It is almost impossible to give a satisfactory history of German music in the 20th century in a few pages, so complex and full has that history been. In the 19th century, Germany, together with Austria (whose musical activity has been closely allied with that of Germany), was the pre-eminent power-house of classical music, and retained something of that position in the 20th.
Towards the end of the 19th-century one figure dominated German music: Richard Wagner (1813-1883). In his operas he had stretched traditional concepts of tonality, and the size, complexity, and power of the orchestra almost to their limits. His specially constructed opera house at Bayreuth has continued to present his operas annually, and remains a major attraction for lovers of opera. His legacy, either by example or in reaction against his concepts, equally dominated European music at the turn of the century. To his contemporaries another branch of German music, tracing its roots to the idiom of Beethoven and the music of the Classical period, was represented by Brahms (1833-1897), but Brahms's major influence descended on the composers of Vienna, notably in the earlier works of Schoenberg. However, Max Reger (1873-1916) developed the classical heritage of Brahms by turning back, in particular, to the inspiration of Bach, adopting abstract Classical forms, such as canons, fugues and chorales, and combining them with late-Romantic harmonies. The intellectual dryness of much of his music has perhaps hindered a wider appreciation of this prolific and sincere composer.
At the turn of the century the pre-eminent German composer was undoubtedly Richard Strauss (1864-1949), who in his tone poems built on the example of Wagner in the use of huge orchestral colours and effects, and in the restless extremes of chromatic writing. After the turn of the century his output concentrated on opera, where similar means were turned to subjects more psychologically complex and anguished than those of the more consciously nationalist and mythological Wagner operas, and then to almost Mozartian stories filtered through the huge late-Romantic palette. Similarly, composers such as Hans Pfitzner (1869-1949) continued the Wagnerian tradition both in orchestral and operatic works. At the same time, the busy musical life of Berlin had attracted such experimenters as the Italian Busoni, and later the Austrians Schoenberg and Schreker, ensuring that the latest advances in musical styles continued to develop within Germany. The latter, in particular, attracted pupils from across Europe to the German capital.
The subsequent history of German music is inextricably bound up with the political events within Germany, and is in part a cultural reflection of those events. The turbulent years between the end of World War I and the assumption of power by the Nazis in 1933 saw the emergence of a new direction in music, that of politically conscious music that reflected proletariat concerns, a capitalistic parallel to the socialist music of Soviet Russia. Idiomatically, this musical development was influenced by the emergence of a style of cabaret, centred in Berlin, that was in content usually satirical, and musically influenced by jazz, but with a more Teutonic rigidity of rhythm. Such non-musical objectives inevitably involved the use of text, and central to this development was the emergence of the fiercely political playwright Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956). The cabaret style and Brecht's texts were combined in the music theatre works of Kurt Weill (1900-1950), the best known of the politically conscious composers, whose works employ small-scale bands, unextravagant staging, and set numbers; his song 'Mack the Knife' from The Threepenny Opera has become one of the best known of all tunes, anywhere. The continuing popularity of Weill's works has obscured those other composers working with political subjects in Berlin, such as Hans Eisler (1898-1962), the Austrian Krenek, whose jazzy opera Johnny spielt auf was a sensational success across Europe, or the Polish-born composer Max Brandt (1896-1980), best known for his opera Machinist Hopkins (1929), in which surrealistic elements appear (the machines sing), and which remains a powerful political statement, or the earlier works of Paul Dessau (1894-1979). The operas of the politically conscious composers became known as `Zeitoper' (`opera of the times'). Similarly, the cabaret style spilled over into purely abstract music, such as the dance suites of Eduard Kunneke (1885-1953), better known for his operettas. Stefan Wolpe (1902-1972), who settled in the U.S.A. in 1938, initially incorporated jazz elements into his music, but then turned to a more experimental style, eventually leading to a personal brand of serialism developed after he left Germany, first for Palestine and then the U.S.A.
Among those composers who worked with Brecht was Paul Hindemith (1895-1963), who emerged as a major force in German music, in directions that departed from both the Wagnerian and socialist musical traditions, although his earlier work includes Zeitoper. Intellectually he stands in counterbalance to the emergence of the 12-tone system being developed by Schoenberg and his followers. His social awareness was expressed in the concept of `Gebrauchsmusik' (a term coined by Besseler in 1925): music that would be socially useful. This included music for films and radio, but is especially associated with his numerous works for amateur musicians and choirs, music that was both contemporary, and yet of a complexity that would be appropriate for musicians of lesser training or abilities. A composer of rigorous intellect and formidable energy, he became the chief German exponent of neo-classicism in the 1920s and 1930s, turning back to the Baroque for inspiration, re-exploring the abstract craftsman skills of counterpoint and polyphonic writing. As a composer he was of immense influence between the World Wars; as a theorist his treatises on harmony continue to be respected. Among those composers directly influenced by Hindemith were, in Germany, Boris Blacher (1903-1975), Karl Hartmann (1905-1963), and later Hans Werner Henze (born 1926), and outside Germany notably the Russian Shostakovich. His other German pupils included Harald Genzmer (born 1909), who continued a Hindemithian idiom in three symphonies and a number of concertos.
In complete contrast, Carl Orff (1895-1982) developed a very personal brand of music founded on rhythm, ostinati, and percussive effects, usually in vocal genres; the full impact of his work is only now becoming apparent as Minimalism is becoming accepted, and has been masked by the popular reaction to his cantata Carmina Burana. His masterpiece, Antigonae, is the only 20th-century German opera besides those of Strauss to rank alongside those of Berg, JanŠček and Britten. Another composer who followed his own, if more traditional, path was Werner Egk (1901-1983), who brought a Gallic sensitivity to the Germanic tradition, and is best known for his operas. Joseph Suder (1892-1980) remained firmly in the 19th-century tradition while developing a personal use of `thematic synthesis', in which themes that had appeared contrasting combine harmoniously at the end of movement, a technique developed in the Chamber Symphony (1924). His opera Kleider manchen Leute (Clothes make the man, 1926-1934) is of passing interest for its sumptuous late-Romantic idiom (the orchestral writing is more interesting than the vocal), though the libretto, by the composer, is fairly preposterous, telling of a tailor, expert on the violin, who is mistaken for a gentleman, falls in love with the most eligible young woman, is unmasked, and is eventually persuaded by the young woman to follow his true calling, violin playing; she joins him in the happy ending. Karl Hartmann (1905-1963), while assimilating ideas from the neo-classicists, provided a link between the Expressionist idiom of Berg and the more modern mainstream, especially in his eight symphonies, the finest German symphonies of the century.
Thus there were, by the rise of the Nazis, essentially three trends in German composition: the legacy of the large-scale late-Romantic idiom, represented by Strauss; the politically-aware socialist works represented by Weill; and a neo-classical trend, abstract and intellectual, represented by Hindemith. The cultural philistinism of the Nazis destroyed Germany's musical experimentalism, banning any works that hinted at socialism or `decadence', and restoring Wagner and late-Romanticism as the nation's music. Most of the more advanced artists working in Germany fled, including Brecht, Dessau, Eisler, Hindemith, Schoenberg and Weill. Those composers and musicians that stayed, such as the conductor Furtwängler or Strauss, became inextricably enmeshed in the demands and the constrictions of the Nazi system, with the notable exception of Hartmann.
Contemporary music of any value, apart from the works of Orff, Egk, and Hartmann, ceased during the Nazi domination, but after 1945 a new phase of German music paralleled the emergence of the country from its war-time devastation. The impetus for the revival was two-fold. First, the International Summer Music Courses at Darmstadt, founded in 1946 by Wolfgang Steinecke, became a centre for the very latest music ideas, and thus a major factor in the emergence of the avant-garde movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Among those who taught there were Messiaen, Berio, Boulez, Maderna, Nono, Pousseur, and Karlheinz Stockhausen (born 1928). Second, Stockhausen, who had himself been a student at Darmstadt, emerged as a major force in modern music, initially as a serialist, then as a composer of electronic music and explorer of new sound worlds, and more recently as a composer of a huge cycle of operas using unusual venues and employing all his experience of avant-garde techniques and structures. His co-direction (from 1963) of the Westdeutscher Rundfunk's electronic studio in Cologne attracted composers to the city. The prolific Hans Werner Henze (born 1926) emerged in the same period, less experimental than Stockhausen, but attracting international attention, especially with his operas, and causing political controversy with his socialist subject-matters in the 1960s; overall his output represents an attempt to marry more recent techniques with the neo-classical tradition. Giselher Klebe (born 1925), has followed a similar path to that of Henze, following serial ideas in the 1950s, but then developing a more Romantic style in which 12-tone methods have formed only a part. He has used the variable metres developed by Blacher, and his output has been dominated by eleven operas, little known outside Germany, and five symphonies. An important avant-garde individualist was Bernd Alois Zimmermann (1918-1970), whose celebrated opera Die Soldaten (1956-1960, revisions to 1964) was the culmination of Expressionist extremes.
Other figures from the explosion of activity after 1945 included Herbert Eimert (1897-1972), who utilized an atonal idiom in the 1920s before turning to 12-tone principles. With the 4 Pieces (1952-1953) he produced one of the earliest purely electronic German works, influencing Stockhausen, and founded and directed the influential studio for electronic music at Westdeutscher Rundfunk (1951-1962). He subsequently produced a number of other tape works. Goetfried Michael Koenig (born 1926), who has lived in Holland since 1964, briefly attracted attention in the 1960s with his electronic works, such as the rather aggressive Terminus II (1966-1967) and a series of Functions each based on a different colour, more interesting for the early use of computers in determining construction and order of sounds than in aural effect. In a completely different field, Ernst Pepping (1901-1981) continued the German tradition of Lutheran liturgical and organ music.
During the 1950s and 1960s Germany led the European avant-garde movement, together with the Frenchman Boulez. With the collapse of the swift-moving experimentation of those decades in the 1970s, German composition has gone into a comparative obscurity. Among the younger generation of German composers the best known internationally is probably Aribert Reimann (born 1936), whose opera Lear is a singularly successful setting of the Shakespeare play. The major work of Konrad Boehmer (born 1941) has been the opera Docteur Faustus (1985). York Höller (born 1944), a pupil of Boulez and Zimmermann, has concentrated on combining electronics with live instruments. The influence of Zimmermann emerged in the large-scale, sometimes fantastical, opera Der Meister und Margarita (The Master and Margarita), based on a Bulgakov novel whose central character is a magician, set in both Soviet Moscow and Christ's Jerusalem. He is, though, perhaps best known for a work without electronics, the Piano Concerto (1985). Snatches of Berlin cabaret jazz, the blues, the neo-classical and the neo-baroque join other elements in the neo-avant-garde stylistic fragmentation of Hans-Jürgen von Bose (born 1953), as in the `kinetic action' (ballet) Die Nacht aus Blei (The Night of Lead, 1981), more interesting in individual moment than in overall effect. The limited output of Marc Neikrug (born 1946) has included an especially effective music-theatre work, Through Roses (1979-1980) for an actor and eight instruments to a text inspired by the prisoner-musicians who played in Nazi concentration camps. It incorporates material from earlier musics.
Paul Dessau and Hans Eisler remain the outstanding figures among those composers who remained (or moved to) the former East Germany after the Second World War, and the restrictions of the communist aesthetic hampered that area's compositional quality. Of other East German composers, Ottmar Gerster (1897-1969) is perhaps best known for his opera based on Tennyson, Enoch Arden (1936), about a sea-captain who returns home after an absence of twelve years to find his wife remarried to one of his friends. It is a combination of sumptuous late-Romanticism with neo-classical elements, of interest only in passing. Of the younger composers who grew up in East Germany, Udo Zimmermann (born 1943, and not to be confused with Bernd Alois Zimmermann) is best known for his outstanding chamber opera White Rose (1986). He had already written an earlier music-theatre work of the same title (1967), following various scenes in the life of Hans and Sophie Scholl, members of the anti-Nazi resistance group known as `White Rose'. The later work (which has no musical or textual material in common with the first), on texts by Wolfgang Willaschek, sets the two in prison, and explores their psychological states, incorporating elements of events that they have witnessed, expressing the horror not only of their incarceration as they wait for death, but also of their times. The musical means are deceptively simple, with two soloists and fourteen instrumentalists, dominated by wind and brass and including harp and piano. However, the range of effect is considerable, sometimes harking back to Stravinsky or Weill, but for the most part with an astringent sense of clarity and emotional effect drawing on a range of influences, with spare vocal writing often lying very high, interspersed with outbursts that include near-speech. It is essentially an extended song-cycle in sixteen sections that can also be staged, and this work, exceptional in both the impact of its text and its affecting score, works especially well in recording. His other works include a further three operas, and a number of concertos.
Germany's vigorous compositional life is matched by the strength of its music making, strongly supported by federal and local governments who have long recognized the importance of the arts to the overall pulse of the country. Outstanding have been the contributions of the German radio stations, particularly in encouraging new music, and the widespread commitment to opera, reflected in the large number of smaller opera houses. These have not only provided opportunities for younger singers from all over the world, but have ensured that Germany has continued to stage a large number of new operas. Germany's contribution to international music-making in terms of conductors and performers is too extensive to enumerate here, and the Berlin Philharmonic remains probably the finest orchestra in the world.
German Music Information Centre:
International Musikinstitut Darmstadt
Nieder-Ramstädter Strasse 190
tel: +49 06151 132416/7
fax: +49 06151 132405
born 19th January 1903 at Niu-chang, China
died 30th January 1975 at Berlin
(birth-date sometimes given as 6th January, referring to Russian old-style calender)
An important teacher as well as composer, Boris Blacher in many ways sidestepped the German musical traditions, both old and new. His music is unusual for someone working in Germany in having its antecedents in French examples, particularly the lyrical ideas of Satie and the verve of Milhaud, combined with the rhythmic vitality of Stravinsky. That his music is not wider known is partly explained by this individual approach, and partly by its generally witty and playful nature.
His earliest work to receive widespread attention (and still one of the best known) is the neo-classical Concertante Musik op.10 (1937) for orchestra, a lithe and witty score that shows many of his later hallmarks: a construction based on the expansion of a germ idea, lucid and clear orchestration, a delight in varied rhythmic play, and echoes of the German cabaret jazz of the time. It is an object-lesson in how music with a light intent can at the same time be intellectually entertaining, and never appear trite. Its success was followed by the set of sixteen Orchestral Variations on a Theme of Niccol Paganini op.26 (1947 - the same variations used by Rachmaninov in his much better known treatment, and by others) which displayed a similar sense of delight in large orchestral colours.
By the 1940s Blacher began to systematize his rhythmic exploration, which led to the adoption of `variable metres', which are essentially systematic changes to the metre in each bar, first used in Ornamente (1958) for piano. At the same time he embraced 12-tone techniques (as in the ballet Lysistrata, 1950), eventually serialising the rhythmic as well as the harmonic means.
Blacher's stage works, both ballet and opera, have been of significance in Germany and form a major part of his output throughout his career. The `dance drama' Fest im Süden (Festival in the South, 1935) was an international success. His twelve operas (of which seven are full-length, the rest chamber-sized) usually have stories that include some criminal intent, and, apart from two comedies, combine tragic elements with a sense of the grotesque. Within this overall approach, the variety of means is considerable, but usually leavened with lighter numbers or sections. Of the two comedies, the ballet-opera Preussiches Märchen (Prussian Fairytale, 1949) aimed at the militaristic German tradition, while Zweihunderttausend Taler (usually known as 200,000 Taler, 1969) has a Jewish story in the same genre as Fiddler on the Roof, but used eclectic musical means, from tone-clusters to the development of small motivic cells, and a chromatic rather than 12-tone harmonic vocabulary. With its singspiel vocal writing, and a folk feeling in its happy ending, it scored something of a success. Of his more serious works, the 90-minute Yvonne, Prinzessin von Burgund (1972), with a tragic folk-like tale in which the ordinary girl the Prince has married is murdered by the court by choking on fishbones, was highly regarded, with its use of popular elements (including a solo violin tango) within Blacher's characteristic style. Zwischenfälle bei einer Notlandung (Crash Landing, 1965) used predominately electronic sounds. Many of Blacher's ideas come together in the short Abstrakte Oper No.1 (1953), whose text by fellow-composer Werner Egk is largely composed of abstract phonemes expressing the abstracted notions of love, fear, pain, and panic rather than a storyline. It is a work full of humour, musically combining a number of techniques, from `variable metres' to stricter serial procedures, with the hints of jazz and clear, spare orchestration, as well as a lyricism in the vocal lines, sometimes ecstatic, sometimes close to parody, that has echoes of Orff and Weill.
