Spring has finally come to Brittany, but the Orchestre Symphonique de Bretagne is taking us back into Winter for one evening. The second event of its “Projet Taliesin” is dedicated to Schubert and Breton folk music. Two contemporary Breton pieces, Vent de l’Ouest by Alexandre Damianovitch and La Complainte du Vent d’Ouest by Frédérique Lory, which is being presented for the first time today, both sung by Marthe Vassallo, accompanied by the Orchestre Symphonique de Bretagne under Ariane Matiakh, introduce the theme of the evening. Chosen lieder from Schubert’s Winterreise, in the orchestrated version by Hans Zender, are on the program tonight, alternating with a selection of Breton folk-songs, orchestrated by Frédérique Lory. Having written a literary variation on Winterreise, doing some research in order to prepare a short film adaptation, I have already come across certain links between Schubert and Brittany: Louis-Albert Bourgeault-Ducoudray, Breton composer and one of the first to collect Breton folk tunes, is also the author of a book about Schubert. Brittany’s landscapes, its sombre villages – they might harbour a Doppelgänger anytime; and of course there is the theme of wandering, so dear to Schubert – is not Brittany also a land of departure? It is with a lot of curiosity that I arrive at the Opéra de Rennes tonight. It seems to me that an extraordinary team will be needed to make this extraordinary alchemy work. And there they are: Frédérique Lory and Marthe Vassallo have very judiciously chosen the gwerzioù and sonioù, those Breton complaints, and Frédérique Lory’s orchestrations are really remarkable. Perfectly matching Zender’s work on Winterreise, they are one of the many bridges built tonight between two musical genres. There is nothing here that resembles cheap crossover: the Schubert songs sound utterly Schubertian, and the Breton complaints keep the perfume of their ocean and earth. Ariane Matiakh conducts the Orchestre Symphonique de Bretagne with fugue during the first part; later, with a reduced number of musicians, she keeps up the suspense of Zender’s finely ciseled orchestration and its many details. Marthe Vassallo, the Grande Dame of Breton chant, with her ample, warm, generous voice, incarnates one by one the heroines of the complaints: young girls or women, unhappy lovers all of them, abandoned by a fiancé, or forced to marry a rich and unloved man... One understands and pities them without the slightest knowledge of the Breton language. Tenor Marcel Beekman is in charge of the Schubertian part of the evening. With his clear pure voice, perfect pronunciation and a zest of irony, he interprets the lieder in a chillingly sober way that corresponds perfectly to Zender’s score. Short text excerpts, read in French and in turns by him and her, often taking up each other’s text, constitute another bridge between the musical worlds. And so little by little, the image of a couple becomes visible, torn apart, who start out on their Winter Journey, and for the first time ever she, Wilhelm Müllers unfaithful fiancée, acquires an voice and can express herself. And so a new work comes into the world, original and moving. As the last line of the last lied, Der Leiermann, is said, as the orchestra is almost silent and only a few strings, pianissimo, are bringing up the rear, at this moment Marthe Vassallo takes up the last line of her last chant, and Marcel Beekmen joins her with a da capo of the last verse of the Leiermann, and now all is said and we have come full circle. Bravi tutti, many thanks for an extraordinary evening!