Fabien WAKSMAN, composer

Carcere Oscura (for accordion and string quintet)
a piece freely inspired by Beethoven’s Symphony n° 5

« What can hearing loss mean for a composer ?

This is the question I tried to answer by composing this sextet, written in tribute to Beethoven.

It was the vision of a Beethoven, prisoner of his own body that was the starting point for this piece. An collossal prison, of Dantesque proportions, and at the same time oppressive. This interior world, which I imagine to be the spirit of a Beethoven without auditory contact with the exterior, reminded me of the Piranesi’s engravings. Carcere Oscura, produced in 1743, is a kind of prelude to the cycle of the Carceri d’Invenzione, the artist’s masterpiece. This prison universe has a fantastic aspect due to its monumental type. Nevertheless, it remains forever closed, inhuman, and therefore terribly frightening. In the words of Marguerite Yourcenar, the Carceri evoke a “fictitious world, yet sinisterly real, claustrophobic, and yet megalomaniac (which) is reminiscent of that in which modern humanity is getting more and more locked up every day ».

The first four notes of the Fifth Symphony, Beethoven’s most famous motif, run through the whole piece, its treatment is most often frantic, as if it seemed to run desperately in a perpetually evolving labyrinth in look for an exit, a comfort, a glow. The decor may change considerably, the feeling of urgency rarely leaves a discourse in which the accordion gradually manages to gain independence from a very dense and compact string ensemble.

A short ascending cadenza to the accordion leads to the appearance of a new cell from the second theme of the first movement of Beethoven’s symphony, which gradually seems to bring relative calm, whose dim light cannot prevent the return of the initial frantic type. It is in a access of furious dementia that this quest ends, as vain as it is essential, of a freedom that eternally flees us… »

Fabien Waksman

Fabien Waksman in a few lines…

Born in 1980, Fabien Waksman is one of the most important French composers of his generation. He integrates the CNSMDP (Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris) in 1999, where he meets lots of musical personalities who marked him, like Jean-François Zygel or Thierry Escaich. At the same time he studies composition with Guillaume Connesson.

He receives several prizes for his works and career: the André Caplet’s composition prize from the Académie des Beaux-Arts in 2011 and the Sacem Young Composer Prize. He’s been teaching harmony at CNSMDP since 2006.

He is very early called by important conductors and concert halls : mostly inspired by Claude Debussy and Igor Stravinsky, Fabien Waksman is particularly noticed for his orchestration’s talents. In 2009, the conductor Stéphane Denève asked him for two symphonic works : Solar Storm and Le Parfum d’Aphrodite. He conducts the Premieres with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. In 2012, Fabien Waksman composed Protonic Games for Radio France, premiered by Daniele Gatti and the Orchestre National de France at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées. He continues his collaboration with this orchestra in 2019 when he created the music for a Charlie Chaplin’s movie and in 2020 with the composition of the music for a concert-fiction, Moby-Dick, which is edited as a CD-book (Gallimard).

In 2018 he wrote his first cello concerto, Le Rêve de Tzinacan, dedicated to the cellist Anastasia Kobekina. A second concerto, for piano this time, is commissioned in 2020 by the international piano competition « Piano Campus » in Paris. Fabien Waksman is currently working on a third concerto for the accordionist Félicien Brut and the Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine.

As a pianist himself, instrumental and vocal chamber music takes an important part in his work. He collaborates with world-known musicians like Eric Le Sage, Emmanuel Pahut, Paul Meyer, Jérôme Ducros, Jérôme Pernoo, Florent Héau, Mathieu Herzog, Eva Zavaro, Guillaume Vincent, Claire-Marie Le Guay, Karol Mossakowsky, Félicien Brut and the string quartets Hanson, Hermès and Aquilone. His music can regularly be heard in festivals like Musique à l’Emperi, Auvers-sur-Oise, Les folles journées de Nantes, or the Centre de musique de chambre de Paris. He is currently composing a diptych of melodies inspired by Japanese literature on an original text of the poetess Camille Loivier for the mezzo soprano Brenda Poupard.

Fabien Waksman has also composed many operas commissioned by the Opéra National de Paris : L’oiseau de glace (2012) and Epic Falstaff (2013), both written with the director and librettist Florent Siaud. In 2014 he composed a big fresco for children choir and orchestra based on a text by William Blake, Europe, a Prophecy. In 2017, the Orchestre National de Lyon created La Clé d’argent, an operatic trilogy tributed to H.P. Lovecraft’s world. To deal with his approach of vocal music in depth, he imagines Sumanga’ for choir and harp on a commission by the Orchestre de Paris ; it is a work freely inspired by traditional music from the whole world.

Passionated by cosmology, Fabien Waksman collaborates with the astrophysician Jean-Philippe Uzan. Together they created Le Baiser de la mort in 2016, a piano quintet, inspired by the discovery of gravitational waves. They are currently working on a cycle of melodies for soprano and prepared piano, the Hawking Songs, thus paying tribute to the important discoveries of Stephen Hawking on the black holes. Keen on new sounds and musical horizons, Fabien Waksman is also initiated into electro-acoustic composition’s technics at the Centre de Création Musicale Art Zoyd and works on a piece for piano and electronic keyboard for January 2022.