Aubert Lemeland (1932 - 2010)
Some artists’ work is inseparable from their personality ; this is certainly true of Aubert Lemeland, if one is to believe his declaration of faith : «music, for me, is firstly life. The notes come afterwards. Anything which was not written or produced based on this fundamental principle (...) is often little more than an exercise in style or «art for art’s sake». Which does not interest me.» This does not mean to say that he condemns perfection in writing : the whole of his production provides evidence of this, all the more eloquent as the scholarly skill which it reveals was earned at the price of a solitary labour, pursued outside the schoolroom.
His work was spread out over the years like a great tree, its branches bearing a new harvest each season, ever richer in technical achievement and profound humanism. His independence of spirit has kept him away from the inner circles and salons in which careers are forged : witness his total refusal of any allegiance to the serialism which ruled musical life in Paris for several decades. The success brought by the recording of his works, the audiences they have found abroad (in Switzerland and Germany particularly) and several instances of official recognition, demonstrate that his absolute refusal to compromise in any way with the establishment is bearing fruit : more and more music lovers are now coming to his work, which is finding enthusiastic supporters among the ranks of prestigious artists such as the soprano Carole Farley, the actress Pamela Hunter and Michel Plasson.
Aubert Lemeland is now garnering the recognition and admiration which were bound to be the eventual reward of his belief in himself and in an ideal of generosity and openness to the world, which often exacts a high price. A closer look at his background provides the key to a work born from life itself.
Aubert Lemeland was born in La Haye du Puits, in the Manche (France), in 1932. Up to the outbreak of war, his uneventful childhood was lived to the unchanging rhythm of the seasons : the lessons learnt from the woods and hills were to be far more influential than attendance at the local school. This landscape, whose tranquil beauty and mystery watched over his early years (this is the setting of the novels by Barbey d’Aurevilly), would later be the inspiration for work filled with an intense feeling for nature : L’hiver qui vient (1989), L’automne et ses envols d’étourneaux (1990) or A l’étale de basse-mer (1995), which incorporate the impressions gleaned from those first, vital experiences of early childhood. Even more important would be the war years, which abruptly sounded the knell of these tanquil dreams : the dangerous routes of flight, the family home occupied and, after four years of trials and tribulations, the miracle of the Normandy landings and the joy of liberty regained at the cost of the sacrifice made by the men who came from across the sea. Those glorious days were to be indelibly engraved in the mind of this adolescent boy who had a ringside seat. They provide a partial explanation for the most significant works he has given us : Omaha (1993), Songs for the dead soldiers (1993), Airmen (1994). These pages are an act of faith in the eternal values of charity, self-abnegation and self-transcendence. They are made an even more moving testament by the fact that Lemeland experienced the vital hours of that great turning point in our collective destiny.
Immediately after the war, he went to Paris to continue his studies at the Lycée Claude Bernard. Years full of learning and new acquaintances, in particular meeting Gilbert Amy («This had as great an impact on me as Le Sacre du Printemps») and free rein given to his interest in Russian literature and music (Prokofiev, Shostakovich).
The two years spent in London were also of the utmost importance (1952-1954). «I was twenty when I went to London : the music draw me there». The richness of musical life in London enabled him to discover what have been his most long-lasting enthusiasms - besides the Russians - Delius, Vaughan-Williams, Walton, Sibelius, Britten...
On his return to France and after a long illness, he encountered a variety of influences, of which Californian jazz of the Fifties was soon to inspire the 1954 Choral -variations for piano, which he considers to be the cornerstone of his future work. («The left hand hasn’t forgotten Bud Powell !»).
Meeting Michel Plasson in 1969 was to be a defining moment, which set the seal on the start of a long and fruitful partnership : it was the Orchestre du Capitole that, in 1974, gave the first performance of the Première symphonie, reviews of which commended its «cosmic romanticism» and in 1985, that of Ultramarine Nocturne. However, in Marc Tardue (Musical Director of the Grenoble instrumental ensemble) the composer also found an effective and enthusiastic supporter for the promotion and first performance of a canon which was already impressive for its quantity, variety and quality : from the cantata L’hiver qui vient to the opera La lettre au cachet rouge.
The first performance of the Sixième symphonie for full orchestra by Hubert Borgel of the Capitole de Toulouse (1987) and of the Septième symphonie by Jacques Mercier and the Orchestre National d’Ile de France (1991) were other high points, evidence of a definitive audience acquired against all the odds.
Aubert Lemeland’s natural instinct for unusual tone combinations is a considerable advantage for chamber music : in this area, he has greatly enriched the repertoire for instruments which are often wrongly ignored, such as woodwind, saxophone and guitar, and this significant contribution has been the subject of a number of publications by Éditions Gérard Billaudot as well as recordings.
The catalyst for an abundance of works in an area for which his immense knowledge of literature predisposed him was to be his meeting with the soprano Carole Farley, who gave the first performance of Time Landscapes, based on ancient Chinese poems, with Michel Plasson and the Orchestre du Capitole (1993). This friendship, blossoming under a remarkable convergence of views in many areas, came at just the right moment : the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the D-Day landings evoked in this musician memories of a haunting intensity which found its outlet in a rich harvest of songs with orchestra of which the American singer was to be the inspired interpreter (Songs for the Dead Soldiers an Airmen, works dedicated to Jules Roy, writer and wartime pilot). These works opened up new horizons for the composer : from melody to opera was but a short step, made with La lettre au cachet rouge (with a libretto by Jean de Beer after Alfred de Vigny), performed 14 times in Switzerland between Marche and May 1995 under the direction of Marc Tardue. Recently recorded in Germany, this opera, which, against a richly evocative maritime musical background, deals with the conflict between passion and duty (a subject highly revelatory of the author’s humanist preoccupations) is soon to be released on compact disc. Recent years have seen an increase in this inclination towards vocal music, whose multiple possibilities accord with an inspiration nurtured by an authentic humanism and the infinite resources of a technique with long experience of the most sophisticated devices, and with a natural instinct for the multiple parameters of song.
The recent success of a Neuvième symphonie conducted by Michel Plasson at Toulouse (1997), the golden tuning fork awarded for the recording of Airmen and Time Landscapes by Carole Farley and Marc Tardue (May 1997), the commissioning by the State of Rhineland-Palatinate of a tenth symphony for soprano, narrator and full orchestra, «Lettre perdue» are further evidence of the well-deserved audience he is finally enjoying. For too long «condemned to write for his drawer», as he himself says, ignored by the State authorities and buried alive by them for the last twenty-five years, Aubert Lemeland is proof, thanks to his inextinguishable vitality, that recognition does await work of true worth, if the public finally gains access to it.
Michel FLEURY, 1998 - courtesy Gerard Billadout Editeur
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