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In 1945, Mary Lou Williams (1910-1981) completed the composition of the Zodiac Suite. Each movement corresponded to an artist’s portrait associated with an astrological sign. It was a pretext to escape the rigidity of the musical forms for which Williams had previously written, and to experiment with the sonorities of the music of European composers such as Berg, Hindemith or Schoenberg.
Although the Suite was composed for piano, Williams undertook to orchestrate it for chamber orchestra. Late in 1945, the public premiere left the composer frustrated,. A close look at Williams’ manuscripts clearly shows that the music that was performed that night does not reflect the composer’s original intentions. Movements had been stripped of their orchestration and performed as solo piano, entire sections had been cut, and multiple errors had not been corrected, due to a lack of time and resources.
A cornerstone of Williams’ artistic life, this legendary work has never been recorded in its original form. After working for several years on the Mary Lou Williams archives, publishing the album Mary’s Ideas (Umlaut Records 2021) and being selected as a Villa Albertine 2023 resident, Pierre-Antoine Badaroux decided to tackle the chamber orchestra version of the Zodiac Suite, in an interpretation that underlines its heterogeneity and its richness.