Philippe Leroux : White Face – Debussy, Britten

Philippe Leroux
White Face is a piece that pulls inspiration from the inimitable curves that are drawn along the slopes of the Whiteface Mountain located in the Adirondacks in New York state. The main idea of this work is to explore the principle of “sliding.” All at once, it means recognizing the limits of space as a factor of directionality, as an element of articulation between sounds, as well as the simple pleasure of the phenomenon of sliding. In this piece, the notions of bends associated to filtering of sounds-of skidding. The sonic shadows of sliding are associated to the supports and disciplines upon which these glissandi encircle or slow down these slides with their own ruggedness and more or less consistent harsh qualities as well as subtle ethereal sounds.

Claude Debussy
The sole quartet by Claude Debussy is a decisive piece of his productions as well as his repertoire. He was still a young man when he decided to write a work modeled after the great constructions of César Franck, yet all the symbolic signs and even impressionism were already in place. Transparent textures, Gregorian modalities, orientalism, the quartet becomes symphonic without any weight or opacity. This work heralds a century of innovation and experimentation through the variety of colors and gleaming sounds.

Benjamin Britten
The immense British genius of Britten is most renown for his operas. Yet this gift for lyricism was also known for spreading into three quartets; misunderstood masterpieces that don’t leave the listener’s ears the same as how they entered. Originally written to commemorate the illustrious Henry Purcell, the second quartet is based on music from the end of the 17th century. As usual, Britten works with well-known old and current material, illuminating them with mystery, magic and poetry. Emotion appears through this new perspective on what we once believed to know. Thus the first movement unwinds in three spiraling melodies just as Purcell did in his Fantasies for Viols. Endlessly regenerating material seems to grow in a vegetal and arborescent manner, enveloping the listener within its numerous branches.
The second movement comes to us with the great classical scherzo model and its rhythmic material in an ABA form. But the joyfulness of the scherzo becomes a pounding, rebelliously corrosive anxiety. The third movement takes us back to the Baroque with Britten choosing to use the venerable chaconne as form of music. Three series of harmonic, rhythmic, melodic variations separated by soloist cadences are treated as steps of a long journey. Each step leads us farther and farther in a strange conscious dream-a vision by divination. Feelings of having truly lived those times without as much as having studied them doesn’t fail to leave the listener in wonder and amazement.


Philippe Leroux, White Face (Original Composition, Supported by the Cité de la Musique in Paris, Bela Quartet, Proquartet, Arsenal Concert Hall in Metz)
Claude Debussy, String Quartet
Benjamin Britten, Quartet No. 2


January 2016 the 15th at the Biennale des String Quartets in Paris.
Repeat performances at the Arsenal Concert Hall in Metz, Quartz in Brest, Scène nationale de Chambéry, Auditorium de Reims …


White Face is a commission of Bela Quartet, of Metz en Scènes’s Arsenal site, and ProQuartet – the European Center for Chamber Music, and the Paris Philharmonic.


Benjamin Britten : extract

About Philippe Leroux
White Face, extract