In all likelihood Debussy would have welcomed the idea of his works being brought up to the minute one hundred and fifty years later by artists who knew no boundaries. After all, as the harbinger of musical Impressionism, this is what he too strove to do. Harpist Anastasia Razvalyaeva, jazz singer Veronika Harcsa, and guitarist and sound designer Márton Fenyvesi made contemporary transcriptions from Debussy’s finest chansons in which everything becomes possible, and improvisations extend the original songs. These works, which the composer wrote to poems by Paul Verlaine and other poets, are seen in another light, thanks to the airiness of the harp, and to a more declamatory vocal technique than in classical singing, while with the live electronic effects they go through a veritable paradigm shift.
Anastasia Razvalyaeva, Veronika Harcsa and Márton Fenyvesi take the music of Claude Debussy, the great musical translator, and transposes it into a contemporary language. Debussy abandoned a century and a half of musical rules and conventions in order to give the most faithful musical translation possible of visual images and poetry; while retaining the content of Debussy’s songs, these three musicians move beyond the requirements of classical music interpretation, and adopt stylistic innovations for today’s listeners. Although Debussy’s music is full of chords typical of modern jazz, polyrhythms, and a writing style suggestive of the spontaneity of improvisation, he himself subjected every note to his overall vision with care and circumspection: he did not improvise. The three musicians, on the other hand, make the most of the opportunity to improvise. Anastasia Razvalyaeva set out on the, for her, unfamiliar path of improvisation especially for this CD, while Veronika Harcsa uses her virtuosity of vocal tone and prosody, and her experience in improvisation, to underscore the content of the song texts. Márton Fenyvesi then adds an extra twist to this with realtime sound effects, ambiences, and sound images: rather than steering the interpretation towards electronic music, they do the opposite, and draw our attention to its multi-dimensional physiological aspect, conjuring up the atmosphere of churches, the sea, and open fields.
Anastasia Razvalyaeva, of Russian origin, was born into a family of classical musicians, and her first harp teacher was her mother. At the age of eighteen she gave up the harp — this was the first time she went her own way, contravening expectations. A year later she returned to music and redefined her relationship to the harp. Ever since, all her musical projects have been driven by a desire to affirm her identity. Her repertoire spans from the Baroque to contemporary music: in 2018 she premiered a semi-staged version of Schubert’s song cycle Winterreise for harp and female voice with Emoke Baráth, and in the same year she launched this experimental Debussy project with Veronika Harcsa, with guitarist and sound designer Márton Fenyvesi joining later.
Veronika Harcsa is one of the most outstanding musicians and performers of Hungarian vocal jazz. While still at the Jazz department of the Liszt Ferenc Music Academy, she founded her quartet, and they made four CDs, which won many awards. At the beginning of her career, alongside jazz she had considerable success on the Hungarian alternative pop scene as a guest singer in various lineups, and she made an avant-garde CD of songs based on poems by Lajos Kassák. In 2014 she gained a Masters degree from the Royal Conservatoire in Brussels. Her main music partner is the guitarist Bálint Gyémánt, and together they made a duo album (2016, Tell Her), and a quartet CD with Belgian musicians (2018, Shapeshifter). The lineup will soon release another quartet album.
Márton Fenyvesi, guitarist, composer, arranger, and producer, is one of the most versatile Hungarian musicians: recently he has also been working as a sound engineer. In the Jazz department of the Budapest Music Academy he studied with Gyula Babos, and completed his master’s degree in Amsterdam, Paris, and Copenhagen as a student of Jakob Bro, Nelson Veras, and Jesse von Ruller. His name crops up in lineups playing experimental music (András Dés Trio, Flight Modus, Attila Gyárfás Trio, János Ávéd Balance, László Dés Free Sounds), and also in pop music productions, as well as in the Modern Art Orchestra, the big band led by Kornél Fekete-Kovács. His relationship to the guitar is basically one of improvisation: he seeks the intensive physical contact with the instrument, and the way he manages the complementary devices is at least as intuitive as producing a note on the acoustic instrument.