In computer science, the concept of persistence refers to the possibility of information surviving the application that created it, thus coming to exist after being released from the process that brought it to life. I find this expression particularly intriguing also in relation to the relationship that, as contemporaries, we build with our historical past, with our collective memory – in other words, with our culture.
When, during the construction of our project "Tracce", I had the opportunity to confront the fascinating figure of Tchaikovsky as a composer, it was immediately and intuitively clear to me that the only legitimate way, at least for me, was to avoid trying to appropriate his sound and expressive world and to use it as if it were my own. What I have developed in Chants de fragilité are therefore the... "traces" of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto: fragments, hints, intuitions, memories which, freed from the compositional context in which they were born, have lent themselves to giving life to other situations, other musical organisms, while maintaining, however, even if in some ways hidden, their expressive charm. Those who know the Concerto in depth will probably be able to recognise them, but this is not my narrative objective; in fact I would almost prefer this not to happen, leaving Tchaikovsky's suggestions to remain subliminal, below the surface, signs of homage rather than objects of manipulation.
One of the main concepts of the "Tracce" project is the narrative exploration and highlighting of the places linked to Tchaikovsky's presence in Switzerland. With Christian Tetzlaff and Robert Kowalski, we therefore went to the very places where Tchaikovsky wrote the Concerto: to Clarens, near Montreux on the shore of Lake Geneva, where the guesthouse where Tchaikovsky stayed was located, and to Chillon Castle, which Tchaikovsky visited several times and provided inspiration to Lord Byron (but more on this next year...). In search of the "sense of the place": Montreux, Clarens and Chillon are the places of his presence and the temptation to retrace those paths, to revisit those spaces was irresistible. It was like going to the lakeside in Clarens in search of the echoes not so much of the sound of the Violin Concerto as of the thoughts that had created it; but always with the clear awareness that an exercise in historical reconstruction would be an illusion. The Montreux we visited is in fact the city of today, with the Palace of the Montreux Jazz Festival and the statue of Freddie Mercury; the Chillon Castle of today is the one aimed at modern tourists, rented out regularly for events, conferences and birthdays. This apparent contradiction is actually a central dramaturgical element in the entire "Tracce" project.
The fragility of the title, finally, is that of memory and at the same time that of sound: it is the fascinating and wonderfully complex threshold around which the instrument begins to vibrate, the sound begins to exist, in an infinite and almost microscopic delicacy and, indeed, fragility, but, like all fragile things, precious and moving. I wanted to explore it again in this work also because, perhaps only apparently, it is so distant from the full and carnal expressiveness of Tchaikovsky's sound that when the Violin Concerto will begin it will be as if another world opens up.
Paris, November 2021