Graal Théâtre (Not a Knight) is a new version with text of the violin concerto Graal Théâtre. Only minor musical changes have been made to the score of the concerto to accommodate the presence of an actor speaking the text, which was written by Aleksi Barrière to the existing music. This version can be performed in concert or as a staged work.
Graal Théâtre (Not a Knight) for solo violin, actor, and orchestra was premiered by violinist Peter Herresthal and actor Thomas Kellner under the musical direction of Clément Mao-Takacs, in the version for chamber orchestra on May 21, 2018 with the ensemble Secession Orchestra, and in the version for symphony orchestra on May 31, 2018 with the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra. The work was presented in a staging by Aleksi Barrière, produced by La Chambre aux échos.
When Aleksi Barrière came to me and suggested writing a text that would be spoken over my violin concerto Graal Théâtre, I did wonder what he had in mind. But by then the piece had had a performance history of nearly 25 years and I had heard so many different versions of it, good or bad, that I thought: why not try something new. Aleksi came with very precise proposals about where to place the text in the music, conceived as to require little more adaptation than a few fermatas and repeats. He started writing his text only when I had greenlit those placements, and at that point I still had no idea what he could possibly be writing about.
I was astonished by the result when I first heard it. The text had found its place naturally, at times surfing over the music like a melodrama, at times actually supporting it – or simply challenging it into a conversation between equals. I got similarly puzzled feedback from listeners who knew the original version and now tried to remember what might have ‘filled the holes’ now occupied by text. The result was so integrated that I decided to make this new rendition available as a version on its own right, alongside the original for symphony orchestra from 1994 and the chamber version from 1997. Both instrumentations use the same bar numbers; they can be and have been used in conjunction with the new text.
The text was premiered by a male actor, Thomas Kellner, but there is no obvious limitation to the kind of voice that can perform it, or to how it should be staged, in contrast to Aleksi Barrière’s premiere production and subsequent concert versions. It can also be spoken in other languages than English, and translations already exist in French, German, and Finnish. The only requirement is that it cannot be performed by the solo violinist, as this is clearly another voice commenting on the adventures of the ‘hero of the night’. – Kaija Saariaho