Proms 2017: Laurent Durupt – Grids for Greed (World Première)

Last Sunday afternoon, French composer Laurent Durupt‘s new work Grids for Greed was given its first performance by the Van Kuijk Quartet at the second Proms Chamber Music concert, in Cadogan Hall. In his answers to my pre-première questions, Durupt made two remarks that are clearly most important to the way the piece operates. First is his comment about feeling “a need to come back to more abstract kind of musical projects such as this string quartet…”. Grids for Greed doesn’t have an imposed extra-musical narrative or programme. Durupt is instead concerned with creating a tense duality between notions of precision – corresponding to the ‘grids’ of the title, here being synonymous with mental, carefully-defined and -executed processes – and more rough, improvisatory elements, corresponding to the ‘greed’ and stemming from the unconscious and more rough and intuitive decisions and impulses.

The second pertinent remark refers to the way Durupt takes “a long time thinking on my project and the meaning of it, trying to match the general concept with a musical technique”. This seeking to encapsulate the modus operandi of a piece within a relatively narrow range of technical expression is extremely clear in Grids for Greed; indeed, it’s arguably the work’s most defining characteristic.

Its ten-minute duration is divided into three roughly equal sections which Durupt uses to create a behavioural triptych. The outer sections are obsessed with tremolandi. Starting from an interval of a major 7th (the quartet divided into two pairs), these pitches start to meander and slide, articulated as sustained notes that are regularly broken-up but never halted by tremolando bursts. As the pitches slowly move, their vertical alignment establishes through an ever-shifting relationship with consonance and dissonance. Here’s that duality Durupt was after, the quartet continually feeling as though they’re reaching points of resolution while at the same time obviously still in the midst of moving to and from somewhere else.

Leaping to the work’s denouement, in the final section Durupt explores similar material, this time ‘triggered’ by one of the violins that acts as a spur to get the quartet riled up into a thoroughly demonstrative frame of mind. Arguably more forceful in this second iteration, i’ve been in two minds as to whether the music loses some of its power due to being a clear return to this earlier idea or gains power for the very same reason, due to the strong sense of recapitulation that it exhibits. Durupt arguably keeps it all going a bit too long second time around, so ultimately i tend more to the former conclusion than the latter.

The most interesting section is the middle one, in which the quartet softens and withdraws, arriving at or coalescing around a single pitch. The movement here is quiet and small (and all but ruined in this performance by an exceedingly loud and persistent bronchially-challenged hooligan in the audience), as though Durupt was subjecting it to enormous external pressure, the instruments managing to club together to enact tiny surges here and there. And when the quartet separates again into two pairs, with little ‘calls’ sounding in the upper registers and wan glissandi below, the effect is beautiful and genuinely hypnotic.

Whether this and the potency of the opening section are enough to make Grids for Greed a really riveting listen is hard to say. But as it stands, the piece clearly does what Durupt intended to do, and it certainly doesn’t lack interest or energy.

Laurent Durupt – Grids for Greed (World Première)

FLAC [58Mb]

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Laurent Durupt – Grids for Greed
  • Loved it! (13%, 6 Votes)
  • Liked it (45%, 21 Votes)
  • Meh (21%, 10 Votes)
  • Disliked it (13%, 6 Votes)
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Posted on by 5:4 in Premières, Proms
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5 Responses to Proms 2017: Laurent Durupt – Grids for Greed (World Première)

  1. Chris L

    Y’know, after hearing this it wouldn’t surprise me at all to learn that one of Durupt’s chief influences was the “Grande Dame of the Glissando” herself, Gloria Coates. Which is, of course, a good thing!

  2. Laurence W

    I was at this concert and I hadn’t gone to see the premiere, though I listen to a lot of contemporary music. I found it passable, not ground-breaking and not dull. My favourite moment was when the lead violin is returning to the tremolando behaviour and rest of the quartet are still in the quieter sound world. But, it didn’t catch me into it like some of my favourite quartet works like Jürg Frey No. 2, or Ferneyhough No. 4.

    • 5:4

      i’m with you there Laurence, not great, not awful, just passable. Didn’t really catch me either, but i do like that softer central episode, there’s some magic going on there.

  3. Daniel Pett

    I liked it as what it was: a small scale single movement piece. I think its reception was hampered by coming after another small scale masterwork (the langsamersatz), being presented and hyped as Durupt’s first string quartet and also having a title that could imply more substantial material

    • 5:4

      Yes, all very good points. i think the extent to which Laurent talked about the piece beforehand, describing in detail three different aspects of the title, also lent a bit too much weight to what it actually sounded like. i mean, i’m all for multi-layered compositions, but come on, this was really just a simple A-B-A structure, so no need to get too overblown about the deep inner meaning, inspiration and so on. Another example of a composer not realising that less is more: better to let the music speak and not get involved yourself!

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