Concertos form a significant part of his orchestral output, including the Piano Concerto No.2 (1952), which uses variable metres, and the Cello Concerto (1964), which uses extended instrumental techniques and orchestration that is sparse in the extreme, its central allegro movement framed by two adagios. Of his piano music, the tongue-in-cheek wit is combined with neo-classicism and jazz in the amusing three studies What about this, Mr.Clementi? (1943), a perfect encore piece. In a more serious vein, though still with a predominant sense of joie-de-vivre, the Piano Sonata op.39 (1951) concentrates on rhythmic play and filters the example of French piano-writing, with staccato phrases and a lilt to the lyricism, through post-Schoenbergian harmonic ideas. In the 1960s Blacher also produced a number of electronic scores.
Blacher taught at the Dresden University in 1938, but had to resign under Nazi pressure, and after the war taught in Berlin, becoming director of the Berlin Hochschule für Musik (1953-1970). Among his many distinguished pupils were von Einem and Reimann.
- concerto for jazz orch.; concerto for string orch.; cello concerto; concerto for clarinet and chamber orch.; 2 piano concertos; concerto for high trumpet and strings; viola concerto; violin concerto
- Clementi Variations for piano and orch.; Geigenmusik for violin and orch.
- Concertante Musik, Collage, Hamlet, Hommage à Mozart, Music for Cleveland, Musica giocosa, Orchester-Fantasie, Orchester-Ornament, Poeme, Studie im Pianissimo and Zwei Inventionen for orch.
- Konzertstück for wind quintet and strings; Kurmusik for small orch.; Partita for strings and percussion; Pentagramm for strings; sonata for two cellos and 11 instruments ad. lib.
- Tschaikowsky-Variationen for cello and piano; Duo for flute and piano; violin sonata; piano trio; 5 string quartets (No.1 Four Pieces, No.4 Epitaph, No.5 Variationen über einen divergierenden c-moll-Dreiklang); quintet for flute, oboe and string trio; octet for clarinet, bassoon, horn and string quintet; and other chamber works
- piano sonata, 2 sonatinas, Ornamente, 24 Préludes and Trois pièces for piano
- song cycles Francesca da Rimini for soprano and violin, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird for high voice and strings, and other works for solo voice
- Requiem for soprano, baritone, chorus and orch.; cantata Träume vom Tod und vom Leben for tenor, chorus and orch.; and other choral works
- ballets Demeter, Der erste Ball, Harlekinade, Hamlet, Lysistrata, Der Mohr von Venedig and Tristan
- operas Abstrakte Oper no.1, Die Flut, Fürstin Tarakanowa, Das Geheimnis des entwendeten Briefs, Romeo und Julia, Rosamunde Floris, Yvonne, Zweihunderttausend Taler and Zwischenfälle bei einer Notlandung
- film scores and incidental music
- electronic music including `duodrama' Ariadne for 2 speakers and electronics
Concertante Musik op. 37 (1937) for orchestra
Orchestral Variations on a Theme by Paganini op.26 (1947)
A.Stuckenschmidt Boris Blacher, 1985 (in German)
born 19th December 1894 at Hamburg
died 28th June 1979 at East Berlin
The communist composer Dessau is, with Eisler, the best known of the composers who spent much of their working career in what was East Germany. He fled Nazi Germany in 1933, spending periods in Paris and Palestine before moving to the U.S.A. in 1939.
His earliest works, including a Concertino (1924) and the Symphony No.1 (1926), were Expressionist in style, but his individual voice did not mature until his studies of 12-tone music with Leibowitz in Paris, and then his meeting with Brecht in the U.S.A. in 1946. It is for his collaborations with Brecht that Dessau is best remembered. Although he had composed songs for a Brecht production in 1938, it was with the music for the Brecht plays Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder (Mother Courage and her Children, 1946, revised 1947-1948) and Der gute Mensch von Sezuan (1947) that Dessau achieved prominence, and his music is still most likely to be encountered in productions of these plays. In keeping with Brecht's philosophy that the music is the servant of the text, the songs are self-contained, pointing up the political content and the satire, their idiom descended from the satirical cabaret songs of pre-war Berlin.
However, his most important works are two operas, Die Verurteillung des Lukullus (The Condemnation of Lucullus, 1949) and Puntila (1957-1959), both to Brecht texts, and written after Dessau and Brecht had returned to East Germany. The first, originally titled Das Verhr des Lukullus (The Trial of Lucullus), but revised to satisfy the East German authorities in 1951, has for its libretto an unusual interpretation of the life of the Roman soldier and philosopher Lucullus. Lucullus has died, and the opera opens with his funeral march; it then, through the device of a trial after his death, examines his life, concluding that he was a mass murderer, assessing his warfare methods and the social purpose of his life. The music is intense, busy, swift-moving, and with a spontaneous quality that gives it an effective rough-edged feel. Its basic idiom has close similarities to the dramatic works of Orff in the repetitive rhythmic ideas, the orchestration (especially in the solo woodwind figures and percussion) and choral writing, the often declamatory vocal lines, and in the occasional rhapsodic moment. Within this are woven martial ideas or sections whose idiom is drawn from cabaret styles and from jazz, all of which heighten the satirical and grotesque tone. If the Marxist tone, in which the music as much as the text is designed to promote social and political responses in the audience, can be accepted, it remains a powerful dramatic work.
Puntila (1957-1959) was written after Brecht's death, and was based on a 1949 play for which Dessau had written the original incidental music. More sophisticated in its construction and its flow than Lukullus, its plot is a variant on the age-old theme of the dominating father (Puntila) attempting to marry off his daughter (here to an Attaché). The story (which originated in a Finnish folk-tale) has the added twist that the alcoholic Puntila oscillates between being a normal, caring father and employer and a ruthless schemer; the political content lies in this dichotomy and in its wider applications. The music is as intense as that in the earlier opera, but its idiom, returning to Dessau's roots, is essentially Expressionist, recalling the example of Berg, with heightened, anguished vocal lines that echo the variations of human speech in extreme emotion. Its very large cast and its Marxist treatment has perhaps prevented the wider dissemination of this dark and aggressive work. Dessau's last opera, Einstein (1971-1973) is a Marxist view of the physicist's life, concentrating on the social responsibilities of the scientist. Its idiom is completely eclectic, drawing on contemporary developments (tone-clusters, and the use of tape), on Dessau's earlier experience (jazz, 12-tone techniques), and incorporating quotations from Bach.
Dessau's songs encompass works with less populist musical elements, such as the gritty and sometimes waspish song cycle Fünf tierverse (verses by Brecht, 1972) for soprano and guitar. He also wrote a considerable amount of Communist propaganda music, notably popular mass songs, but including such works as the Orchestermusik No.3 `Lenin' (1970) for chorus and orchestra. Apart from his two symphonies (1924, 1936, rev. 1962), his orchestral output was written entirely in East Germany, where it was highly regarded. In Memoriam Bertolt Brecht (1957) incorporates themes from the incidental music to Mother Courage, and is a powerful orchestral reflection in three linked sections of the drive that inspired Brecht, as well as a lament for the playwright. Its writing (especially in the use of high woodwind and scurrying lower string phrases) is sometimes reminiscent of Britten. The large scale Bach-variationen (Bach Variations, 1963) for orchestra are also of interest, ambitious in their scope, drawing on themes by J.S and C.P.E. Bach, and adding two further motives developed from the letters of the names of Bach and Arnold Schoenberg, thus creating a link between the two periods. There is a considerable variety of idiom and mood, ranging from 12-tone techniques to sections reminiscent of Romantic orchestrations of Bach and those with jazz impulses.
Dessau's large output awaits a fuller evaluation, and it may be that with the collapse of East Germany, and with the political content of so many of his works assuming an historical interest rather than a dialectical intent, the purely musical values may emerge. Dessau was assistant conductor to Klemperer at the Cologne Opera (1912-1923), and was conductor of the Städtische Oper in Berlin from 1925 to 1933.
- 2 symphonies
- Bach-Variationen, In Memoriam Bertolt Brecht, 4 Orchestermusik (No. 3 Lenin) and other works for chorus and orch.; Divertimento for chamber orch.
- concertino for violin, flute, clarinet and horn; 5 string quartets; and other chamber music
- piano sonata; piano sonatina; Guernica, 3 Intermezzi, Klavierstück bei BACH, 12 Studien and other works for piano
- numerous cantatas, oratorios, and songs
- operas Einstein, Puntila, Lanzelot and Die Verurteillung des Lukullus
- much incidental music for plays, especially to those of Brecht; film scores
Bach Variations (1963) for orchestra
opera Puntila (1957-1959)
In Memoriam Bertolt Brecht (1957) for orchestra
opera Die Verurteillung des Lukullus (1949)
P. Dessau Aus Gesprëchen Leipzig, 1975 (in German)
EGK Werner (born Werner Mayer)
born May 17th 1901 at Auchsesheim (nr. Donauwrth)
died July 10th 1983 at Inning
Werner Egk, once renowned as an opera composer, has been somewhat neglected in recent years, and deserves revival. His idiom is an unusual combination of a sophisticated earthiness, a Bavarian vitality, and French charm, often infected by the dance, and notable for the clarity of his vocal lines.
Typical of this combination is the short oratorio La Tentation de Saint Antoine (1945, revised 1952) for contralto, string quartet and string orchestra, which forms an attractive introduction to his work. Built on French tunes and verses of the 18th century, it has an infectious charm, an earthiness, and a gentle humour. But it also contains delicate and thoughtful writing for the string quartet, dissonant harmonies adding a weighty undercurrent to the surface whimsy - the pious narrative is presented in an amusing, even frivolous way. With its flexible rhythmic vitality, it is a particularly fine example of the chamber oratorio. Folk-like earthy rhythms are found in another and better-known early work, Geigenmusik mit Orchester (Violin Music with Orchestra), 1936), while the closest parallel to the Quattro Canzoni (Four Italian Songs, 1932, revised 1955) for high voice and orchestra are probably Canteloube's Songs of the Auvergne, touched with a little Mexican music.
It is, though, as a composer of ballets and operas that Egk achieved prominence. Of the former, the best-known is Die chinesische Nachtigall (The Chinese Nightingale, 1953), full of brilliant orchestral colours and clarity, and ranging from an exuberance touched with oriental colours and percussive vitality to a passionate lyricism (one of its sections is a miniature violin concertino). Abraxas (1948), based on the poet Heine's version of the Faust legend, was banned in Germany following its premiere due to its sexual explicitness; but there is little suggestion of such lasciviousness in the pleasant but innocuous suite drawn from the ballet.
His first opera, Columbus (1933), was written for Bavarian Radio rather than the theatre, and is one of the earliest examples of the genre specifically written for radio (it was revised in 1942 for stage production). His first major success was Die Zaubergeige (The Magic Fiddle, 1935), an unsophisticated work full of German folk tunes that suited the political and cultural climate emerging under Nazi regime. It was followed by his major work, the satirical Peer Gynt (1938, minor revisions 1969), which the authorities attempted to ban (ritual is parodied, Mussolini actually quoted, and the application to the contemporary political climate is overt); they failed through the insistence of the general manager of the Staatsoper Berlin. Based on the Ibsen play, in Egk's own adaptation, the Norwegian folk antecedents are played down, the element of the dream and fantasy world amplified. It emerges as a parallel to the Faust legend, with its basis the internal wandering drive of Peer, pursued by his daemons the trolls, and with a major theme of self-abasement. Ranging from Norway to a Latin-American seaport (a scene that includes a ship blowing up), its atmosphere is surrealistic, and Egk divided the action into nine self-contained scenes and a prologue, arranged in three acts. The music is eclectic and wide-ranging, sometimes with deliberate echoes of Wagner, Strauss, Offenbach (with, at one point, an echo of the style of Ibert's Divertissement), and the vocal and rhythmic patterns of Orff. The moods range from the savagery of black humour (the hall of the trolls is populated by the aggressive parasites and misfits of mankind) to delicate lyricism, and the musical ethos of German cabaret exemplified by the works of Weill is never far removed. Egk's achievement is to weld these divergent materials into a convincing synthesis. The macabre aspects of the plot clarify unusual musical juxtapositions, but that synthesis is also achieved through a singular clarity and consistency of vocal line, and through the sure handling of orchestral textures and colours, maintaining a continuity through different styles. This depth of emotional presentation makes it more than mere satire, a parallel to Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk: it is a version of the hero-myth, placed in the phantasmagorical internal paranoias of the hero, plundering a wide range of human emotions but ending on that most German of themes, redemption through love. This is an opera of many complex layers; probably only its large cast and staging requirements have prevented its wider dissemination.
Egk's other operas were based on similarly distinguished and powerful literary material: Calderon, Kleist, Yeats, and in Der Revisor (The Inspector General, 1957), Gogol transformed into German humour.
Egk was conductor of the Prussian State Opera, Berlin (1936-1940), and, among other administrative positions, director of the Berlin Hochschule (1950-1953). Boris Blacher was one of his pupils.
- 2 Orchestersonate (Sonata for orchestra); French Suite, Georgica, Nachgefühl, Olympische Festmusik, Ouvertüre-Musik bei eine verschollene Romanze, Spiegelzeit and Variationen bei ein karibisches Thema for orch.
- Geigenmusik mit Orchester (Violin Music with Orchestra)
- wind quintet
- piano sonata
- oratorios Furchtlosigkeit und Wohlwollen and La Tentation de Saint Antoine; Chanson et Romance for soprano, string quartet and string orch.; Mein Vaterland for chorus
- ballets Abraxas, Casanova in London, Die chinesische Nachtigall, Danza, Joan von Zarissa and Ein Sommertag
- operas Circe, Columbus, Irische Legende, Peer Gynt, Der Revisor, Siebzehn Tage und vier Minuten, Die Verlobung von San Domingo, and Die Zaubergeige
ballet suite Die chinesische Nachtigall (1953)
Four Italian Songs (Quattro Canzoni) (1932 revised 1955) for soprano and orchestra
opera Peer Gynt (1938)
La Tentation de Saint Antoine (1945) for alto, string quartet and string orchestra
Violin Music with Orchestra (Geigenmusik mit Orchester) (1936)
W.Egk Musik, Wort, Bild (in German), Munich, 1960
born 6th July 1898 at Leipzig
died 6th September 1962 at Berlin
The career of Hanns Eisler was so circumscribed by political events that he stands as a kind of exemplar of the effects of politics on art in the 20th century. His earlier work shows the influence of his teacher Schoenberg; among the lesser rank of Schoenberg's pupils (when compared with Berg or Webern) he in particular embraced 12-tone techniques with enthusiasm. But in 1926 he joined the Communist party, and started to write mainly vocal works and film scores with left-wing intent, diluting the 12-tone experimentation in favour of what he considered a more universal and direct musical language; among his collaborators was Bertolt Brecht. Banned by the Nazis, he left Germany in 1933 and settled in the U.S.A.. Among his works there were a number of film scores (notably None but the Lonely Heart, 1944), but he came to the notice of the McCarthy Un-American Activities Committee. The subsequent deportation order caused such a storm of protest that it was revoked, but Eisler left anyway, eventually settling in East Germany, where he continued to write vocal works and film scores with a socialist cast, as well as the DDR national anthem. His output is thus stylistically divergent, from 12-tone chamber music to Socialist Realism.
Even if the Duo op.7 (1924) for violin and cello has a stern Schoenbergian expressiveness, the contribution that Eisler made to the Schoenberg circle was a wry humour that is not often found in its three most famous members, and which informs much of his subsequent music, whatever the style. The combination of 12-tone techniques and a satirical bent emerges in the song cycle Palmström (Studien über Zwölfton-Reihen) op.5 (1926) for soprano, flute (doubling piccolo), clarinet and string quartet - the same forces, less the piano, as Schoenberg's Pierrot lunaire. Typical of the early followers of Schoenberg are the extreme leaps of the vocal writing, the care in the interaction of instrumental colours, and the sense of short phrases carrying large weight. By the Kleine Sinfonie op.29 (Little Symphony, 1931), there is an uneasy mixture of expressive formality and the creeping influence of jazz and Berlin cabaret, angular themes betraying the Schoenbergian influence but allied to conventional rather than 12-tone harmonic structures. The marriage is unusual, and the vivacious work is more than an interesting curiosity. There are similar echoes of such melodic lines in the short Nonet No.1 (1939), combined with a pastoral, out-of-doors mood and cast in a set of variations, while the rather self-effacing Nonet No.2 (1940-1941), based on a music for a socialist documentary film, covers a range of styles, with wisps of folk themes and a march. None of these works are especially profound, but they are all attractive; the Vierzehn Arten den Regen zu beschreiben (Fourteen ways of describing the rain, 1941) for flute, clarinet, violin, viola, cello and piano is more than that. Written for Schoenberg's 70th birthday (and thus given the spurious opus number 70), one idea uses Schoenberg's initials, while the structure of the seventh variation plays on his birth date. Such technical tricks are cleverly combined with descriptive music (whose origins are in a documentary film score of the same date) to create a piece of intellectual wit and pictorial interest, if without the immediacy associated with Eisler's works for a wider audience.
