Carcere Oscura

by Fabien Waksman

for accordion and string quintet

First performance in January 2020 – Folle journée de Nantes – by Félicien Brut, the Quatuor Hermès and Édouard Macarez

« 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


Carcere Oscura is a 7-minute piece for accordion, string quartet and double bass. Freely inspired by the first movement of Ludwig Van Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, composed for the NEUF programme, it is recorded on the album of the same name released in November 2020 on the label Mirare.