Chergui for 7 instruments (2012)
(22 min)

Boosey & Hawkes Berlin

First performance
Ensemble Interface, Scott Voyles, Festival Ultraschall, Berlin, Germany, January 19th, 2013

Bernd Künzig on Chergui, program note 2013 (Translator: Dr. J. Bradford Robinson)
This single-movement work of (by Borowski´s standards) unusually long duration proceeds from the typical germ cell of a minor 2nd in the flute. The quarter-note bisbigliando in the flute and clarinet at the opening projects a gentle breath of Orientalism – rightly so, for chergui is the name of an especially dry Moroccan desert wind that blows hot in summer and cold in winter. A breath of the chergui can thus be descried in the curt germ cells from the flute and clarinet in the opening bar. (It is also the name of a perfume created by Serge Lutens, though actually this has nothing to do with the piece, for this music is decidedly not perfumed.) The very sound of the word seems to have fascinated the composer. And the manner in which music is made to speak is, of course, an underlying theme in Borowski´s creative work. Line and surface, melody and harmony, organic development and tectonic shift: these are the elements from which the piece is constructed. In the final third of the work the thematic-motivic manipulation – a factor actually rooted in the Austro-German tradition – gives rise to a sonic level ultimately redolent of French music. The finale, following a sharply truncated cello line, is dominated by constantly crystallizing tremolandi, as if in homage to the luxuriating tremolos in many of Boulez´s works. However apt the association may be, something still remains stuck on the surface, where a soundscape of harp bisbigliando and long sustained notes from the flute and clarinet generates an effect of almost spinetingling suspense à la Alfred Hitchcock. Into this soundscape burst jolting gestures from the vibraphone and piano, and later from the harp, that attempt to prod the plodding events along. The idea of constant sonic transformation becomes decisive in this single-movement piece. At the end the dry wisps of the chergui return. The piece comes to an end, not in a semitone gesture, but in almost tonal harmony. Three accented minor 3rds in the piano, harp and vibraphone blot the piece dry, as if the wind had been followed by rain. Or as if we were again left standing before the emptiness of an open question destined to form a new beginning.

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