Similarly, Eisler made arrangements of some of his film music of the 1930s for concert use, simply titling them `suites'. Some of his most entertaining music is to be found here: the Suite No.2 `Niemandslied', op.24 (1931), for example, has the kind of jazzy bounce and verve that eluded Weill (whose music it resembles) outside the actual theatre, and a similar style is found in its companions. Popular in their appeal and yet sophisticated in their small-orchestral means, these are exactly the kind of 1930s Berlin works that would entertain a wide audience if they were better known.
However, it is for his songs that Eisler is most remembered, principally through the association with Brecht. They range from those using 12-tone techniques, through a large corpus of works written with Brecht, to works written in East Germany. Throughout, the emphasis is on the words, the music pointing and commenting rather than acting an emotional reflection of the verbal content. A number are combined into a series of chamber cantatas (Kammerkantaten Nos. 1-9, 1937, texts by Brecht, Eisler and Silone), which show the simpler means and more traditional harmonies that Eisler was aiming for at the time, as well as the influence of Berlin cabaret music. The texts of the Brecht songs (most of the songs were written for plays with musical numbers) are usually left-wing, and some of them now appear too naïve to stand the test of time. The earliest collaborations between Eisler and Brecht were Das Massnahme (1930) for tenor, three speakers, male chorus, small chorus and orchestra, and an adaptation of Gorki, Die Mutter (1931), both using tonal harmonies. The large-scale Deutsche Sinfonie (1935-1939) for soloists, chorus and orchestra, is an attack on fascism, and Swieyk im zweiten Weltkrieg (1957), the last collaboration between Brecht and Eisler, contrasts Nazi leaders with the working class; true to the origins of the Czech satire that gave impetus to Brecht's play, Eisler turns a quotation from Smetana into a political song. All these works were designed to use self-contained musical numbers; many of the songs and song-cycles, such as the gently lyrical Legend von der Enstehung des Buches (verses by Brecht) display a wistful lyricism in addition to the echoes of an earlier Berlin. In the same category belongs the beautiful little dramatic Zuchtaus-Kantate for soprano and chamber ensemble. Among his output are also a number of marching songs that became popular with socialist groups.
It is still difficult to gain an overall picture of the value of the huge body of Eisler songs, as their usually socialist message has almost obliterated them from the Western concert platform and recording studio. Certainly those that have emerged show a surety of touch and intent that suggest that many wait to be rediscovered, if their verbal content can be accepted.
works include: (selected from Eisler's very large output)
- Deutsche Sinfonie for soloists, chorus and orch.; Kleine Sinfonie
- 6 suites from film music, and other orchestral works based on film music
- Duo for violin and cello; violin sonata; string quartet; Divertimento for wind quintet; Vierzehn Arten den Regen zu beschreiben for flute, clarinet, violin, viola, cello and piano; 2 septets; 2 nonets
- 3 piano sonatas, piano sonatine (Gradus ad Parnassum) and other works for piano - very large number of songs (9 volumes of lieder and cantatas in the official edition)
- Die Massnahme for tenor, 3 speakers, male chorus, chorus and orch.; cantatas including Kalifornische Ballade and Die Mutter for soloists, chorus and orch., Mitter des Jahrhunderts for soprano, chorus and orch., and Die Teppichweber von Kujan-Baluk for soprano and orch.; much other choral music, including 9 Kammerkantate
- film and incidental music
Duo (1924) for violin and cello
Kammerkantate No.3 `Die römanische Kantate' (1937) for lower voice, 2 clarinets, viola and cello
Nonet No.1 (1939)
Nonet No.2 (1940-1941)
Palmström (1926) for voice, flute, clarinet and strings
Piano Sonata No.1 (1923)
Piano Sonata No.3 (1943)
Violin Sonata (1937-1938)
Fourteen ways of describing rain (1941) for six instruments
Zuchthaus-Kantate for soprano and instrumental ensemble
H.Eisler Hanns Eisler, A Rebel in Music, (ed. M.Grabs), 1978
A.Betz Hanns Eisler Political Musician, 1982
born 12th October 1907 at Leipzig
died 5th August 1987 at Heidelberg
Wolfgang Fortner occupied a more important place in modern German music than his current reputation outside Germany would suggest. His influence as a teacher has been considerable, especially in the years following World War II at the Darmstadt summer school (Hans Werner Henze is his most distinguished pupil), and his compositions cover a broad span of mid-20th-century German musical thought. His music before the second World War was neo-classical in style, exemplified in a series of concertante works, influenced by Hindemith and, in their rhythmic insistence, by Stravinsky. His preoccupation with polyphony followed German tradition, and throughout his output the inspiration of Bach was paramount, overtly in the neo-classical works, as a background in his later music. At the same time he has continued the German Lutheran tradition of writing religious works, which are an important part of his output. After 1945 he was exposed to the developments of the Second Viennese School (suppressed in Germany by the Nazis), and they attracted his natural propensity for intellectual technical means. After a freely atonal period, in which the Symphony (1947) was an important landmark in post-war German music, he developed an individual use of 12-note technique in which he created `modes' from the 12-tone row that allow non-serial manipulation of the `modes'. This first appeared in the String Quartet No.3 (1948), and led to his most internationally celebrated work, the opera Die Bluthochzeit (Blood Wedding, 1957) based on Lorca's play. This dramatic opera, closely following Lorca's text, contrasts the influence of Spanish folk-music against 12-tone ideas, and includes spoken dialogue. The story revolves around a family feud; a young bride runs away with a rival on her wedding day, and both her lover and fiancé are killed in an ensuing fight; her mother remembers how her husband and father had also been killed by an earlier generation of the fiancé's family. Fortner returned to Lorca in the chamber opera In seinem garten liebt Don Perlimplin Berlisa (1962, usually known as Don Perlimplin), which combines magical elements with the comic and the grotesque in following the age-old theme of January marrying May, with betrayal by the young woman, though here the old man kills himself to present to her his soul. An initial 12-note series provides the base material for each of the four scenes. His most ambitious opera was a large-scale depiction of the struggles between Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots, Elisabeth Tudor (1972), involving a large cast and orchestral forces.
Religious subjects occupied an important place in Fortner's output. The dramatic Isaaks Opferung (The Sacrifice of Isaac, 1952) for three soloists and 40 instruments includes jazz influences in the brass writing. The major religious work is Die Pfingstgeschichte nach Lukas (1963), a stern, dark work for tenor, chorus, chamber orchestra and organ, in which the organ has a prominent role, and the choral writing reflects the avant-garde developments of its time. The impression is that of an intense sincerity, the overall effect curiously unmemorable.
Fortner founded the Heidelberg Chamber Orchestra (1935) and the Musica Viva concerts in Heidelberg (1947), and directed the Munich Musica Viva concert series from 1964. He taught theory at the Heidelberg Institute of Church Music, composition at Darmstadt, and was professor at the North-Western German Music Academy (1954-1957) and at the Freiberg Musikhochschule (1957-1972).
- cello concerto; organ concerto (also arranged as harpsichord concerto); piano concerto; concerto for strings; concerto for violin and large chamber orch.; viola concertino
- Aulodie for oboe and orch.; Bläsermusik; Marginalien; Mouvements for piano and orch.; Phantasie über B-A-C-H for 9 solo instruments, 2 pianos and orch.
- Prismen for flute, oboe, clarinet, harp and percussion; Streichermusik II; Triplum for orch. and 3 pianos obbligato; Triptychon; Zyklus for cello, wind, harp and percussion
- cello sonata; flute sonata; violin sonata; string trio; piano trio; wind trio; 4 string quartets; other chamber music
- The Creation for bass-baritone and orch. and other song cycles and solo vocal works; cantatas Chant de naissance and Nuptiae Catulli; Die Pfingstgeschichte nach Lukas (St.Luke) for chorus, 11 instruments, chamber orchestra and organ and many other choral works, accompanied and unaccompanied
- ballets Carmen and Die weisse Rose
- operas Die Bluthochzeit, Corinna, Elizabeth Tudor and In seinem garten liebt Don Perlimplin Belisa; scenic cantata That Time; school opera Undine; pantomime Die Witwe von Ephesus
opera Blood Wedding (1957)
opera In seinem garten liebt Don Perlimplin Berlisa (1962)
ed. H.Lindlar Wolfgang Fortner, 1960 (in German)
HARTMANN Karl Amadeus
born 2nd August 1905 at Munich
died 5th December 1963 at Munich
Hartmann is primarily remembered as a symphonist, and he is the main German representative of that generation of symphonists who were influenced by the neo-classicists, maintained the symphonic tradition through the rigour of their formal procedures (often influenced by Hindemith), and yet were ultimately more concerned with the expressive content of their symphonies than the means which propelled them; Rosenberg in Sweden and Piston in the U.S.A., to name but two, belong to this movement that married the neo-classical and the Romantic heritages.
Hartmann disowned all the works he had written prior to studying with Webern (1941-1942), though some of it reappeared after the Second World War, usually in revised form. His music, however, is far from the style of the 12-tone composers, and his symphonic origins have something of the Romantic fervour and breadth of Mahler, the procedural rigour of Reger and Hindemith, and sometimes an expressive acidity that recalls Berg and Bartók. He thus follows a particular German symphonic tradition, to which he added his own vigorous and intense voice. Formally, he often employs a number of favourite devices, including combining variation form and the fugue (successive fugues are variations of the first), mirror forms (the inversions or retrogrades of theme, a central device of Webern), and the `variable metres' devised by Blacher (q.v.). These all give his music a sense of ordered, rugged formality. His harmonic style is essentially traditional, though considerably extended beyond formal tonality, and his rhythms are vigorous, usually intensely purposeful, and sometimes complex, including polyrhythmic passages.
The core of Hartmann's output are eight symphonies, and their relative obscurity is completely inexplicable. For as a cycle they are one of the most assured of the 20th century, consistently interesting in their formal structures as symphonies and powerful and often complex in their emotions. Their lack of instantly identifiable popular features (such as the scherzos of Shostakovich, or the haunting soundscapes of Vaughan Williams) may limit their general appeal, but they should be much wider known by informed and knowledgeable audiences. Their general characteristics are a nervous energy, memorable and vivid orchestral colours, with masterful use of piano, tuned percussion and brass, and the use of Classical formal structures such as the ricercare, passacaglia, and especially fugues. The emotional range is wide, though preferring the melancholic and the turbulent, and while there are many passage of great atmospheric beauty, Romantic lyricism and lyrical melodic lines are avoided. There is a basic duality between more turbulent emotions and their containment in stricter procedures based on Classical or Baroque models; the former are often found in more vertical writing, the latter in a purposeful horizontal drive. This duality is often expressed in contrasting movements, especially in the symphonies with a two-part structure. The Symphony No.1 (1935-1936, revised 1947-1948) for alto and orchestra is based on poems by Walt Whitman (sung in German), and was subtitled `Study for a Requiem'. It is in five movements, the second of which is a setting of the famous `When lilacs in the Dooryard Bloom'd', later set by Hindemith (among others). The opening, with the colours of timpani, brass, harp, followed by the entry of the vocalist, is savagely exciting, and its tension is maintained through dense and arresting orchestral writing, the harmonies veering into the atonal, through the sweep of Expressionist emotions, and through the flow of sometimes violent contrasts. The nearest comparison is the orchestral writing of Berg, and like the Austrian's music, this moving and consistently fascinating symphony provides a link between the late-Romantic song-cycles of Mahler and later mainstream European writing. The Symphony No.2 (1946) is a single movement adagio, combining variations with an arch structure. It builds from solo lines contrasted with denser material; the similarity of the melodic cast of some of those solo lines to Shostakovich probably derives from a common influence of Hindemith. The denser material is quite unlike the Russian composer, richly exotic in its colours and in the effect of undulating webs. There is an almost Sibelian luxuriance to the central climax before evolving into a much grittier utterance, as if remembering the war that had just ended. The Symphony No.3 (1948-1949) draws on material from two earlier unnumbered and withdrawn symphonies, the Sinfonia tragica (1940) and the symphony Klagegesang (1944), and although written in two movements, has a major change of mood in the first, resulting in two distinct sections. After the opening, where a solo double-bass slowly unfolds a lament over timpani, the first half of the first movement is for strings alone. A sparse landscape of ethereal lamentation is slowly drawn, an equivalent to the contemporary epilogue to Vaughan Williams's Symphony No.6, if not as intense. Into this bursts a bold, aggressive counter-mood, propelled by timpani, evolving into an energetic fugue, and eventually arriving at an exotic section of tuned percussion, momentarily halting the flow before letting it resume, its colours affected by the interruption. The second movement opens with a funereal march, picks up some of the mood of the opening section of the symphony in high, atmospheric writing, before producing its own counter-turbulence of climactic triumph and hope whose energy is then dissipated, muted, around the orchestra before a close of ghostly beauty, the rhythm of the timpani at the opening symphony now transferred to the wood-block.
The tendency to a more tonal harmonic cast, emphasized by the contrapuntal flow, that had gradually emerged in the preceding symphonies, became more overt in the Symphony No.4 (1946-1947) for strings alone, though the melodic material still has an angular or modal cast. It has a very beautiful and atmospheric opening movement, with characteristic opening that combines melancholy with ecstasy, with a firm theme contrasted with distant atmospheric colour. The second movement is the culmination of Hartmann's neo-classical leanings, creating a strong contrast of style to the first movement while maintaining the colours. The Symphony No.5 (1950) shows a very different side to Hartmann's temperament, and is aptly sub-titled `Symphonie concertante for orchestra'. It was a second rewrite of a trumpet concertino (c.1933), and intended to be a homage (sometimes tongue-in-cheek) to Stravinsky. Gone are the dense textures and atmospheric writing, and in their place is a bouncing, dance-like idiom, with thinner orchestration, prominent trumpet, a homage to the Rite of Spring in the second movement, and a boisterous ending. The reference to the bassoon melody of the Rite of Spring had significance for Hartmann, as he used it to open the piano sonata 27 April 1945 (1945), describing the prisoners leaving Dachau concentration camp. With the Symphony No.6 (1951-1953, based on the surviving sketches of a 1938 symphony) Hartmann reverted to a larger orchestra and denser textures, with few neo-classical traces. Each of the two movement attempts to resolve the agitation of their openings in different fashions. In the first the energy of the muted drama, with unusual colours, dense textures, and swirling ideas reaches a tormented climax before emerging into a more serene contemplation, broken by percussion. In the second, the turbulent opening resolves into a complex but potent structure combining the fugue variation form; three fugues are used, the second two using variations of the theme of the first. The results are anything but academic, propelling the music with an urgency of momentum and expression. The Symphony No.7 (1956-1958) is ostensibly in two parts, but the division of the second into an adagio and a finale by a general pause creates a three-movement work. The first movement uses complex alternations of fugues, concerto episodes, and codas, and ends in a motoric fashion. The adagio is built in an arch, troubled, angry and certain, and the finale is a headlong drive led by the strings. The Symphony No.8 (1960-1962) carries the inscription `per aspera ad astra' (`through hope to the stars'), and is in two linked parts. The first has the character of more personal and intimate thoughts, the customary drive fragmented as if searching for a solution, touched by solo melodic ideas and the colours of high percussion, the harmonic cast less confident in its atonal themes, returning to suggestions of the idiom of the first symphony. The second creates a kind of clockwork world of precise movement, as if a Baroque concerto grosso had been turned into an inexorable machine, but this suddenly emerges into a short coda, promising glimpses of the stars, if no more.
The entire series of Hartmann symphonies are unquestionably the major German contribution to the genre in the 20th-century, and they transcribe a kind of arch, with the most lucid and straight-forward symphonies at its centre, and the emotionally most complex at the beginning and the end. Those who enjoy the idiom of Berg might care to try the first and last as an introduction to these symphonies; those who respond to the later Shostakovich works might consider the third or the fourth.
Of Hartmann's four concertos, the best known is the Concerto funebre (1939, rev. 1959) for violin and string orchestra. Its dark hues match its title, opening with a beautiful and dolorous lament than favours the lowest registers of the solo instrument, but bringing heightened emotion by reaching up to the highest, against a darkened orchestral string underlay. With its suggestions of modal scales (it uses a Hussite chorale) and song-like role for soloist, it is not far removed from Vaughan Williams in a similar mood. The counterbalancing second movement builds on vigorous contrapuntal writing in a more equal distribution of roles, and with a considerably more angular and chromatic cast to the ideas, before returning to the opening mood of the concerto. In contrast, the entertaining Concerto for Winds, Piano and Percussion (1956) has moments that almost seem to revert to the Berlin of the 1930s, with jazz influences.
Hartmann opposed the Nazi regime, publicly forbidding performance of his music in Nazi Germany and helping those in danger to escape, but remained in Germany at considerable personal risk; he managed to study with Webern in 1941 and 1942. In 1945 he founded in Munich the important Musica Viva series of concerts concentrating on new music.
