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La Mort sur un Cheval Pâle

(Death on a Pale Horse)


for orchestra, M.662 (2007)


After an excerpt taken from the book of the Apocalypse



Commissioned by Pro Helvetia for the Basel Sinfonietta.gif






SCORE EXCERPT : 4’49’’ to 7’31’’ of the audio recording



Interpretation :


Basel Sinfonietta.gif, conducted by Winfried Toll


(recorded on June 8th, 2008, at the Sendesaal Hessischer Rundfunk of Frankfurt am Main) 



Duration of the work : approximately 10’15




Work description



When the Basel Sinfonietta got in touch with me concerning an orchestral work, it had been decided that its theme was to be near to that of the other work on the programme, the Requiem by Verdi. Thus, I have chosen the book of the Apocalypse, and it is the character of the 4th Rider that caught my attention :


And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying: Come.

I looked, and behold, a pale horse: and he that sat upon him, his name was Death. And hell followed him. And power was given them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with famine, with pestilence, and with the wild beasts of the earth.

(Apocalypse 6 : 7-8)


This composition is not a mere description of this passage of the Apocalypse, but also describes the frightful atmosphere of the arrival of Death and evokes the sensations of terror it inspires. In order to obtain this, the work uses all the potentialities of the orchestra, among which, at some places, strange sounds. The dramatic tension is ensured by the opposition between, on one hand, the dynamism of the baneful action of the Rider and of his lightning ride, and, on the other hand, the anguished awaiting and the static pictures of the desolation following the sudden arise of Death.


Laurent Mettraux



Doré, le quatrième cavalier