Venice at the beginning of the Romantic century; further those of the 10th century Armenian monk, mystic and composer Gregory of Narek – extracts from his Book of Lamentations.

Human clay and quest for the absolute

From this work (translated into Russian by Naum Grebnev), Alfred Schnittke, converted to Christianity in 1982, took four fragments and immersed himself between 1984 and 1985 in writing the Choral Concerto. 49 singers, a score for mixed ensemble in sixteen parts: a particularly experienced sound architect is absolutely required to confront such a monument. We have it – and in what order! – with Léo Warynski. The Concerto has no shortage of spectacular moments and the conductor, followed by singers with impeccable intonation accuracy throughout, knows how to highlight them. It remains that the emotional force of his approach comes first, we return, to his ability to always anchor his reading in the words. The poetic and spiritual richness of the writings of Gregory of Narek continually guides him. “I wrote for the righteous and the sinners [...], for the oppressed and the great princes” ... Nothing disembodied, but quite the contrary a mixture of human clay and the quest for the absolute to which Schnittke totally identifies through a composition inscribed in the great tradition of Russian Orthodox music – in line with Tchaikovsky’s Liturgy and Rachmaninoff’s Vespers. A truly overwhelming experience, to which three admirable soloists made a particular contribution: Maya Villanueva (sop.), Marco Van Baaren (tenor) and Guillaume Olry (bass). Exactly contemporary with the Choir Concerto, the second of Schnittke's three Sacred Hymns, offered as an encore, completely captivates the audience. An evening written in the annals of the Vézelay Musical Meetings. Let us hope that the Métaboles will one day, hopefully soon, offer us a recording of the Choral Concerto...