- 8 symphonies (No.1 for alto and orch., No.5 Sinfonia Concertante)
- Chamber Concerto for clarinet, string quartet, and strings; Concerto for Piano, Winds and Percussion; Concerto for Viola, Piano, Winds and Percussion; Concerto funebre for violin & string orchestra
- Miserae for orch.
- 2 string quartets (No.1 Carillon); Kleines Konzert for string quartet and percussion; Tanzsuite for clarinet, bassoon, horn, trumpet, and trombone; Burleske Musik for winds, percussion and piano
- sonatine and Jazz-Toccata und Fuge for piano
- Gesangszene for baritone and orch.(incomplete); Ghetto for contralto, baritone, and small orch. (from Jewish Chronicle, with Blacher, Dessau, Henze and Wagner-Régeny)
- cantata Fried - Anno 48 for soprano, chorus and piano
- chamber opera Simplicius Simplicissimus
Concerto funebre (1939, rev. 1959) for violin & string orchestra
Concerto for Piano, Winds and Percussion (1956)
complete symphonies (Nos. 1-8) (1935-1962)
HENZE Hans Werner
born 1st July 1926 at Gütersloh
One of the most generally successful - and one of the most eclectic - German composers since the Second World War, Henze's rather isolated position as a composer who bestrides both a specialist and a more general audience has generated social and political rather than musical controversy. His large output has been based on three rather divergent strands in intent and in form. His first successes during the 1950s were with opera and stage works. Then during the late 1960s and 1970s he developed an overtly left-wing and political stance in his more polemical works, especially after his stay in Cuba (1969-1970); and throughout he has written purely abstract works, particularly symphonies, concertos, and chamber music. His idiom is a fusion of many different trends, especially neo-classicism, an easy-going and lyrical serialism, and jazz. It also shows a basic duality between the German tradition of his country of origin, and the influence of the Italian landscape of his adopted home. The rather diffuse nature of his output with its rapid changes of style, the political stance, and the absence of any particular work of obvious repertoire popularity has perhaps hindered an overall appreciation of his contribution.
In many ways he continues the Germanic example of Hindemith, particularly in his constant predilection for the remoulding of classical forms, from the symphony and the sonata to the ricercare and chaconne, in his incorporation of older German musical traditions (renaissance music, cantatas), in his lyricism, and in his harmonic preferences, which were to marry the use of 12-tone series with a sense of tonality, although his works in the later 1970s are harmonically more acerbic. His harmonic concerns were heralded by the Violin Concerto No.1 (1947), whose opening melody uses a series against a related theme in a Lydian mode. Subsequent works have used series that allow tonal suggestions, following the example of Berg. His use of orchestral colour, and the importance of timbre, also recall Hindemith, for Henze, when not writing for very large orchestras, often prefers ensembles that include instruments of a delicate touch, such as tuned percussion or the mandolin, the lute, or the harp, and especially the guitar, which has featured prominently in his work as he sees it as the "echo-sounder of history". Thus, for example, all of Orpheus' arias in the ballet Orpheus (1979) begin with the instrument.
Another trait has been the combination of genres within a single work. The early and rather gritty ballet Apollo et Hyazinthus (1948) combines elements of a concerto (for harpsichord) with voice setting (of Trakl verses) and a symphonic poem (for the instrumental forces of a string quartet and a wind quartet), and such hybrid forms have continued (e.g. Tristan, 1974, for piano, orchestra, and tape). Similarly, Henze has drawn on a very extensive canon of extra-musical inspirations, especially literary influences. In the actual vocal works, these range from Expressionists (Trakl), through classical poets (Virgil in the Muses of Sicily for mixed chorus, wind band, two concertante pianos and timpani) to contemporary left wing or revolutionary poets in his more political works, but literary influences also appear in non-vocal works (such as Shakespearean characters in the popular and expressive Royal Winter Music I & II, 1975-1976, for guitar).
Throughout his career, Henze has written a series of symphonies, the earlier ones for small orchestral forces. Dissatisfied with the Symphony No.1 (1947), he rewrote it in a new version for chamber orchestra in 1963. It has in its opening slow movement a gentle Italianate light, its modal harmonies reminiscent of Respighi or those of Hartmann's Concerto funebre; to these are added melodic lines and more emphatic moments only lightly tinged with more angular ideas until a more incisive and percussive final movement (with a piano prominent). The atmosphere remains descriptive throughout. The Symphony No.2 (1948), in three movements, continues this mood, the dark pines of Respighi's Appian Way transported to a Teutonic destination with a more dissonant undergrowth. More direct contrapuntal writing emerges in the short, second movement, while the final adagio returns to a misty, half-light atmosphere, before building into a bolder climax (which uses the opening of the chorale `How brightly shines the morning star'). The titles of the three movements of the Symphony No.3 (1949) - `Invocation of Apollo', `Dithyramb' and `Conjuring Dance' - bring a more overt Mediterranean focus, and a connection with dance that is obvious throughout the work, with a mixture of chamber ideas concentrating on wind instruments (and including the colours of the saxophone) and much grander climactic gestures, in a musical idiom gradually becoming infiltrated by more modern ideas. None of these symphonies quite matches the grandeur of their intent, as if Henze had been reaching for a conception that did not match his musical persona, in the mixture of a web of sound on a Classical base. However, for anyone who has avoided Henze because of his later reputation, they are an attractive semi-abstract introduction.
By the Symphony No.4 (1955) Henze had been influenced by post-Schoenberg ideas. Cast in a single movement in five sections, the material had originally appeared as the second act finale of the opera König Hirsch. In his revision of the opera, Henze cut this vocal sinfonia, and reworked the vocal material into the orchestral weave to form the symphony. The scenario of the original, a conversation between the Stag-King and the forest and its inhabitants, describes the web of descriptive and discursive sounds of the symphony. The Symphony No.5 (1962) is more purposeful than any of the earlier symphonies; its classical layout, with an opening sonata movement that contrasts an energetic brass theme with one of an opposite, introverted mood, is taken up in the still Mediterranean slow movement. The Symphony No.6 (titled Sinfonia No.6, 1969), is a radical departure from the progression of Henze's symphonies. It has an overtly political base, using the opening notes of a communist Vietnamese liberation song, a concept of light into darkness derived from the Cuban poet Miguel Barnet, and a quotation from Theodorakis' `Hymn to Freedom'. Written for two chamber orchestras that include electric amplification and which have correspondences, instrumental associations and contrasts with each other (an idea pioneered by Stockhausen), it is in three parts played without a break. The first is based on sonata form, the second on a series of transformations, and the third a fugue with interludes. The rhythmic inspiration is from traditional latin-American music. Apart from the use of the two orchestral groups, most of this becomes submerged in Henze's idiom, on the one hand brutal, of massive contrasts, on the other fascinated by the multiplicity of sounds available (including varied percussion and banjo). It is the most difficult of the Henze symphonies to penetrate, but the contrasts of mood and orchestral colours make it both experimental and aurally interesting.
The very large Symphony No.7 (1983-1984) is Henze's finest symphony, and perhaps his finest work. Commissioned for the 100th anniversary of the Berlin Philharmonic, who have had a long association with Henze's orchestral music, the impulse is less the tradition of the classical symphony than that of German Romantic symphonic expression, intentionally alluding to Wagner and Mahler. The orchestration incorporates a number of unusual instruments (including the heckelphone) designed to reinforce bass colours, and there is an unstated programme that the composer hopes audiences will guess through the emotional expression. The opening movement is a tour-de-force of motoric rhythms combined with a memorable bouncy verve that harks back to the example of Hindemith, the momentary combination of trumpets against high tuned percussion being particularly effective. Fluttering glissandi conjure up Henze's sense of Italian light, with thick textures in constant motion. The slow movement concentrates on dark string colours, again evoking a mysterious atmosphere of swirling mists of musical strands, expanding to include brass in its colours. A third movement of driving purposefulness follows, still texturally composed of fragments launching off into different directions, like a churning star constantly emitting matter. It is counterpoised by a neo-Romantic, complex, nocturnal and slow finale - an exceptionally beautiful epilogue that seems to excite the wonder of the night sky, before swelling in chromatic complexity into a large climax that dies into the prevailing mood. Indeed, the entire symphony is a huge aural landscape of illumination and power, a sparkling web of subtle and dense orchestration always underpinned by an underlying energy and sense of purpose.
Henze has written a considerable number of concertante works. The Piano Concerto No.1 (1950) is imbued with the spirit of the dance that has so often emerged in Henze's work. Typical of Henze's use of a combination of elements is the Double Concerto (1966) for oboe, harp and eighteen strings, which in a rather unsettled fashion uses 12-tone elements and an underlying lyrical flow in an 18th-century orchestral context. The Piano Concerto No.2 (1967) is a work huge in length and complex in conception, with one 45-minute movement divided into three main sections. The tone of the concerto is often rich and sensuous in orchestral texture: its thick tapestry is flecked more delicate colours from time to time, and the piano is in intimate connection with the orchestra, sometimes as antagonist, sometimes as part of the fabric. Its overall tone is questing; there is a sombre side to this demanding but forceful work, exemplified in the opening and the dark core at the centre of the piece. The Violin Concerto No.2 (1971) for violin, tape, voices and 33 instruments is intensely dramatic, with various independent textures including tape (utilizing words and a piano) and fragments of Elizabethan and Romantic music - Henze perhaps attempting, in this convoluted work, to come closer to the sound world of the avant-garde. The Miracle of the Rose (1981) combines the concepts of a clarinet concerto, a suite of seven dances, and a tone-poem (based on Genet). Of his purely orchestral works, In memoriam: Die weisse Rose (1965) for chamber orchestra is a commemoration of an anti-Nazi resistance movement, its double fugue inspired by Bach. Barcarola (1980) is an elegy on the death of Dessau, the Styx represented by the flow of the orchestra, Charon by fanfares. The Requiem is not a vocal-choral work, but a series of nine spiritual concertos influenced by the Baroque concept of the sacred concerto.
Henze's string quartets illustrate the developments of his style, and are the most abstract of his works: there is no quartet that represents his period of overtly political content in his music. The four movement String Quartet No.1 (1947) was heavily influenced, as Henze has acknowledged, by Hindemith and Fortner - a likeable, well-wrought but unremarkable work. The String Quartet No.2 (1952) is dense and rhythmically complex, reflecting Henze's discovery of 12-tone techniques. The next three string quartets are all memorial pieces. The String Quartet No.3 (1975) is cast in a single movement, with tense, eloquent counterpoint and a beautiful solo viola ending. In the String Quartet No.4 (1976) a different instrument takes the lead in each of the four movements in a work of dramatic intensity, whose adagio is based on a Byrd pavane, with haunting dissonances set against it. The String Quartet No.5 (1977) is more introverted, but the three make up a group of powerful works, albeit among the most difficult of all Henze's works to assimilate. The intense emotions, the often rich sonorities and sometimes extraordinary string effects have an immediate impact; but the density of much of the language and the clearly personal nature of some of the expression require repeated listening and familiarity for the overall span to be appreciated.
Much of Henze's output has been for vocal forces. His oratorios follow the general outlines of his musical and political development. Whispers from Heavenly Death (1948) is a setting of Walt Whitman, for high voice and an instrumental ensemble that anticipates colours favoured by Boulez and his followers (trumpet, celesta, harp, cello, and tuned and small untuned percussion). Written as Henze was exploring 12-tone techniques, it sets a wide-ranging but flowing vocal line to delicate instrumental colours. The title of Kammermusik (1958, epilogue added 1963) for tenor, guitar and eight instruments recalls Hindemith's series of works of the same name; setting fragments of Hölderlin texts, it utilizes long flowing vocal lines (though sometimes with wide interval movements) with the guitar prominent, and contrasting with thick instrumental textures. Essentially lyrical, it is in 12 sections, some recalling Britten and Mahler. Henze's period in Italy, and the influence of Italian thought and the Italian landscape, is evident in a series of shorter oratorios written in the early 1960s, with rapturous love as their basis. Ariosi (1963) is a five-movement work for soprano, solo violin and orchestra, setting verses by Tasso. The violin is itself a symbolic protagonist, and the soprano is silent in the second and fourth movements. The overall effect is of a sensuous ecstasy tempered by a sense of nostalgia. Muses of Sicily (1966) for chorus, two pianos, wind and timpani, was a deliberate attempt at a simpler language, revolving around obvious tonal centres, and using texts from Virgil's Eclogues that invoke the ordinary people of Sicily, their dances and their lives (the sound of bells is prominent); the last of three sections sets Silenus's famous tale of the Creation.
The almost operatic 75-minute oratorio Das Floss der Medusa (The Raft of Medusa, 1968, text by Ernst Schnabel) belongs to Henze's political output; its first performance had to be cancelled due to a near riot. However the allegorical nature of the text and its dramatic power extend beyond polemics. Based on a true story, it tells of the shipwreck of a French ship in 1816, the escape of the officers, nobility and priests on the life-boats, and the subsequent trials of the ordinary people, saving themselves on a large raft; 15 out of 154 survived. The three main protagonists are Charon, a central role for a narrator, a mulatto on the raft, and Death (soprano). These provide a foreground to a large chorus, including children. The vocal lines are often declamatory, the chorus heavily textured and often ghostly (the dead singing lines from Dante), the orchestral colours dark, and the revolutionary message is summarized in the lines "But the men who did survive...returned to the world again, eager to overthrow it." With its serial musical idiom, mostly anguished and impassioned but often lyrical, and with its dramatic weight, the half-fantastical, half-real depiction of purely human suffering gives substance to the political message and to the powerful score. On an equally large-scale is Voices (1973) for two voices and fifteen instruments, in which Henze overtly utilizes many of the styles and idioms that have influenced him, in the service of an expressive and eclectic series of texts, with the general theme of the political and social responsibility of the artist. The idioms of the 22 songs include post-serial ideas, jazz, aleatoric elements, folk styles, and the German tradition of Weill, Eisler and Dessau. Tape is used, and only three of the songs use both solo voices. The instrumental scoring, drawn from the pool of fifteen players, is constantly changing for each song, providing a wide range of colour, and in one song the instrumentalists themselves are required to sing. Henze makes full use of the opportunities such diversity affords, and cohesion is provided by common themes of the texts, in one of Henze's most effective political scores.
Henze has perhaps reached a widest general public with his operas, sufficient in number and quality to make him a leading 20th-century operatic composer. They cover widely diverse subjects. His first full-scale opera (and his first operatic success), Boulevard Solitude (1951) was based on the story of Manon (essentially following the sequence used by Puccini in Manon Lescaut, without the last act), updated to more modern times (it opens in a railway station). However, the surface gentility of Puccini's treatment is replaced by much more open passions and a more seamy world, including drugs and prostitution. The idiom mixes opera and ballet, with a pre-Romantic layout as a kind of suite, incorporating seven tableaux and five orchestral intermezzi, and using classical recitatives and arias. In style it is eclectic, often with a jazzy feel, but entirely based on a single 12-note series. His next full-length opera was similarly successful: König Hirsch (King Stag, 1952-1955, revised as Il re cervo, or The Errantries of Truth, 1963) utilises the Gozzi tale of a king who takes the form of a stag, to a libretto by H. von Cramer. It moved away from strict 12-tone usage, and in its original version ran for over five hours. Der Prinz von Homburg (1958, libretto by Ingeborg Bachmann) emulated 19th-century Italian opera, especially Verdi. A second collaboration with Ingeborg Bachmann, Der junge Lord (The Young Lord, 1965) is an attack on the German bourgeoisie, but one whose humorous plot goes deeper than mere political satire, examining the nature of human illusions and disillusions. An eccentric Englishman stays in a small German town whose inhabitants fawn on him; he introduces his nephew, who eventually turns out to be an ape, to the consternation of the young woman who had fallen for him. The entertaining score encompasses a variety of associations, including Classical opera buffa, Straussian vocal lines, and Henze's lyrical idiom.
Meanwhile, Henze had started a collaboration with W.H.Auden and his companion Chester Kallman. Elegy for Young Lovers (1959-1961) is set in the Austrian Alps, with the type of claustrophobic story of tense psychological relationships between a family torn between reality and pretence, and dominated by the figure of an elderly, world-famous poet, that harked back to English pre-war literary concerns. The libretto is stylized and stylish, and Henze responded with a score using chamber forces, assigning different instruments to each character, that is laid out in a series of stylized set numbers in three acts. The success of this collaboration was exceeded in their next work, The Bassarids (1964-1966), based on four episodes from Euripides' The Bacchae. The libretto is exceptional, in terms of literary quality, dramatic power, and musical understanding, marred perhaps only by the character of the Captain, used for dramatic purposes, in contrast to the psychological exploration of the rest of the large cast, backed by a large chorus. The central character is Pentheus, king of Thebes, beset by the arrival of Dionysus and his hold over the populace. The central theme is of the conflict between the intellect and the sensuously physical, with the king unable to find a balance between the two, and eventually being torn to pieces in a Bacchanalian rite. Continuing his exploration of forms that might be suited to modern opera, Henze employed a structure quite different from his earlier operas: a four-movement symphonic form in which the music and action flow continuously. He took full advantage of the opportunities that the libretto offered for scenes of multiple voices, regularly joined by the chorus; the colours of the work are often stark and brittle, sometimes condensing to transparent and delicate moments. Underneath the largely lyrical vocal writing is a fluid, plastic orchestra, acting as the equivalent of a Greek chorus, sometimes crashing in to interject, always imbued with rhythmic variety and flow, as if it was itself following a Bacchanalian dance. The result is a musical drama of singular power, doing what opera does best: presenting the psychology of archetypes and archetypal conflicts. The dance of the Maenads in the hunt for Pentheus at the end of the third movement has become celebrated for its frenzied power, and the opera closes with Pentheus' palace going up in flames in the triumph of Dionysus.
