Per Nørgård: Nuit des Hommes

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Allen Schrott
Per Nørgård's unrelentingly abstract "Nuit des Hommes" attempts to grapple with the human consequences of World War I by creating a pseudo-dramatic form out of the poems of Guillaume Apollinaire -- a surrealist French poet who served in the Great War. Nørgård's own label for the piece is "opera(torio)," which is as good an attempt as any to describe the genre-bending nature of the piece; it has dramatic content, but no plot per se, and the persistent surrealism would make it a challenge to stage. Helping to confuse matters, the two singers adopt shifting identities: in the first act they are a couple, he a soldier headed to war; in the second, he remains a soldier, but ...
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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Allen Schrott
Per Nørgård's unrelentingly abstract "Nuit des Hommes" attempts to grapple with the human consequences of World War I by creating a pseudo-dramatic form out of the poems of Guillaume Apollinaire -- a surrealist French poet who served in the Great War. Nørgård's own label for the piece is "opera(torio)," which is as good an attempt as any to describe the genre-bending nature of the piece; it has dramatic content, but no plot per se, and the persistent surrealism would make it a challenge to stage. Helping to confuse matters, the two singers adopt shifting identities: in the first act they are a couple, he a soldier headed to war; in the second, he remains a soldier, but she becomes the ambiguous figure of "kAli" (the name of an Indian deity), who seems somewhat like a correspondent, reporting on action as it occurs, but who also speaks as if from the very spirit of the conflict itself, inviting soldiers to enter her as they would the sexual embrace of a woman. Regardless of what niche one chooses for it, "Nuit des Hommes" is an arresting work from its first bars. The combination of electronic sounds, including a Theremin, with a chamber ensemble and the two solo voices creates a sonic landscape that shifts as easily as a daydream. The textures are atonal (often microtonal), busy, rhythmically impenetrable, and occasionally pointillistic in their brief flurries of notes. The vocal parts are rarely melodic in the conventional sense; they are often gestural in nature -- pure vocal characterization divorced from conventional aspects of song, or even speech. Nørgård has, in sense, "cast" the part of the war itself with the electronic instruments, which loom threateningly in the background during the opening domestic scenes, and then burst onto the scene with vivid literalness, embodying the sounds of guns, bombs, and vehicles, once the male protagonist reaches the battlefield in Act Two. The effect is that of a dreamlike sequence of vague memories -- more impression than literal remembrance; pure experience. "Nuit des Hommes" is heavy listening -- deeply complicated and difficult to parse. Attempts to find literal meaning in the libretto are frustrating, since Apollinaire's poetry is often strange on its own, and here it has been sewn into a larger fabric. But the piece makes quite an impression, especially in the second act, where the musical fabric seems to tap into the actual horrific memory of conflict, allowing the listener to experience flashbacks of times and places they have not experienced. The only disapponting moments come from occasional electronic reminders of bad science fiction sound effects (parts of the opening preamble are spot-on re-creations of the Star Trek transporter, for instance.) Recommended to the brave among us.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 11/16/2004
  • Label: Marco Polo
  • UPC: 636943601129
  • Catalog Number: 8226011
  • Sales rank: 301,301

Tracks

Disc 1
  1. 1–21 Nuit des Hommes, opera - Per Nørgård & Guillaume Apollinaire (63:33)
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