François Couturier piano
Anja Lechner violoncello
Jean-Marc Larché soprano saxophone
Jean-Louis Matinier accordion
Recorded April 2016, Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI, Lugano
Engineer: Stefano Amerio
Produced by Manfred Eicher
Release date: April 7, 2017
When opening our eyes, do our minds turn to thoughts of waking? Nuit blanche, the latest from pianist François Couturier’s ever-deepening Tarkovsky Quartet, answers this question with a possibility of dreams. It’s clear not only in the tracks variously titled “Rêve,” “Dream,” and “Traum,” but also in the blurring of corporeal borders such linguistic costume changes imply. In those pieces, each fitting into a larger improvisational puzzle, we get lost just to be found.
In so much of the connective tissue that holds together these vital organs, this quartet’s ethos blossoms vividly. A gentle urgency in the title track’s cello, singing at merest touch of Anja Lechner’s bow and tempered by the cross-hatching of Jean-Louis Matinier’s accordion, provides ample preparation for the soprano saxophone of Jean-Marc Larché to unfold its wings one feather at a time. As if to drain that metaphor of its itineracy, tracks like “Soleil sous la pluie” and “Fantasia” evoke a feeling of suspension. Taps of bow on strings and of knuckles on hollow body play out a dialogue of mechanical sins and immaterial salvations, each detail a poem without words. The latter piece’s transcendence recalls the levitation scene in The Sacrifice, and by that association adds a touch of spirit to vessels of the flesh, turning in on itself until the two are indistinguishable in glory.
Whether in more direct references such as “Dakus,” inspired by Tōru Takemitsu’s Nostalghia (itself written in memory of the director), or the distinct nostalgias of “Urga,” every ruined landscape we encounter here is, as in the wasted Zone of Stalker, a blanket of broken futures over a memory too joyous to contain. Couturier’s unaccompanied “Daydream” and “Nightdream” are likewise liminal, at once floating and sinking in a stream of imagined silence. Between them is “Cum dederit delectis suis somnum,” plucked from Antonio Vivaldi’s Nisi Dominus and passed like a torch from bow to reed with all the sanctity it demands.
If, as Andrei Tarkovsky himself once said, “the sounds of this world are so beautiful in themselves that if only we could listen to them properly, cinema would have no need for music at all,” we might also say that the music of this quartet named for the Russian auteur, if watched properly, would have no need for imagery at all. Then again, one can’t help but treat it as a projection screen for internal scenes, each more personal than the last. And so, ending as we began, with the eyes as fulcrums between dreaming and waking, never knowing where to draw a line between the two yet confident that no level of imagination can do justice to what they see, we walk into sunset, knowing that all we need to make it a sunrise is stand on our heads.