Henze's next opera came from his most political period. We Come to the River (1974-1976), described as "actions for music" used an allegorical libretto by the English playwright Edward Bond, and is an anti-bourgeois and anti-militaristic work that did not have the success of his previous operas. Bond was also the librettist for The English Cat (1980-1982), a politically satirical version of a Balzac short story. Das verratene Meer (1990) was unexpectedly based on a novel by a right-wing author, Yukio Mishima's The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea, but its study of internal and torrid family tensions (including voyeurism and murder) was well suited to Henze's idiom. It is constructed in a sequence of tableaux and orchestral interludes, richly scored, with a huge percussion section devoted to the expression of neurosis, and it created considerable impact on its premiere. Mention should be also made of two music-theatre works. Moralities (1967) is a triplet of very short and simple opera morality tales, designed for schools and colleges, with miniature arias, chorus sections, and roles for a speaker, and deliberately leaving any stage ideas to the performers. El Cimarrón (1969-1970) for baritone, flute, guitar and percussion, is about a revolutionary Cuban fighter, and also includes an element of performer choice.
The position of Henze is a difficult one to assess. He has not led with innovation, but attempted a synthesis of a wide range of styles into a personal idiom, from the Renaissance to the avant-garde. His fertile musical imagination, his craftsmanship, and his prolificacy have assured him a very widespread reputation. Against that, he is one of those composers whose music is well known, but about whom few respond with an instantly remembered work or series of works, a kind of Telemann of the 20th century. His fecundity (and his involvement in extreme left-wing politics in the late-1960s) has perhaps masked the real impact of his best works, such as the Symphony No.7 and The Bassarids.
- 8 symphonies
- 2 piano concertos; 2 violin concertos; Chamber Concerto for piano, flute and strings; Concertino for piano, wind and percussion; Double Concerto for oboe, harp and strings; Compases para preguntas ensimismadas for viola and chamber orch.; La miracle de la rose for clarinet and chamber orch.; Ode to the West Wind for cello and orch.; Tristan for piano, orch. and tape; Il Vitalino raddoppiato for violin and chamber orch.; Concerto per il Marigny for piano and 8 instruments
- Barcarola, Los caprichos, Heliogabalus Imperator, 4 Poemi, Requiem, 3 Sinfonische Etüden and Telemanniana for orch.; Aria de la folia espanola, 3 Dithyrambs and In memoriam: Die weisse Rose for chamber orch.; Fantasia and Sonata for strings
- Serenade for solo cello; Royal Winter Music for guitar; solo violin sonata; viola sonata; violin sonata; Carillon, Récitatif, Masque for mandolin, guitar and harp; Chamber Sonata for piano trio; 5 string quartets; wind quintet; L'autunno for wind quintet; Amicizia for 5 instruments
- piano sonata; Variations for piano; Lucy Escott Variations for piano or harpsichord; Divertimenti for 2 pianos; Six absences for harpsichord
- song cycles with orch. or instrumental ensemble Apollo et Hyazinthus, Ariosi, Being Beauteous, Kammermusik, Nachtstücke und Arien, Neapolitanische Lieder, El Rey de Harlem, Whispers from Heavenly Death, Versuch über Schweine and Voices; König Oedipus for tenor and guitar
- Cantata della fiaba estrema for soprano, small chorus and small orch.; Chor gefangener Trojer for chorus and orch.; Choral Fantasy for chorus and 7 instruments; Das Floss der `Medusa' for soprano, baritone, speaker, chorus and orch.; Muses of Sicily for chorus, 2 pianos, wind and timpani; Novae de infinito laudes for soloists, chorus and small orch.
- 11 ballets including Maratona, Ondine, Orpheus and L'usignolo dell'imperatore
- operas including The Bassarids, Boulevard Solitude, Elegy for Young Lovers, The English Cat, Der junge Lord, König Hirsch, Der Prinz von Homburg, Das verratene Meer and We Come to the River; opera for actors Das Wundertheater; radio operas Das Ende einer Welt and Ein Landarzt
- music theatre El Cimarrón (for baritone and 3 instruments) and Der langierige Weg in die Wohnung Natascha Ungeheuer; vaudeville La cubana
opera The Bassarids (1964-1965)
opera Boulevard Solitude (1951)
opera Elegy for Young Lovers (1959-1961)
oratorio Das Floss der Medusa (The Raft of Medusa, 1968)
Royal Winter Music I & II (1975-1976) for guitar
Symphonies Nos 1-3 (1947,1948,1949) (see text)
Symphony No.5 (1962)
Symphony No.6 (Sinfonia No.6, 1969)
Symphony No.7 (1983-1984)
String Quartet No.3 (1975)
String Quartet No.4 (1976)
String Quartet No.5 (1977)
Voices (1973) for two voices and fifteen instruments
H.W.Henze Music and Politics: Collected Writings 1953-1981 trans. P.Labanyi, 1982
E.Restagno Henze, 1986 (in Italian)
born 16th November 1895 at Hanau
died 28th December 1963 at Frankfurt
Of all the major composers of the 20th century, Hindemith remains the most enigmatic: universally considered of major stature, of unquestionable musical integrity, and yet nowadays heard far less than his reputation would suggest, in spite of his prodigious output. A viola virtuoso who played with the Amar Quartet in the 1920s, famous for its contemporary performances, Hindemith pursued an active solo career (premiering, for example the Walton Viola Concerto); his craftsmanship is epitomized by his ability to play virtually every instrument he ever wrote for. His compositional art is on the one hand intellectually rigorous, and yet on the other often concerned with music for an ordinary, sometimes amateur populace. It is founded on the reaction to the end of the Romantic period, and the problems presented to composers by the collapse of the Romantic aesthetic. He stands in contrast to the (earlier) Impressionist reaction, or the contemporary trends of the Second Viennese school. Essentially his is a neo-classical oeuvre, but one which presents a particularly German solution, and which especially embraces an individual approach to harmony. With its disavowal of sentimentality, it has often been referred to as `humanist'. His output was very large, and to avoid confusion when identifying works it should be noted that Hindemith ceased assigning opus numbers once he had reached op.50 (when he was 35).
Hindemith's music falls loosely into four overlapping periods that show more of an evolution than any sudden change. After abandoning youthful Romanticism, his earliest, dissonant works were influenced by Stravinsky and jazz. In the early 1920s he, in addition, adopted a neo-baroque style characterized by compelling rhythmic drive, and still dissonant harmonies now created by the conjunction of linear lines of counterpoint, expressed by mostly chamber-scale forces. By the beginning of the 1930s the acerbic harmonies had mellowed, with the development of Hindemith's particular harmonic theories, and the use of larger scale forces. Finally, there was a general easing of the severer side of his idiom (particularly the driving rhythms), following his move to Switzerland in 1937, and to the U.S.A. in 1940, where he become a citizen in 1946. Throughout, the influence of Bach is present, both in such features as the delight in the craftsmanship of technique (especially the panoply of linear counterpoint) and in the intellectual aesthetic. Hindemith's concept of harmony, developed and refined by the mid-1930s, allows a freeing of the constraints of traditional tonality without losing the sense of tonality itself. It is based in part on the relationship between the overtones of different notes, and the result is a concern more with the tensions inherent within a chord, and thus a movement between different tensions, than the relation of tension and resolution between two or more different chords. The system, which allows a series of chordal relationships covering the whole chromatic scale (and readers further interested in this system are advised to explore the Ludus Tonalis, discussed below), suits the linear counterpoint that is such a feature of Hindemith's writing, but it has had little effect on subsequent music theory.
Throughout Hindemith's output a number of features remain consistent. His harmonic palette was founded on a desire to continue and develop the tonal tradition, rather than to construct an alternative; consequently there is always a tonal base or centre to his work, often moving underneath the surface, even in the more dissonant earlier works where the dissonance is often more for effect than for harmonic progression. In this pattern keys become diffused, and melodies sometimes have a modal cast, but the traditional triad remains a point of resolution and centre. Counterpoint remained the foundation of his art, which on the one hand delights in craftsmanship and inevitably looks back to the pre-Classical models, but on the other avoids some of the sheer emotional effect achieved by those of his contemporaries less consistently dependent on counterpoint. His rhythms are often vital and driving, but usually serve the needs of propelling the counterpoint rather than becoming a motivating force in the construction. Perhaps the most interesting feature of his style is his sense of orchestration and instrumentation: he delighted in careful blending of instruments and their colours (sometimes creating unexpected combinations), more concerned with the texture than with the effect of individual colour or stark contrast (though these sometimes occur in the earlier works). Middle voices, as opposed to extremes, are usually favoured, especially woodwind and the sound of the viola. The resulting sound does not have the startling impact of more contrasting or emphatic use of instruments, as was becoming common among his contemporaries, but is immensely satisfying.
Hindemith's early music is eclectic in influence, from Reger to Strauss, but developed into an anti-Romantic rebelliousness permeated with the influence of jazz. This reflection of the carefree nihilism of the Germany of the 1920s is clearly apparent in his earlier piano music, which combines Romantic echoes with a rather weighty sentiment leavened by strong jazz influences. The opera Morder, Hoffnung der Frauen op.12 (Murder, Hope of Women, 1919), sets a strange and half-unintelligible and symbolic text by the painter Kokoschka on the relationship between the sexes. Taken literally (which was not intended), its message of woman achieving actuality only through men expressing their sexuality and turning away from the eternal, would be unacceptable today, which probably explains its virtual disappearance, for its music is dramatic and immediate. Similarly, the highly satirical opera Das Nusch-Nuschi (1920), to a libretto by Franz Blei, is intentionally irreverent, quoting from Wagner's Tristan und Isolde when the Burmese king (who judges a dance contest) realizes that his four wives have been seduced by his favourite general.
The end of this apprenticeship of idiom came with two arresting string quartets, which combine that rebelliousness with pre-echoes of his mature style. Hindemith came to prominence with the String Quartet No.2 op.16 (1921), played at the Donaueschingen music festival, which specialized in contemporary chamber music and with which Hindemith had become closely associated. Its lively, thrusting first movement was seen at the time as almost primeval, while the magical effects and melodic counterpoint of the second, and the drama of the third movements of this arresting work foreshadow Shostakovich. The atonal String Quartet No.3 op.22 (1922) has a memorable slow movement, and overall stands between Expressionism and Hindemith's move towards the neo-classical.
The germinal work of his maturity is the extensive, sensitive and contemplative song-cycle Das Marienleben op.27 (1922-1923, revised 1936-1948 in a version many consider inferior to the original, and orchestrated 1938-1959) for soprano and piano. The formal scheme of the four groups of songs, from the lyrical to the philosophical, reflects Baroque models. The preoccupation with linear counterpoint and repetitive patterns of rhythms is clear, while the harmonic patterns reflect the inner chordal tensions already outlined. But the first series of works to reflect his individual aesthetic is known as Kammermusik (Chamber Music, 1922-1927), which consist of seven concertos for various chamber orchestra ensembles. In these he developed a neo-classical idiom that was both a contrast to the jazzy shock of the earlier rebellious works, and personal in the application of the anti-Romantic return to classical models. The forms are neo-baroque, and the use of the orchestra quite antithetical to any 19th-century model, for the chamber orchestra is essentially a collection of soloists (even when there is an actual solo instrument). The strong sense of linear polyphony is another neo-baroque element; on this base it is the harmonies (tonal, but with strong dissonances set up by the polyphony) and the rhythmic impulse (driving the energy forward) that are individual and modern. These works breathe vitality, wit, the joy of pure construction, the intellectual pleasures, and combine them with energy, rather than any overt display of emotions or Romantic evocations. The ostinati, the bitonality and the tuned percussion of the lithe and supple Kammermusik No.1 op.24 No.1 (1922) anticipate Orff, and still have echoes of the rebel in the closing whistle and the instruction that the performers were not to be seen from the audience. Kammermusik No.2 op.36, No.1 (1924) is a linear piano concerto, with shades of Bach in the slow movement, Kammermusik No.3 op.36 No.3 (1925) a cello concerto alternating joie-de-vivre and a grander expression, and Kammermusik No.4 op.36 No.3 (1925) a more declamatory violin concerto whose use of drums was developed from jazz influences, and which includes a lovely and typically purposeful nocturne. The best known is Kammermusik No.5 op.36, No.4 (1927), a viola concerto with a strong concertante spirit, which ends with a boisterous Bavarian dance parody. Kammermusik No.6 op.46, No.1 (1927) is a viola d'amore concerto, unusual for its solo instrument, but less interesting than its predecessor. Kammermusik No.7 op.46, No.2 (1927) is an organ concerto, its linear polyphony conspicuous. In all these works, Hindemith typically explores unusual forces, not for effect of swathes of orchestral colours, but for the intrinsic qualities of colour peculiar to each instrument, which, together with the necessity for clarity of counterpoint, leads to restricted but unusual instrumental combinations. Thus the violin concerto (Kammermusik No.4) has no violins to interfere with the solo timbre; similarly the viola concerto uses eight woodwind, eight brass, and eight strings, but no violins or violas.
Such considered instrumental combinations, often notable for their clarity and sometimes consistency of timbre, are found throughout Hindemith's work. A similar neo-baroque aesthetic is the basis of the Concerto for Orchestra (1925) and the opera Cardillac (1926), which combines an Expressionist plot with Baroque forms. The central character is a psychopathic goldsmith who prefers murdering his clients to parting with his creations; he is eventually lynched by a crowd outside the opera-house. The delight in unusual but logical structure continued in the opera Hin und zurück (There and Back, 1927), where the action and the music of the second half mirrors in reverse that of the first. To a libretto by Marcellus Schiffer, this little one-act `sketch with music' revolves around the shooting of a woman when a letter, purported to be from her tailoress, seems to be from an illicit lover; the frenetic score, piano prominent, catches the absurdity of the story with a music-hall flavour. The culmination of Hindemith's sense of burlesque humour was the highly satirical, jazzy three-act opera Neues vom Tage (News of the Day, 1928-1929), in which operatic conventions are reversed, so in place of a love-duet there is a hate-duet, and instead of a wedding an ensemble for divorce. In the original version the heroine at one point sat naked in her bath surrounded by the hotel staff; the couple regret deciding on divorce, and want to reconcile, but the publicity surrounding their separation (including film offers) is so great such an action is impossible. There is a fine suite from the opera.
Gradually Hindemith expanded his abstract conceptions (while usually maintaining the chamber-sized forces), retaining his neo-classical approach and extending the lyrical feel, the harmonies often becoming more obviously consonant. The result was the three works that make up Konzertmusik (Concerto Music, 1930), the first of which is less a concerto than a divertimento for viola and orchestra. The Konzertmusik op.49 (1930) for piano, brass and two harps and the Konzertmusik op.50 (1930) for strings and bass use a form of two distinct movements that are themselves divided into contrasting sections. The former matches the brass to the more aggressive part of the piano's character, the harps to the more reflective. The formality and grandeur of the Konzertmusik for strings and bass, with (until the close) opposing orchestral forces, reflects a larger conception, while Hindemith's vivaciousness emerged in the Philharmonisches Konzert (Philharmonic Concerto, 1932). Der Schwanendreher (The Swan Catcher, 1935) for viola and orchestra was based on traditional folk songs. Particularly beautiful (its modality sometimes sharing a similar world with Vaughan Williams) is the Trauermusik (Funeral Music) for viola and strings, written in one night in 1936 at the request of the B.B.C. on the death of George V. At the same time, Hindemith had not turned his back on experimentation. In 1935 he wrote one of the earliest works for an electronic instrument, Langsames Stück und Rondo for trautonium, initially haunting, and then cheekily bouncy, but throughout taking advantage from its neo-classical base of the resonant timbres and ethereal sonorities of the instrument.
