Meeting Franck Christoph Yeznikian

Meeting Franck Christoph Yeznikian, composer in quest of meaning [FR]

Franck Yeznikian - photo Csaba Kézér
Franck Yeznikian – photo Csaba Kézér


This young man, 45 yo, is friendly, elegant, delicate, both passionate about philosophy, psychoanalysis as esoteric (!). Attracted by the dawn or dusk (he does not conceal his fascination for Schumann ) and fleeing the harsh lights of the show. A little lost to the current overproduction of music, many seeming to have lost any sense (« Stockhausen: what magnitude of expression ! »). « Composers are currently in a period of the end of post-modernism. The composer must take risks, not repeat and not applying the same recipes as for the marketed products » .


Coming from the post-punk universe, thus having always scrutinized the classical music repertoire, his path lead him to undertake private courses from Klaus Huber. He attended workshops with Gérard Grisey, Harrison Birtwistle, Brian Ferneyhough. He went through education in acousmatic music with Denis Dufour and Jean-Marc Duchenne and he received his diploma in instrumental composition with the composer and conductor Robert H.P. Platz in Holland.

Among his preferred composers, besides Huber and Holliger: LachenmannBancquart, Ferneyhough, Guézec, Barraqué, Zimmermann, Nono, Birtwistle, Grisey and his contemporary Enno Poppe.

However, he fully complies with the work of a composer of « soft  » contemporary music, Philippe Hersant, whom he emphasizes the particularity of his  harmonic language but enjoys much less Glass, Pärt and others, and is openly opposed to the music of those he called « deniers » – we won’t cite names here. It is necessary to know how to distinguish, he argues: « take the approach of a group like Radiohead, whom I appreciate the musicality, well, I find it problematic when they associate with Penderecki! Why? Because this composer is no longer that he claimed to be. We need to get to measure, despite different styles of languages, where are or would be the correspondancies. Penderecki has become a figure of marketable contemporary music in the sense of a star and therefore opposes, to certain ethical criteria, relatively speaking, for this English group, which, although with a worldwide reputation, follws a hind of research. » He willingly quotes some too little performed composers whhom music he enjoys:  Christophe Guiraud, Daniel Sprintz, Karim Haddad, or Jérôme Combier.

Being a composer today

To locate Franck Yeznikian, let say he feels little affinity with the compositional work of Pierre Boulez, he thinks that for him, the music is, beyond the eloquence of his craft, too much « the art for art. » That is why he deplores in parallel the lack of meaning of many contemporary musics, which explains his trajectory and composers with whom he feels close. He wishes and researchs through historical and structural constraints that music can still show the interval, the harmonic dimension in a faithful report to the line and the phrasing. He does not endorse a trend of today’s music that goes through the advocating spectacular attributes to take an example, the concept of saturation, « the world is sufficiently violent and noisy.  Our responsability as a composer is to refine listening and understanding against barbarism that rises and which we see infiltrating all levels of our civilization which liquid core values, construction, as perceptions intellection. We are seeing misinterpretations. Waste, diversions and so many works ofering so few prospects ».
In response, in one of his last pieces, which was created by the ensemble Contrechamps de Genève, it is written that a note must be payed on a vibraphone with the « impact » of the fragility of a match: action which could also be, literally and figuratively, flare…
This cultured man is deeply marked by his relation to history (that Armenian genocide which remains denied and transformed) and is very concerned by the decline of Western culture in particular through the state of the French society, whose current lethargy surprises him up the hypothesis of exile (quoting Marc André, who went into exile in Germany and change the spelling of his name to Mark Andre – the « other » in German). To take a picture, he sees himself as a composer, as observing from the depths of the ocean, the sinking of the great ship of the society which sinks slowly. One of his nagging questions is « why compose a new work? », a concern which is related to the teaching he received from the German Swiss composer Klaus Huber (1924 *) who just celebrated his ninetieth birthday. Thus, it is essential for him to write music that may be able to withstand time and that, from the perspective of what would be its survival.


« I am not played in France: not living in Paris, I do not belong to the circle of the happy few, these representatives of the Parisian scene which will inevitably end up deciding, alternatively, controls the State orders. » And giving us a distressing picture of French programming in isolation … His music is recognized in other countries, so he continues his work while living in Rhône-Alpes. He is currently in residence at the Schloß Solitude de Stuttgart who offers him a real framework for exchange and reflection on an international scale through the dynamics of its founder, Jean-Baptiste Joly.


His works are often linked to two poets found within many of his works with or without the presence of the voice (Paul Celan & Anne-Marie Albiach…), painting (Simon HantaïCy Tombly…).He can’t begin to write a work if he doesn’t feel the need to share and secondly if it can be projected on the conditions of its creation: by which musicians (destination), which room (space), in which program (context, positioning), so many elementary conditions which govern the reason for the creation of a new work.
Many pieces include celesta and often feature original instrumentarium compound from all periods. His works emphasize the narrative instead of the juxtaposition of moments that often remain without consequences. Currently, it is a fascination with the electric guitar and, as a result of a work that was commissioned by the Belgian him together, Ictus, which allowed him to reconnect with a part of his musical sensitivity debut even add up to the use of this instrument to the contrast of a clavichord through, for example, the question of touch and fragility.

Although no monographic record exists to this day, numerous excerpts of his works are available on YouTube. The special feature of his music is based on development of elements passing by both texts, images, references that weaves, assembles in the neologism « tramaturgie » in which marries the frame and dramaturgy. He would advise to approach his work with Pvlvere which is a mixed work, combining instrumental writing to set and spatial sounds. A score inspired in part by Vampyr Dreyer which is read slowly to bring out the figure of Robert Schumann and of Rilke through the issue of hallucination. For my part, I was impressed, among others, by this excerpt from Phasmes, a concerto for cello and orchestra, which was created in Germany by Jean-Guihen Queyras, based on the sculptural group of the Laocoon:


When a command of an instrumental work can bring from 7 to 10 000 € for good 6 months of work, a commissioned opera can bring in a lot more, which probably explains the growing number of opera creations in recent years. But opera as drama sung hardly interests for Franck Yeznikian (« The opera apart from masterpieces like Die Soldaten or Prometeo hardly interested me. All this artifice spending doesn’t go in the direction of subtlety, I prefer to see a film like Godard’s! »). If he were to write a work in this genre, it would be mainly focused on texts and images (see the graphic quality of his site and his video): « I am so engaged on the side of images, for example, that I could stand having to undergo a staging that would contradict the content and style of my work.  »

Finally, an illustration of one of his works inspired by painting:
« . . .  blessed with a tuneful voice » (2010) – Triptich by Cy Twombly « I am Thyrsis of Etna, blessed with a tuneful voice » (1977), work for clarinet (in A), piano, vibraphone & Electronics :

and a work bases on a Paul Celan poem « Harnischstriemen (Faltenachsen) » (track 7) :

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