Pascal Gallois, Director of the Mozart Conservatory in central Paris, was an internationally renowned bassoonist. Having worked in depth with a number of contemporary composers, he has invested in the dissemination of contemporary music for several years by devoting himself to conducting.
He has conducted a number of specialized ensembles around the world and is now founding the “Altus New Breath Ensemble“, ensemble bringing together instrumental soloists from Macedonia and former Yugoslavia. He tells us about it:
“I had the chance, through my instrument, to work with Boulez, Stockhausen, Berio, Ligeti, etc. and I consider that it is for me a duty to share this heritage with young instrumentalists as well as with the public (each composer is unique, even in his notation system, as between Gérard Grisey, Pierre Boulez or Salvatore Sciarrino for example).
The countries beyond the Iron Curtain only had late access to our contemporary music. However, Eastern European countries have a long musical heritage and education has produced and still produces excellent musicians. I conducted a few years ago the Macedonian Philharmonic Orchestra. The musicians are fond of new repertoires: even for Verklärte Nacht, they were not familiar with this music.
We formed this Altus New Breath ensemble with the Macedonian Ministry of Culture – there are excellent musicians in this country (and elsewhere in the world given the diaspora: we are going to play a work by Pande Shahov, who is professor of composition at the Royal College of Music in London, I could also mention the flutist Elena Stojceska who studied in Paris). In Macedonia there is a superb philharmonic orchestra, an opera and the public is very open: I played – in local creation! Music for eighteen musicians by Steve Reich: full house and standing ovation! I would add that Macedonia is a very French-speaking and Francophile country.
Having cultural connections with Germany and Austria (I taught in Vienna), I was able to organize exchanges: for example, we will perform works by Augusta Read Thomas, Johannes Maria Staud, Pierre Boulez at the Mozarteum in Salzburg. and Pande Shahov. At the beginning of October we will take part in a new contemporary music festival in Salzburg “Dynamikfest“. The idea is to create a connection between the generation of Boulez, Stockhausen, Berio… and the younger generations of composers. We will have four concerts with the ensemble this season and projects with the Ohrid Festival, in North Macedonia.
My position as a performer, as a non-composer, helps me to escape from the divisions and chapels of contemporary music – I have thus been able to make programs including Luciano Berio as well as Steve Reich or Toshio Hosokawa. Like the actor, the performer is an interface between the public and contemporary music; in Macedonia, as in Germany, the public knows and is attached to the musicians; It’s easier when they see a performer they know as playing Beethoven, performing Ligeti for example.”