Meanwhile, Hindemith had embarked on a different aspect of his music-making: works for amateur performers, generally known as Gebrauchsmusik (literally `utility-music'), though he used a number of other terms indicating his interests, including `Volksmusikschule` (school for the people's music) and `Gemeinschaftsmusik' (music for the community). Hindemith's works in this area range from Lehrstück for any combination of instrumentalists, with soloists, chorus, clowns and audience participation, to many works for piano, wind combinations, and cantatas and vocal works, as well as a musical play for children. Part of the impulse was to restore the place of the composer within the more ordinary activities of a society. The influence of such ideals was not immediately apparent in the next generation of composers, but it has lingered: on the one hand such composers as the Minimalists Philip Glass and Steve Reich, leading their own instrumental ensembles, have returned to such a relationship with audiences, and on the other such composers as Birtwistle have more recently attempted music-theatre works that restore a kind of travelling-players relationship with theirs.
With the opera Mathis der Maler (Mathis the Painter, 1933-1934), Hindemith created what many consider his masterpiece (it brought him to the attention of a much wider international public), and initiated a new direction in his work. Based on the life of the painter Mathis Grünewald, Mathis der Maler confronts an issue central to Hindemith's own artistic outlook and to the times in which it was written: should an artist continue his art in the face of human misery and upheaval? Inspired by Grünewald's famous altarpiece of the Crucifixion in Isenheim, the opera is set in 1525, the period of the Peasants' Revolt, with the painter caught in the political violence of the times. The harmonic structure of the opera is a palindromic movement from C# to the E of the central scene, and then back to C#. The symphony Mathis der Maler (1934) is essentially a suite of three excepts from the opera, but it is an indication of the formal security of the opera that the symphony has genuine symphonic structure, its central harmonic idea being the tug of G towards C#, with the first two movements in sonata form. Echoes of old German music are woven into a contrapuntal tapestry of vigour and dark-hued beauty, typically earnest in texture, powerful in effect. The juxtaposition of concentrated moods give it a seriousness in keeping with its appellation, in a work which is perhaps the finest introduction to Hindemith's genius.
During the 1930s Hindemith developed his harmonic ideas in a number of influential publications; he came under attack from the Nazis, and emigrated to the United States in 1937. The most complex work of the period, and the summation of his harmonic ideas, is the extended piano work Ludus Tonalis (1942), which, although designed to illustrate his theories, is an extraordinary if severe tour-de-force of musical idea and pianistic expression through intellectual rigour. Framed by a prelude and a postlude that are mirrors of each other, the body of the work consists of twelve fascinating and never dryly academic fugues, divided by eleven interludes that modulate the keys, which are arranged according to Hindemith's concept of the harmonic series.
Otherwise his later works are generally larger in scale and less uncompromising in emotional expression than those written before his emigration. Although they maintain a neo-classical sense of organization and instrumentation, and Hindemith retained the harmonic system he had evolved, these works are more obviously tonal. At the same time, they perhaps have less character; they include a series of sixteen sonatas for solo instrument and piano (1935-1955, besides other sonatas), and, starting with the best known, the Violin Concerto, eight concertos (1935-1962). The outstanding works of this later period are all large in scale. The ballet Nobilissima Visione (1938), best known in its orchestral suite form (1938), is one of Hindemith's most immediate scores, rich and sonorous, the mellower tones of strings and brass opposed to high woodwind. The many who appreciate the contemporaneous music of Shostakovich, but are unfamiliar with the work of Hindemith, will enjoy this score. The Symphony in E flat (1940) has a war-time feel to its sense of austerity and nobility, with solid but limited orchestral colours, and large-scale dramatic effect. The equally often encountered Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes of Carl Maria Weber (1943) never quite lives up to its aspirations as a concerto for orchestra. The Requiem For Those We Love - When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd (1945-1946) for mezzo-soprano, baritone, chorus and orchestra is a lyrical and sometimes earnest setting of Whitman's valedictory poem, harking back to Bachian models. But the major work of his later years is the opera Die Harmonie der Welt (The Harmony of the World, 1956-1957), conceived as early as 1930; the accompanying Symphony, Harmonie der Welt, containing the final scene complete except for voices, had been finished in 1951, and is much more likely to be encountered. The opera depicts the attempts of the astronomer Kepler to discover the music of the spheres, with an obvious relationship to Hindemith's own ideas.
Hindemith remains a difficult composer to assess. Those familiar with Hindemith's later music will be surprised at the accomplished polish, humour, and sometimes outrageousness of his earlier works, which, as much as those of Weill, reflect the atmosphere of the Berlin of the 1920s. Many of these early scores, especially the satirical operas, are worth exploring, and the sense of fun completely belies Hindemith's reputation as a composer of dryness. His middle-period works, notably the series of chamber works and concertos, are consistently appealing, without the startling individuality of his major contemporaries, but so beautifully crafted that they give much pleasure. The later works, written after the Second World War, are generally drier and less interesting for those starting to explore Hindemith's music. The three major operas, and the symphonies derived from two of them, remain the central works of his genius.
Hindemith was professor of composition at the Berlin Hochschule from 1927. As part of his teaching, he attempted to encourage music knowledge and skills on a more ordinary level than the training towards purely virtuoso ends (an approach now almost universally adopted). With these principles he organized systematic music activities in Turkey (1935 and 1936), from school teaching to symphony orchestras. He taught at Yale during his stay in the U.S.A. (1939 to 1953, during which he became an American citizen, 1945). In 1953 he settled in Switzerland. He was said to be one of the worst conductors of his own music.
- Symphony in E flat; symphony Harmonie der Welt; symphony Mathis der Maler; Pittsburgh Symphony; Symphonia serena; sinfonietta
- Concerto for Orchestra; clarinet concerto; horn concerto; piano concerto; organ concerto; viola concerto; violin concerto; woodwind and harp concerto; concerto for trumpet, bassoon and strings; Der Schwanendreher for viola and orch.; Theme and Variations `The Four Temperaments' for piano and strings; Trauermusik for viola and strings
- Cupid and Psyche, Konzertmusik, Philharmonic Concerto, Symphonic Dances and Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes of Carl Maria von Weber for orch.
- 7 Kammermusik for various instrumental combinations; 2 Konzertmusik for chamber ensembles
- sonata for solo cello; 2 sonatas for solo viola; 2 sonatas for solo violin; many sonatas for solo instrument and piano; 2 string trios; trio for piano, viola and heckelphone or tenor saxophone; Rondo for 3 guitars; 6 string quartets; quartet for clarinet, violin, cello and piano; sonata for four horns; clarinet quintet; Kleine Kammermusik for wind quintet; Three Pieces for clarinet, trumpet, piano, violin and double bass; septet for wind quintet, bass clarinet and trumpet; octet for winds and strings; many other chamber works
- 3 piano sonatas; Dance pieces, Ludus Tonalis, Piano Music and Suite `1922' for piano; sonata for piano, four hands; sonata for two pianos
- 3 organ sonatas
- song cycles including English Songs for soprano or mezzo and piano, Die junge Magd for alto, flute, clarinet and string quartet, Das Marienleben for soprano and piano (also orch.) and Die Serenaden for soprano, oboe, viola and cello
- Das Unaufhörliche for soloists, chorus and orch.; When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd for mezzo, baritone, chorus and orch; Apparebit repentina dies for chorus and brass; 12 Madrigals and Mass for chorus; other vocal works
- ballets Der Dämon, Hérodiade and Nobilissima visione
- operas Cardillac, Harmonie der Welt, Hin und zurück, Mathis der Maler (Mathis the Painter), Mörder, Hoffnung der Frauen (Murder, the Hope of Women), The Long Christmas Dinner, Neues vom Tag (News of the Day), Das Nusch-Nuschi and Sancta Suzanna
opera Cardillac (1926)
opera Harmonie der Welt (1956-1957)
sketch with music Hin und zurück (1927)
series Kammermusik (1920-1927) for various forces
Ludus Tonalis (1942) for piano
song cycle Das Marienleben (1922-1923) for soprano and piano
opera Mathis der Maler (1932-1934)
String Quartet No.2 (1921)
String Quartet No.3 (1922)
Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Weber (1944) for orchestra
Symphony Harmonie der Welt (1951)
Symphony Mathis der Maler (1934)
Trauermusik (1936) for viola and strings
P. Hindemith A Composer's World, 1952
A Concentrated Course in Traditional Harmony (2 vols.), 1943,1953
The Craft of Musical Composition, 1941 (written 1937 & 1939)
Elementary Training for Musicians, 1946
I. Kemp Hindemith, 1970
G. Skelton Hindemith: The man and his music, 1975
born 21st August 1927 at Munich
Under the influence of his teacher Carl Orff, Killmayer first came to notice with the opera-ballet La Buffonata (1959-1960; he himself was ballet conductor at the Bavarian State Opera from 1961 to 1965), and then with light music theatre pieces, before adopting a quasi-serial idiom. However, by the late 1960s he had developed a very personal style, with works that rely on the minimum of musical ideas and on the contrasts of silence and rhythm, or works of fragmentary episodes. The music is distantly grounded in models from older music (such as the entries and rhythms of the Symphony No.1, 1968), though totally assimilated into his modern idiom.
Often built from a single held note, the essential features of his spare style are the building of long strands of ideas (usually in long unbroken phrases); small orchestral forces with a preference for a single instrument or instruments of a similar colour playing at any particular moment; and a harmonic emphasis on one particular note; and interruptions or sometimes dissonant climaxes contrasted through the emphatic use of ostinati figures (derived from Orff) or a sudden change of colour or timbre. This style, though very spare, nonetheless combines a purity with a sense of underlying tension, sometimes nervous in character, which is clearly meant to express various states of the human soul. At times this is reduced to virtually nothing, as in The woods so wilde (1970) for chamber ensemble, where eventually a broken chord on the guitar sounds like an intrusion on the simplest of musical ideas that precede it. Sometimes the underlying tense drive breaks out, as in the central section of the Piano Quartet (1975). But in the three symphonies there is a very effective expressive power based on the careful control of minimal material, though the symphonic developments are more in the nature of tone poems than symphonies. The Symphony No.1 `Folgi' (Leaves, 1968) sets the style - a long tense sigh of high strings is contrasted first with minimal points of instrumental colour on woodwind with Mahlerian references, and then, in a slow progression, with darker sonorities (mainly percussive). The construction is of one long slow span lying over the three-movement structure, with moments of silence playing an important role. The Symphony No.2 `Ricordanze' (Memory, 1968-1969) for thirteen instruments opens with the emergence and fading of string timbres on various held notes. The gradual extension of this stillness into underlying movement, eventually introducing harpsichord chords, becomes the expressive purpose of the work. It was followed by the static String Quartet (1969). The Symphony No.3 `Menschen-Los' (Human Destiny, 1972-1973), longer and more clearly symphonic, combines these elements of stripped-down orchestral writing with much more extrovert music that recalls many past symphonic styles (again, especially Mahler) in ghostly allusion, charting the course of a man's life from childhood to old age in bold expressive strokes, though the underlying movement is slow. In the late 1970s Killmayer then produced a group of short tone poems that extend this milieu, including Berstehen und Hoffen (Survival and Hope), concentrating on the emergence and subsidence of instrumental texture based on a two-note idea, and Im Freien (Open Air) that continues the minimal means. Quotations from past music are more overt in the Five Romances for Violin and Piano `Vanitas Vanitatum', the subtitle a reference to Schumann, in a work of eclectic moods that is intended to create a spiritual connection with early German Romanticism.
On occasions, the allusive nostalgia of Killmayer's music can be irritating when it is not combined with his innate sense of internal stillness and movement (as in, for example, Paradies, 1972, for pianos). But with a harmonic outlook firmly rooted in traditional tonality combined with a personal but modern development of the spare, it may attract many as an unusual alternative to other trends, such as Minimalism, that have attempted a return to tonality. Killmayer has been professor of composition at the Staatliche Musikhochschulke in Munich since 1974.
- 3 symphonies (No.1 Folgi, No.2 Ricordanze, No.3 Menschen-Los)
- piano concerto; Night Thoughts for cello and orch.
- Divertissement for orch.; The Broken Farewell for trumpet and small orch.; tone-poems Im Freien (In the Open Air), Jugendzeit (Time of Youth), Berstehen und Hoffen (Survival and Hope), Verschüttete Zeichen (Buried Signs); fin al punto for strings; The woods so wilde for ensemble; Schumann in Endenich for ensemble and voices
- Five Romances `Vanitas Vanitatum' for violin and piano; trio for two violins and cello; string quartet and other chamber works, usually for unusual instrumental combinations
- An John Field (5 Nocturnes), Paradies and other works for piano(s)
- vocal and choral music including Sappho for soprano and small orch.
- ballet-opera La buffonata and other ballets
- operas including La tragedia di Orfeo
Five Romances `Vanitas Vanitatum' (1988) for violin and piano
Symphony No.1 Fogli (1968)
Symphony No.2 Ricordanze (1968-1969
Symphony No.3 Menschen-Los (1972-1973)
tone poem Berstehen und Hoffen
born 10th July 1895 at Munich
died 29th March 1982 at Munich
The achievement of Carl Orff has been totally obscured by the phenomenal success of his cantata Carmina Burana (1935-1936), one of the very few serious pieces of classical music written since the First World War to have achieved genuine popular appeal. Partly because of that very success, and partly because of its aesthetic and musical content, he has been vilified by critics and intellectual commentators.
Yet his position in 20th-century music is slowly emerging in a completely different light. The success and application of his educational methods (the Orff Method, discussed below) have rarely been questioned. What is less acknowledged is his place as the father of the movement known as `Minimalist' music. Many of the Minimalist techniques - the predominance of ostinati and interweaving patterns, the use of tonal harmonic colours, the impulse of rhythm, the particular use of percussion or percussive effects to these ends, as well as the exploration of the combination of dance or movement and music - owe their origins to Orff. Hardly surprisingly, the criticisms of Minimalism by more conservative critics have echoed their criticisms of Orff. Even less acknowledged is his power as an opera composer, who forged the first genuinely new approach to the medium since Berg and Weill. The lack of good performing versions in English, combined with critical and musicological disapproval, has hampered their dissemination outside Germany. But as audiences increasingly become familiar with Minimalist operas, notably those of Philip Glass, it seems inevitable that there will be a renewed interest in Orff's operas, especially Antigonae (1947-1948), whose impact, depth of emotion, intellectual integrity, and dramatic excitement have yet to be matched by any of the Minimalist composers.
Orff's output, exclusively vocal after 1936, falls into three general areas. A number of works, mostly staged but including some choral pieces, explore various aspects of human life, from love and pleasure to elemental spiritual themes. Four of the `operas' (Der Mond, Die Kluge, Die Bernauerin and Astutuli) are more in the nature of music-theatre works, drawing on a variety of more popular idioms and including spoken dialogue; two religious music-theatre pieces have a similar folk base. Finally, there is a trilogy of operas based on Greek tragedies. Overall, all these three areas have a common purpose and theme: the expression of the archetypal and elemental emotions of the human psyche, explored from a humanist and intentionally uncritical angle: consistently, Orff intends to release those emotions in his audience, not to intellectually persuade. Thus he draws on the heritage of Western art, seeking texts to match this vision. The choral works often use Latin or medieval sources; two of the music-theatre pieces are based on Grimm's folk-tales, two on Bavarian stories; and the Greek tragedies are as archetypal as any source.
The foundation of Orff's style is movement; rhythm becomes the primary organization of the music, usually through ostinati phrases. Tension and release are created less through harmonic resolution than by shifts in the underlying pulse, or stopping it completely before resuming it (a favourite device). If the origins of this are to be found in Stravinsky, Orff's development of a rhythmic base essentially pioneered a reversal of the usual methods of constructing music that has become assimilated only in the last two decades of the 20th century. The other elements of the music are designed to reinforce this primacy of rhythm. The changes in rhythm and pulse, or the juxtaposition of blocks of different movement, are heavily emphasized by the orchestration, so that whereas the rhythmic elements provide a linear flow, the changes of colour create a vertical expansion or contraction of the overall sound. The orchestrations are unusual, relying on instruments capable of percussive emphasis but a wide variety of colour, so that in many of Orff's works there is a huge battery of percussion, and usually more than one piano, used as tuned percussion. Orff was a master at such orchestration, and some of the resulting sonorities, often countered by bright single notes or small ostinati phrases, are remarkable. The role of harmony occupies a much reduced role in this scheme (analogous to the role of rhythm in pre-20th-century music), generally relying on the traditional triad, often moving in repeated small steps (such as major seconds) that reinforce the rhythm; consequently the dissonant moments become all the more marked. Vocal or melodic lines are long, flowing, and motivated by rhythm; they often hark back to models of chant or more popular song, and sometimes emerge into beautiful and ecstatic free-flowing melodies where the rhythmic pulse is generally suspended.
