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Fifteen - Berceuse

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 December 2023

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Summary

Grisey's death followed the composition of his masterpiece on death. Originally a requiem for his mother, it became an autorequiem. It's an unsettling circumstance, made more so by the frequent references to death in his writings. In June 1998, he had said of the Quatre chants, “Why are the final decisions the most painful ones? Saying goodbye? Attachment? To what, from what?” Friends had memories of things that seemed prophetic in hindsight. “He was fascinated by death, as a symbol and as a fact,” Zinsstag said. Claudia Doderer remembered his flushed face after a particularly intense lesson, Wintle a surprisingly full medicine cabinet for what seemed to be such a healthy man. Jocelyne thought there might have been a connection between his mental anguish at the end of their relationship and the brain aneurism that ended his life.

But there is also evidence that Quatre chants was the beginning of a new stylistic era in Grisey's life, and that he never thought of the piece in connection with his own death. One example is the unfinished work based on the mirlitonnades. Many of Grisey's friends recalled that after completing the Quatre chants, he was exhilarated about the possibilities he had discovered. “He was going on and on about that piece, really the only time I’d ever heard him go on about his music,” Joshua Fineberg said. “He’d figured out what he needed to do.” A letter to the artistic director of the Donaueschinger Musiktage, Armin Köhler, shows that Grisey was already planning commissions past the year 2000. After the completion of Quatre chants, Grisey told George Benjamin how excited he was about this new-found stylistic independence; he called his friend Jean-Pierre Luminet and said he had found “a new language that begins with this composition.” He also spoke with Jean-Luc Hervé, who remembered something Grisey told him. “We are like onions,” Grisey said. “We shed our skin.” At the time of his death, the composer was the closest he’d ever been to his true self. He was fifty-two years old. “He died just as he was coming into focus,” Christopher Wintle said.

The French musical scene was stricken, having lost one of its leading artistic personalities. For the critic Cestin Cazaban, Grisey's death “opened a breach in a generation.” In Le Monde, Gérard Condé wrote, “Sudden, unexpected, the announcement of his death leaves us distraught.

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The Life and Music of Gérard Grisey
Delirium and Form
, pp. 276 - 280
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2023

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  • Berceuse
  • Jeffrey Arlo Brown
  • Book: The Life and Music of Gérard Grisey
  • Online publication: 17 December 2023
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781805430728.015
Available formats
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Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

  • Berceuse
  • Jeffrey Arlo Brown
  • Book: The Life and Music of Gérard Grisey
  • Online publication: 17 December 2023
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781805430728.015
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Berceuse
  • Jeffrey Arlo Brown
  • Book: The Life and Music of Gérard Grisey
  • Online publication: 17 December 2023
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781805430728.015
Available formats
×