In 2003, François-Xavier Roth founded the orchestra Les Siècles (The Centuries). His aspiration: All works were to be played on instruments that would have been customary at the time of their creation and first performance. The orchestral suite from Jean-Philippe Rameau’s musical and theatrical world-trip Les Indes Galantes will be interpreted on historical instruments from around the year 1750. Hector Berlioz’ symphony with viola solo was inspired by a literary source and written for the demonic violin virtuoso Niccolò Paganini, who wished for once to excel at the lower string instrument. It will be performed on French instruments from the mid-19th century. Helmut Lachenmann’s Mouvement (- vor der Erstarrung) will be played on modern instruments.
These three composers were and are musical thinkers and fantasists, each in their own way. Their thinking in and about music is equally precise, far-sighted and convincing; their imagination transcends what already exists with every work, saving itself and the music from torpor. Conjecture about how music might be played in Turkey or Peru provided Rameau with unheard-of ideas on harmony and instrumentation. In his Harold-Symphony, Berlioz found prototypical phrases of romantic musical language, integrating a stylised folkloristic sound and the chorale of (and in) nature like gleaming inlays. In Mouvement, Helmut Lachenmann poses the vital question of music as the work’s central concern, guiding “perception towards the anatomy of the [musical] manifestation”, where entirely familiar elements appear as something completely bewildering. The design of Les Siècles’ programme and sound reflects what is on Lachenmann’s mind: the materiality of music – and that includes everything that is heard – as its spiritual substance.