This reversal of the more traditional construction of serious music has been one reason why critics have so little understood Orff's music: taking harmony as the prime building block, they found only a simple formula. In fact, the details of rhythm and pulse, and the interactions of movement in Orff's music (the primary elements) are often extremely complex and subtle, and the interactions of colour (the second element), sounding so spontaneous, are equally meticulously arranged. This sound world also interacts with the audience in a different manner to most other classical musics: its rhythmic elements elicit an earthy, non-cerebral response akin to ritual. Orff understood the importance of movement in this reaction, for it might be described as a body response, and is connected to the archetypal elements in his thinking. Again, such responses have been traditionally seen as belonging to `primitive' musics or popular musics, but Orff allies them to intellectual concepts through the texts, which is why words are so important in Orff's output. The necessity to the human psyche of such an integration between the naturally elemental and the intellectual is a concept coming into the fore only at the close of the 20th century, in reaction to the suppression of the former; in this Orff was considerably ahead of his times. It is one to which audiences, until recently unaccustomed to such elemental music, easily respond, and it is no surprise that the area in which this cast of movement and rhythm was first generally accepted was in Orff's music for schools. In asking audiences to respond in such a way, Orff was close to the changed relationship between composer and audience that Hindemith had been attempting in the concept of Gebrauchsmusik.
Orff withdrew almost all his music that preceded the composition of Carmina Burana. A precocious composer (his first songs were published when he was 17), his earliest works were almost all songs or vocal music, influenced by Debussy, though even by his first opera, Gisei, das Opfer op.20 (1913), his orchestral emphasis on graduations of tonal colour was reportedly evident, with a very large percussion section for the time, including much tuned, brighter colours, such as the glockenspiel and glass harmonica. He was then influenced by Strauss and Pfitzner, especially the latter's opera Palestrina, and by Expressionist writing. By the cantata Des Turmes Auferstehung (1920, never performed), the orchestration had developed into the colours that were to become familiar in his mature works, apparently limiting the palette but actually providing a consistent range for the interactive graduation of colour, as well as percussive effect: strings, six each of flutes, oboes, and bassoons, four each of trumpets and trombones, percussion, four harps and four pianos.
During the 1920s his work on children's music extended his experience with, and primacy of, ostinato percussion effects and instruments. To this were added two major influences, that of folk stories, and especially the music of the early Baroque, represented by Monteverdi; Orff made performing versions of a number of his works. With practical experience writing incidental music for the theatre, these sources converged into a personal style, evident in the works immediately preceding Carmina Burana, and reaching its maturity in that work.
The immediate precursors were a series of short cantatas collected in two Werkbuchen (Workbooks). The first (1929-1930) are reworkings of songs to words by Werfel, originally written in 1920-1921, into a set of three cantatas (Veni creator spiritus, Der gute Mensch, and Fremde sind wir) for chorus and instruments. The deliberate simplicity, sacrificing complexity for intensity, the ostinato rhythms, the echoes of plainchant in the melodic lines, and sense of ritual anticipate Carmina Burana. The orchestration of the first two (pianos and percussion instruments) anticipate Antigonae, and the first part of Der Gute Mensch [The Noble Man] is especially delightful. The second Werkbuch (1931) consists of two cantatas, of which the first remains unpublished. The second (Vom Frühjar, Öltank und vom Fliegen [On Spring, Oiltank, and on Flying]) for chorus, three pianos and percussion, rather unexpectedly sets bitter texts by Brecht contrasting man's increasing technological aspirations with Nature, in a similar style but with an added brutality in the percussion. The influence of ancient classical texts then surfaced in Catulli Carmina I & II (1930 and 1931) for unaccompanied choir, the first discussed below under its revision and expansion of 1943.
Carmina Burana (1936) for soprano, tenor, baritone, chorus, children's chorus and orchestra, is a secular `scenic cantata', most effective when staged. The texts, some in German and some in medieval Latin, are from a collection of 13th-century songs known as the `Songs of Benediktbeuern' and associated with wandering monks called Goliards. These songs are concerned with love, drinking, joys and sorrows, often with religious references but far from reverent, as if Christianity had been subsumed by a Bacchanalian paganism. Orff's setting opens and closes with a Latin hymn of the wheel of fortune, the theme of the whole work; within this, the 23 songs are divided into three parts, the first `On Spring', the second `On the Green', concerned with dance and joy, the third `The Court of Love', ending with the love-story of Blanchefleur and Helen. Much of it relies on ostinati rhythms and phrases, but the range of song and tone is considerable, from the driving force of the opening and closing chorus, through the haunting, disembodied song of the swan and the dancing orchestral pastoralism on the green, to the high, ecstatic love song at the end. The energy is earthy, the colours vivid, the primary emotions joy, a delight in the cornucopia of life.
The last vestiges of a Romantic idiom with large-scale orchestral effect linger in Carmina Burana, and were increasingly pared away in Orff's later works. He himself later made it the first part of a trilogy, Trionfi, of which the second part is Catulli Carmina (The Songs of Catullus, 1943), which, while not so immediate, is a more representative and a finer work. In an opening and closing frame, two groups of chorus, youth and old people, backed by percussion and four pianos, argue about the importance of love. The main body of the work is the moral tale told by the old to the young about love: the songs of Catullus describing the love between Catullus and Lesbia, almost entirely sung by a cappella chorus but including some beautiful solo songs (it has been aptly described as almost a madrigal opera). At the end the young start up their driving rhythms again, ignoring totally the tale and its moral. Those used to Carmina Burana may be initially disappointed by its sparseness, but familiarity reveals a work more tautly laid out, more single-minded in its theme and message, and of considerable impact. The third work in the trilogy, Trionfi di Afrodite (The Triumph of Aphrodite, 1952), follows a wedding in which the couple give themselves to the laws of the Goddess of sensual love. Using texts in the original languages drawn from Sappho, Euripides and Catullus, it combines some of the more ascetic idiom of the Catullus songs with the richer colours of Carmina Burana. It is the most sensual and lyrical of Orff's works, with a kind of Mediterranean warmth; the rocking chorus of the `Epitalamo', gradually building to a climax with the solo voice of Corifeo exclaiming interjections over it, is one of Orff's most alluring passages, leading into an ecstatic duet for the lovers, written high over a held note.
Orff's first two mature operas set allegorical fairy-tale subjects based on Grimm. Der Mond (The Moon, 1937-1938, revised 1970) tells of a land without a moon; instead a soft globe was hung in a tree for night illumination. Four travellers took it, and lit their own land, but when one died, a quarter of the moon was cut out and laid in the grave with him. Eventually the whole moon was in the land of the dead, waking them up, and they made such a noise, that it reached the heavens, and the moon was restored to the land of the living. An obvious successor to certain aspects of Carmina Burana, it is his most lyrical opera, announcing from the very opening a melodic flow and a folk idiom, with elements drawn from such diverse sources as drinking songs and chorales. Dance rhythms impel virtually every moment with an earthy energy but sophistication in the flow, tension and release of rhythms. Especially effective is the first purely orchestral passage, with snarling brass over ostinati bass lines, followed by a nocturnal evocation.
Die Kluge (The Clever Woman, 1941-1942) is in 12 scenes, using a stage divided into two sections that act in counterpoint, the first telling the story of the clever woman, the second occupied by a sub-plot of three thieves. A peasant, now in a dungeon, had found a golden mortar, and was correctly advised by his clever daughter that he would be accused of stealing the pestle. The king, hearing of this, meets the daughter and marries her. Meanwhile, the thieves are joined by a man with a mule and a man with a donkey, who asks the king to rule that a new foal has to be his, since a mule cannot reproduce. The thieves so muddle up the facts that the king rules in the mule's favour, whereupon his wife shows her husband a moral trick to demonstrate his capriciousness, and is told to leave the next day, with just one favourite possession. She does, taking the king (to whom she has given a sleeping draught), and the tale ends happily. It is more grotesque than Der Mond, exemplified by the snarling opening of the peasant in prison. Percussion makes its appearance in blocks, with deliberately exotic quasi-eastern melodic ideas, especially beautiful towards the end. An indication of the universality of the story and the music has been its success in many different languages across the world. Die Bernauerin (1947, revised 1956 and 1979-1980) is based on a Bavarian ballad and follows the same idiom as Der Mond and Die Kluge. In spite of some arresting passages, including the purely orchestral sections, it is overall not as interesting as either, although the bareness of some of the writing, reducing colours to a minimum before expanding them, looks forward to Antigonae.
Antigonae (1949) is a setting (virtually word for word) of the Sophocles tragedy in a German translation by Hölderlin. In it Orff makes no attempt to use the music to provide a commentary on the action or words, or to provide a layer of emotion over and above (or counter to) that in the dramatic action, as is customary in opera. Instead, the text is paramount; the music serves to take the strong emotions of the texts and amplify them so that they are literally felt as well as understood, acting in a subconscious non-verbal manner that parallels the verbal. The effect is to dissolve the distancing effect of the theatre stage that a conventional staging of the tragedy is inclined to create. The extraordinary orchestration, almost entirely based on a huge amount of percussion including those capable of low sounds (large gongs, bass drum) and eight pianos, is designed to create a panoply of very particular colours and a large variety of timbre, while being capable of consistent rhythmic attack. The basic element is to set the text as a kind of incantatory recitative that closely follows the rhythms and patterns of speech while formalizing them. This then widens, a lengthened syllable or small variations in pitch reflecting small changes of emotion, and then expanding considerably into rhythmic melody for the more heightened emotions. The basic rhythms of the words are underlined, expanded, or complemented by often massed orchestral interjections. Where more sparsely accompanied, the touch of note or colour is constantly varied for precise effect. The linear flow is constant, the vertical expansion into melody and the unfolding of orchestral interjection and rhythmic change extraordinarily plastic, creating a clarity of text and emotion. Typical of the technique is Antigonae's intensely dramatic solo in Scene IV, where almost declamatory vocal writing broadens into wide leaps, mostly accompanied by a muted tango rhythm but interrupted by dramatic interjections from the orchestra, resounding with lower resonances and energized by cymbals and high bells, the whole having a powerful sense of momentum. It is followed by a chorus where the subtleties of the changes in the details of orchestral rhythm and colours are hardly noticed in the dramatic pulse, but are crucial to the overall effect. Whereas the emotions and characters of the main characters are largely determined by Sophocles' text, those of the minor ones are drawn with considerable understanding, especially the messenger, who through the music veers between a toadyish personality seeking to come out of the situation as best he can, and putting on a persona of efficient correctness to give actual reports. Sophocles's Greek chorus is treated as a chorus, but with a solo voice taking suitable passages. The ending, to a relentless but warm-coloured ostinato that turns into a funeral drum, as Creon realizes what he has done, his son and Antigonae incarcerated in their cave tomb, is gripping in its anguish. If the idiom sometimes superficially resembles that of the Stravinsky of Les Noces or Oedipus Rex, its application is very different, its intent to draw in the audience rather than distance them. The closest parallels to this seminal 20th-century opera are the operas of Philip Glass; but Antigonae, with its consistently detailed and subtle movement of effect and its deep understanding of elemental human emotions, emerges as a much more sophisticated and powerful musical creation. It has an impact far more powerful than any standard staging of Sophocles's tragedy, and allows one to understand exactly why the Greek tragedies were semi-sung to music. Orff then added two more operas based on Greek tragedy to create a trilogy. Oedipus der Tyrann (Oedipus the Tyrant, 1959) follows a similar idiom to Antigonae, and indeed tells the story of the events preceding the earlier opera, with a suggestion of the tango from Antigonae near the end, besides other shared material. Brass fanfares add a menacing element, and generally the musical content is yet further pared down. By Promtheus (1969) this process is taken a stage further: whereas Antigonae hovers on the edge of theatre-with-music while emerging triumphantly as an opera, Prometheus comes closer to drama with highly effective music.
Orff's last stage work took the most elemental subject of all: how the world began, and how it might end. Much of the impulse behind De temporum fine comoedia (1960-1971, revised 1979), is Gnostic: Lucifer is transformed back into an archangel, and the guilt that came from original sin disappears. The forces are large; the orchestra (a viola quartet, lower strings, woodwind, brass, harps, three pianos, two organ, wind machine and many percussion, including exotic instruments) is augmented by tape. Besides nine Sibyls, nine Anchorites, and a Chorus Leader, there are two singing solo roles, and a speaker as Lucifer, with a boys' choir in addition to a main choir. The work, full of textual symbolism, is divided into three parts, `The Sibyls' (using only women's voices), `The Anchorites' (using only men's voices), and `Dies Illa'. The first two often hark back to the spare idiom of Catulli Carmina, but it is the `Dies Illa' that is the finest section of the work, using the full forces. It opens in an angry wasteland, with declamatory chorus and bare low percussion, when any sense of pitch is often lost. It ends with the appearance of Lucifer on the quietly anguished "Pater peccavi" ("Father, I have sinned"), the sounds of a celestial choir using a perfect fifth as a symbol of purity, and then a close of haunting beauty for a viola quartet, initially based on a Bach chorale before emerging into a four-part canon which turns back to its opening in retrograde, the symbol of the world turning full-circle that pervades so much of Orff's thinking.
Orff's methods of teaching music in school were developed with Dorothee Günther at the Günther School of Music (founded 1924) and elaborated in the five-volume Schulwerk (1930-1933). It starts in the first year of school; children are taught first the elements of rhythm using percussion instruments, and to express that rhythmic sense with their bodies. This is then applied to melody, including singing, with an element of improvisation and musical self-expression, and to the application of simple formal structures to those melodies. It has been very successful and widely adopted; it teaches children to live and breathe music, rather than to learn an externalized system. There is a large body of educational music by Orff, following these principles; a good example of its more sophisticated school application is the delightful Christmas work Weihnachtsgeschichte, with text by Orff and very Orffian music by Gunild Keetman.
Orff was a pioneer; his small output is varied in success, but the major works, where all the elements of his art come together triumphantly, are extraordinarily powerful if preconceptions of the way music is constructed are laid aside. An exceptionally private man, his concern with the expression of contemporary events and concerns was minimal (though the allegory in Die Kluge must have been dangerously close to subversion in Nazi Germany), but his understanding of elemental, archetypal human motivations paramount. His philosophy is inclined to be misunderstood on acquaintance with one or two works, but becomes clear when a larger number are known (which may have been the basis for his predilection for grouping a number of works, such as the `Trionfi' trilogy, often years later). He is, therefore, primarily a philosophical composer, and one who, as Minimalism is starting to become assimilated into the mainstream of modern composition, may prove far more seminal to the 20th century than his current position would suggest. Those who respond to Carmina Burana will perhaps need no encouragement to explore his music further, though it should be borne in mind that his later works are both intellectually and musically tougher. Those who enjoy an intellectual response to listening to music, and have been antithetical to Orff's idiom, might consider an approach that accepts that the harmonies are predictable and straightforward, and instead listen for and analyze the marvellous webs that are the rhythmic constructions and the accompanying orchestral colours.
- Concerto for Wind Instruments and Harpsichord
- Bayerische Musik and Praeludium for orch.
Fremde sind wir, Der gute Mensch, Veni creator spiritus, and Vom Frühjar, Öltank und vom Fliegen for chorus and instruments
- staged cantatas Carmina Burana, Catulli Carmina, De temporum fine comoedia and Trionfo di Afrodite; religious staged works Comoedia de Christi Resurrectione and Ludus de Nato Infante Mirificus
- operas Antigonae, Astutuli, Die Bernauerin, Die Kluge, Der Mond, Oedipus der Tyrann and Prometheus
opera Antigonae (1949)
secular staged cantata Carmina Burana (1936)
secular staged cantata Catulli Carmina (1943)
cantata Der Gute Mensch (1930)
opera Die Kluge (1943)
opera Der Mond (1937-1938, revised 1970)
opera Oedipus der Tyrann (1959) (see text)
staged cantata De temporum fine comoedia (1960-1971, revised 1979)
secular staged cantata Trionfo di Afrodite (1952)
A.Liess Carl Orff (trans. A. and H.Parkin), 1966
born 23rd April 1869 at Moscow
died 22nd May 1949 at Salzburg
Hans Pfitzner was a senior figure among those composers who continued to develop the late-Romantic Germanic idiom well into the 20th century. While not achieving the same technical individuality or emotional depth as Mahler or Strauss, his is still a powerful voice, and with Zemlinsky and Schoeck he is the most important of the secondary composers working with the embers of this aesthetic outlook. That his music is not better known is due to two factors. The first is the reaction against Romanticism that has until recently buried such late, and lesser, compositions, and the second his German nationalism, evident in both World Wars and inextricably, though somewhat unfairly, associated his name with Naziism. In his life-time he was famous as an exceptional conductor, following his motto of `Werktreue', strict adherence to the score of the work he was conducting. He was also an accomplished piano accompanist. It is a measure of his musicality that once, when he was conducting Wagner's Die Meistersinger, he handed the baton to his young assistant Klemperer for the second act and himself replaced the sick Beckmesser on stage.
A paradox in Pfitzner's output is his interest in medieval thought and music, for when he handles such material, it is not in the neo-classical or neo-madrigal idioms that were developing elsewhere, but strictly within the framework of his late-Romantic style. Like Wagner, such concepts from the past were primarily material for his German nationalism.
