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Répons is written for six soloists, chamber ensemble, computer sonics and live electronics. Its germ, the impetus of the proliferation, lies in the composition Messagesquisse for violoncello solo and six violoncellos, created in 1976 for the 70th birthday of his Swiss friend and passionate musical patron Paul Sacher.
The title “Répons” is the French word for responsorium, a “dialogue” between cantor and congregation. Boulez’ work often shows an affinity for responsorial forms; in Répons, one hears dialogues of very different kinds: between the chamber ensemble and the soloists: between instrumental families, instrumental groups and individual instruments treated as soloists within the chamber ensemble itself: between the instruments of the soloist group: between transformed and untransformed sound (the soloist group is manipulated electro-acoustically, while the chamber ensemble remains unalienated).
In its sum, Répons is a result of Boulez’ “plurifunctionality,” out of the widely fanned out personal union between the composer and the conductor, the planner, the organiser, the founder and long-time spiritus rector of the IRCAM Institute in Paris.
The idea of a dialogue between unalienated and electronically alienated instrumental sound in real time would not have been possible without the outcome of research at IRCAM.
The music is crystalline in its sheer beauty and in the mysterious network of quasi-neural connections that Boulez creates between every sound and moment in the piece. But Répons also has an awesome, torrential energy, in the streams of surreally fast music that careen throughout the ensemble, and in the collective, multi-dimensional sonic spectacular that the collective acoustic and electronic ensemble can create. (Tom Service, The Guardian, 12 June 2015)