On Monday night, an unusual French chamber ensemble called the Traffic Quintet performed the program from its new CD, Nouvelles Vagues, at La Maison Française. The project is a collaboration with French film composer Alexandre Desplat, with whom the Traffic Quintet appeared at the Cannes Film Festival in May (see some photos). The music, a series of transcriptions of film scores by Desplat, accompanies a video by Ange Leccia, which was shown on a screen behind the five musicians in the darkened and rather full auditorium at the embassy. In three sections, with brief pauses for the quintet to leave and re-enter the stage, the music and video paid homage to New Wave film, from Godard (Pierrot Le Fou, Le Mépris) and Truffaut (Jules et Jim, La Peau Douce) to Bertolucci (Le Dernier Tango à Paris) and Audiard (Un Héros Très Discret, Sur Mes Lèvres, and others).
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Nouvelles Vagues de Godard à Audiard, Alexandre Desplat, Traffic Quintet (September 25, 2007)
The imagery is extraordinarily beautiful, including pretty and pouting women, rainy streets, churning smoke, midnight drives, but it does not add up to an intelligible narrative. The music is similarly pretty, much of it in the rhythmically pulsating, pseudo-Minimalist style that has made Desplat so popular with film directors. It is music that has a modern edge but says little, tucked comfortably behind images. The five players are all highly skilled musicians, but there were technical issues that detracted from the performance, especially intonation and the execution of harmonics. Even if one wonders what is the ultimate point of this unusual project, it provided a diverting hour for eyes and ears.
Traffic Quintet, "Jules et Jim" (from Nouvelles Vagues,
music arranged by Alexandre Desplat)
The Traffic Quintet also performed this program at Florence Gould Hall in New York on October 2 and will appear at the Théâtre de l'Atelier in Paris on October 8. The next classical concert at La Maison Française will feature Klavier Trio Amsterdam (October 29, 7:30 pm).