The following FEATURE was written for the John Cage Centennial Festival Washington, DC. It is copyrighted and appears in its original publication here. While links TO this FEATURE from other sites are welcome, the FEATURE itself may not be reprinted for any reason without express agreement in writing from the copyright holder/author. Please contact Stacie Birky Greene to facilitate this.

An Uncommon Intensity

The brilliant young French cellist, Alexis Descharmes, has been an advocate of new music since emerging in his 20s as a soloist of note in the context of such festivals as Dijon’s Why Note?

A poster announcing the first performances of 30 premieres written especially for Descharmes

His audacious project 30 ans > 30 créations was premiered at the Cité de la musique in Paris and then toured to other parts of Europe. He has award-winning solo recordings of the works of Saariaho, Huber, Carter, and Franz Liszt. He has been a member of the leading French Ensemble Court-circuit, since its founding by composer Philippe Hurel and conductor Pierre-André Valade in 1991 and is now also a member of the Bastille Opera Orchestra. Descharmes has a substantial history in the Washington area, having performed frequently at the French Embassy, and also on the 2010 festival CHANGES:seasons, becoming, at that time, an inaugural member of the National Gallery of Art New Music Ensemble. The Washington Post Music Critic, Anne Midgette, cited “the excellent cellist, Alexis Descharmes”, and noted that his performance of Carter’s Cello Sonata was “a statement of emotion and artistic purpose.” Her observed link between emotion and purpose is an essential characteristic of his playing. Descharmes’s Cage birthday recital at La Maison Française, will include a work by Erik Satie, one of Cage’s most substantive influences, accompanied by pianist Jenny Lin, as well as Klaus Huber’s ... ruhe sanft  ...(in memoriam  John Cage). Descharmes will also perform a sanctioned solo version of Messagesquisse by Boulez (with recorded cellos). From the master himself, he will present his own version of the Solo for Cello from the Concert for Piano and Orchestra as well as two other works in collaboration with other Festival guest performers: Music for Two, in a version especially created by him with Irvine Arditti, and also the intricate Etudes Borealis with master percussionist Steven Schick. Descharmes’ puckish humor and uncommon intensity lend to his presentations a uniquely engaging character.
– Roger Reynolds

Alexis Descharmes and Roger Reynolds during the recording of
Reynolds’s imageE/cello & imAge/cello
Photo image courtesy of Michel Nguyen