His major work is firmly set in the Renaissance period, and equally firmly employs all the techniques of post-Wagnerian opera. The mystical and massive opera Palestrina (1912-1915) is one of those works that has gathered strong adherents while baffling or boring others. Huge in scale, daunting in the sheer enormity of its staging demands, its theme - powerfully and honestly argued, and influenced by Schopenhauer - is that of the creative artist in a materialist society, represented by pressures on, and the internal conflicts of, the Italian Renaissance composer Palestrina (1525/6-1594). Pfitzner, emphasizing the inheritance of Wagner, subtitled the work a `musical legend', `legend' also being the generic word for the lives of saints. He himself wrote the libretto, itself of considerable merit, though the dramatic possibilities are curtailed by the absence of Palestrina himself in Act II - each act is almost a complete work in itself. Leitmotifs are used for the major characters, and for places and the moods they are associated with, but more sparingly than in a Wagner opera. The influence of the music of Palestrina's era is found principally in thematic ideas, except in moments when dramatic credibility requires more deliberate pastiche, but even these are clearly woven into a Romantic musical fabric. Structurally, the outer two acts are concerned with Palestrina's personal drama, and his decision to write a polyphonic mass that would dissuade Church critics from banning polyphony. The central act is nothing less than the Council of Trent, hotly debating those very issues. The long first act is especially inspired, extended outpourings of sublime music, visionary in appeal, rich in uplifting sonority framing a central, impassioned argument between Palestrina and Cardinal Borromeo. In Palestrina Pfitzner's powers, and depth of philosophical thought, reached a creative plane he never otherwise matched. However limited its appeal, it remains one of the masterpieces of the 20th-century operatic repertoire.
Of his other operas, Der Arme Heinrich, described as a `music drama' (1891-1893, libretto by the philosopher James Grun), is based on an effective medieval legend, a variant on the biblical Abraham and Isaac story but with the Germanic-Wagnerian theme of redemption by beauty and purity. It describes the mysterious sickness of a knight who will only be cured by the sacrifice of a willing girl. The 14-year old Agnes offers herself; as she is about to die a miracle occurs: Heinrich the knight recovers and prevents the death. The music is predominantly meditative and slow moving, influenced by Wagner's Parsifal. Die Rose vom Liebesgarten (The Rose from the Garden of Love, 1897-1901) is marred by its Symbolist libretto (also written by James Grun), inspired by a painting. Christelflein (1906), is, as its name (The Little Christmas-Elf) indicates, a Christmas story.
However, it is Pfitzner's incidental or excerpted orchestral music that is most likely to be encountered in the concert hall. Chief among these are the preludes to the three acts of Palestrina, which (like some of Wagner's), stand magnificently on their own. The first, influenced by old church modes, has a drawn-out visionary beauty built on long string lines. The second is vitally exciting, the brass predominating, the strings looking back to Wagner, the rhythmic counterpoint to Hindemith. The third combines both moods. The overture Das Käthchen von Heilbronn (1905) is a tone poem prominently influenced by Strauss, complete with a fanfare/birdcall passage that uncannily anticipates that Strauss' Die Frau ohne Schatten (1919). Its long smooth melodies, usually constructed to avoid the chromaticism that permeates the rest of the scoring, are more typical of Pfitzner. It is atmospheric enough to warrant hearing. The Blütenwunder (Miracle of the Blossoms) from Die Rose vom Liebesgarten is exceptionally beautiful, the palette dotted with fluttering colours behind string melodies. It has so many of the qualities of a standard orchestral encore work that it is surprising it is so little known. Of his other orchestral music, the Symphony in C sharp minor op.36a (1932) is a reworking of the String Quartet No.2. The late one-movement Symphony in C op.46 (1940) is in the bright and optimistic key of C major. Attractively constructed, with the late-Romantic emotions subdued in favour of a rather classical clarity of texture and line, its content does not match its promise.
The Violin Concerto in B minor, op.34 (1925) is the best known of Pfitzner's concertante works. Firmly cast in the Romantic tradition, the solo line is especially rhapsodic, and again its melodic line is harmonically straightforward. However, the feel of the concerto is intimate in spite of the larger gesture, and unusual in that violin and orchestra are equals, the solo writing demanding purity of tone and timbre rather than obvious virtuoso display. Indeed the soloist is silent in the atmospherically beautiful second of three linked movements, recalling the absence of Palestrina in the second act of the opera. This concerto will appeal to those who respond, for example, to the Elgar violin concerto, although it is not as individual. The late Duo op.43, for violin, cello and orchestra, is a rhapsodic and lyrical single movement, wistful in its interplay between the two soloists, and richly textured. It has something of the mood of Strauss's late works, maintaining a late-Romantic technique, but with sad rather than sublime introspective intensity. That comparison, of the final years of a late-Romantic composer, is again brought out in the Five Piano Pieces op. 47 (1941). The concentration is still on the melody, but with moments of complex chromatic interplay in the writing, looking back to Brahms. Whereas Strauss concentrated on the sublimity of old age, the titles of these pieces - `Last surge of life', `Release from care', `Distracted restlessness', `Melody' - indicate the contrast of Pfitzner's final years, and the character of the music.
An important portion of Pfitzner's output is devoted to song. The early songs - the first seven sets were written by his early twenties - range from the lighthearted, almost populist (`Über ein Stüdlein' from 5 Lieder op.11) to the more intense. The straightforward harmonies and plain textures throw the weight on the vocal line, and the emotion is confined to a narrow, particular focus. These characteristics are essentially unchanged in subsequent works, where Eichendorff is often the preferred poet, the heart of the texts is worn on the sleeve, and the resultant feeling of simplicity has its own attractions. The rippling and conventional Romantic accompaniment against a slightly disassociated solo line that appears in the song cycle Sechs Liebeslieder op.35 (1924, on verses by Huch) is subsequently contrasted with a similar style, but converted into an unsettling and heavy chromaticism. The emotional intensity is heightened in such late songs as the gentle Das Alter of 1931, contemplating old age, and the epitome of German expansive late-Romanticism is found in the slow-moving, beautiful song for baritone and orchestra, An den Mond, op.18 (1906). For larger forces, Von Deutscher Seele op.28 (The German Soul, 1921) for soloists, chorus, organ and orchestra, is one of Pfitzner's more expansive and effective works. Based on poems by Eichendorff, it is divided into three parts, and includes four orchestral interludes that are tone-poems in themselves, ranging from the grand Romantic style to passages of delicate limpid beauty, the harp prominent in the orchestration. It is a work in the tradition of Brahms's German Requiem, and chorales are a major element of the choral writing. The overall mood is relatively sombre, until the huge soaring finale.
Of his chamber music, there are four string quartets, the first without number. The String Quartet No.1 in D major op.13 (1903) was admired by Mahler, but now seems somewhat dry and long-winded. The austere String Quartet No.2, op.36 (1925) was reworked as the Symphony in C sharp minor op.36a. The late Sextet in G minor op.55 (1945) for clarinet, strings and piano, while retaining an idiom that recalls the first decade of the century, has a lightly-spun lilt, a sense of the sophisticated salon, and a pleasure in music-making that makes it worth the occasional revival, especially as the sextet repertoire is limited.
Pfitzner was one of the first composers to record his own works on the medium of recorded tape (the overture Das Käthchen von Heilbronn, recorded in Berlin in 1944). He was also a noted essayist and writer, defending his musical views with verve and conviction.
works include:- 3 unnumbered symphonies (the first a reworking of String Quartet No.2, the second Kleine Symphonie)
- Scherzo for orch.; overture Das Käthchen von Heilbron (from incidental music)- 3 cello concertos (first unpublished but extant); piano concerto; violin concerto; Duo for viola, cello and orch.
- cello sonata; violin sonata; piano trio; 4 string quartets; piano quintet; sextet
- 5 Klavierstücke (5 Piano Pieces) and 6 Studien (6 Studies) for piano
- cantatas including Columbus, Das dunkle Reich and Von deutscher Seele and other works for chorus
- An den Mond, Herr Oluf, and Lethe for baritone and orch.; 6 Liebeslieder for soprano and piano; many songs for voice and piano and voice and orch.
- operas Der arme Heinrich, Christelflein, Das Herz, Palestrina and Die Rose vom Liebesgarten; incidental music
Blütenwunder from the opera Die Rose vom Liebesgarten (1897-1900)
overture Das Käthchen von Heilbronn (1905)
opera Palestrina (1912-1915)
Preludes to Palestrina (1912-1915)
Violin Concerto op.34 (1925)
cantata Von Deutscher Seele op.28 1921)
J. Müller-Blattau Hans Pfitzner, Frankfurt, 1969 (in German)
born 4th March 1936 at Berlin
Aribert Reimann is as well known as an accompanist to many famous contemporary singers, especially in 20th-century repertoire. As a composer, he achieved international prominence with the opera Lear (1978), and vocal works have dominated his output, although his canon includes two piano concertos.
Most of his works use unusual orchestration, usually rather sparse, to achieve a clear texture, the earlier ones using 12-tone or serial principles, which were soon joined by cluster and massed dissonant effects. Subjects chosen usually reflect some manifestation of the extremes of human character or behaviour, expressionistic or surrealistic, as in the nuns, the knights in armour, the Prussian grenadiers, and the World War II soldiers of the ballet Vogelscheuchen (Scarecrows, 1970, to a scenario based on Günter Grass). The sparse feel is evident in Engführung (1967) for tenor and piano, the piano often having a line of single notes, the solo line preferring lines of longer notes. In the Concerto for Piano and 19 Players (Piano Concerto No.2, 1972) the textures are deliberately chosen to give a chamber feel, and the appearance of the alto flute adds an unexpected colour. Otherwise the work is rather infectious, if not individual, a loping torrent of serially-organized notes from the piano, a bouncing sense of rhythmic impulse, and a deceptively careful structure, as if the various folds of an origami construct were lapping over each other from the Messiaen-like opening.
His first opera, Ein Traumspiel (Dream Play, 1963-1965, based on Strindberg), uses 12-tone techniques and the contrast of slow massed chords against extreme sounds, often organized in traditional forms (such as the passacaglia), or (in a section for piano fugue with bongos) jazz-influenced. The vocal lines are wide-ranging, the characterization extreme. His Symphony (1976) is based on material from the opera. His fourth opera, Die Gespenstersonate (Ghost Sonata, 1984), was also based on a Strindberg play. The atonal opera Melusine (1970), used a subject that also combined reality and fantasy: the story of a woman who is a woman for six days of the week, and a mermaid for the seventh. Spoken text is combined with aria and duets, with a vocally extreme and difficult title role for coloratura soprano. The orchestra is of chamber size, and clusters and static layers combine with atmospheric and nature effects.
Lear (1978), Reimann's third opera, is a powerful, dark and tortured operatic version of Shakespeare's play, using a German text. From the opening scene the atmosphere of Expressionist extreme is established. Lear and his court are intense, on the edge of neurosis, reflected in the vocal lines, in orchestral colours that combine brooding darkness with high effects that slice and cut (such as the extreme ranges of woodwind), and in the constantly dissonant, angry or unsettled harmonic combinations. The vocal lines predominate throughout the opera, their inflections following those of the spoken line, sometimes falling into near-speech, and regularly set in alternation with the orchestra, accompanied by silence, a held note, or subdued repeated patterns. The orchestra thus emerges as a kind of chorus, commentating on the vocal lines, and the effect is to recast the play as a huge Greek tragedy. All these techniques had already been developed by Orff in his operas based on actual Greek tragedies, and indeed when Reimann uses pseudo-archaic melodies for the vocal lines the similarity, and the continuation of this particular branch of German opera, is clear. However, the major difference is that whereas Orff uses his orchestra in changing repeated patterns that remain wedded to traditional harmonic patterns, Reimann uses the full force of the Expressionist orchestral effect and line developed by Berg, while retaining the sense of the inevitability of ritual. The primacy of the drama predominates; like Orff, the musical and vocal material act as supporting elements to the presentation of characters in extremis. Given this approach, it is inevitable that only one side of Shakespeare's complex drama emerges, that of the dark human nature near madness. But as drama it is extremely powerful, with musical moments of huge force, especially when Reimann uses the orchestra as a giant aural landscape, and it has a compelling inevitability, like the Greek drama it emulates.
The hour-long Requiem (1982) for soloists, chorus and orchestra, includes dramatic passages based on the experience gained in the composition of Lear. The text is drawn from the Latin Requiem mass, interleaved with quotations from the Book of Job that are sung in a number of languages (German, English, French, Hungarian, Latin, Greek and Hebrew) in an attempt to achieve a wider relevance. Intense and earnest, it is often a bullish work, the darkness of the subject matter reflected in the typically unusual scoring, omitting higher strings and horns but adding lower woodwind. Using a wide range of contemporary effects, the idiom slides from the harshly atonal - used for dramatic effect, and always suggesting some distant goal of a key - through cluster effects (particularly in the choral writing) to the melancholically lyrical. A sense of space and airiness is created by the juxtaposition of unaccompanied voices (both choral and solo) with blocks of instrumental colour and idea, or accompanied passages. At times the shadow of Britten's War Requiem stands behind the writing (especially in the opening of `Domine Jesu Christe', complete with prominent harp), but the overall effect is quite different from the earlier work. There is a feeling of dark, if impassioned, monastic ritual, of a Gregorian chant reconstituted. Its sincerity is undoubted, and some of its dramatic effects and moments of light are compelling, with long, high, floating solo lines. But overall it lacks the variety of character and emotion to sustain such a long timespan.
- 2 piano concertos (No.2 Concerto for Piano and 19 Players); violin concerto
- Loqui, Seven Fragments and Variations for orch.; Rondes for strings; Intervenzioni for 12 players
- Nenia for one speaking voice and orch.; Trovers for speaker and seven instruments
- Spektren and Variations for piano
- many song cycles including Engführung for tenor and piano, Inane for soprano and orch., Five Lieder of Paul Celan, Lines for soprano and strings, Night Pieces for baritone and piano, Six Poems by Sylvia Plath for soprano and piano, Ein Totentanz for baritone and orch., Unrevealed for baritone and string quartet, Wolkenloses Christfest for baritone, cello and orch., Zyklus for baritone and orch.
- cantata Vers la morte; Requiem
- ballets including Die Vogelscheuchen
- operas Die Gespenstersonate, Lear, Melusine, Ein Traumspiel and Troaides
opera Lear (1978)
Concerto for Piano and Nineteen Players (1972)
RIHM Wolfgang Michael
born 13th March, 1952 at Karlsruhe
Wolfgang Rihm has attracted considerable attention as a post-avant-garde composer who continues the Expressionist inheritance of earlier German composers, combining it with elements of more recent techniques. In the 1960s he composed a number of large works, notably the Symphony No.3 (1977), which uses texts by Nietzsche and Rimbaud, but it is the form of the string quartet, of which he has now written eight, and opera that have dominated his output. His best known work is probably his second chamber-opera, Jakob Lenz (1978), to a libretto by Michael Fröling based on a fragment by Büchner that tells the story of the madness and death of the late 18th-century poet Jacob Lenz. The dark, starkly Expressionist opera portrays the poet's madness in 12 scenes; the poet eventually comes across the corpse of a young woman, and in his madness thinks it is the body of his lost beloved and that he has killed her. He ends up in a straight-jacket in a mental asylum. Throughout, he hears voices, represented by a sextet of solo voices and a boys choir; harpsichord and percussion play a prominent part in the instrumental forces. It is a harrowing but powerful work, the eclecticism of the style (ranging from the violently dissonant to the tonal) designed to represent the extremes of mental confusion and anguish. Among his more recent operas have been Hamlet-Maschine (1986), Oedipus (1987) and The Conquest of Mexico (1992). A number of Rihm's other vocal works set texts by mentally disturbed authors.
Rihm has taught at the Karlsruhe Musikhochschule since 1973.
- 3 symphonies
- piano concerto; Monodram for cello and orch.
- Dis-Kontur, Sub-Kontur and other works for orch.
- Music for Three Strings; 8 string quartets; octet
- series of Klavierstücke and other piano works
- lieder and vocal works including Départ for choirs and 22 players
- ballet Tutuguri
- operas The Conquest of Mexico, Faust und Yorick, Hamlet-Maschine, Harlekin and Oedipus
born 14th March, 1930 at Lahr, Baden
Dieter Schnebel has combined the unusual callings of religion and avant-garde composer (he was a minister in Kaiserslautern, 1955-1963, and has taught religious studies in Frankfurt, 1963-1970, and since 1970 in Munich). He belongs to that generation of composers who took up the serial developments of Stockhausen and explored their potentialities, but in the 1970s completely changed his style into one of the most effective examples of neo-Romanticism.
Deuteronomium 31,6 (1956-1958 - the formal title is dt 316) for twelve or more unaccompanied singers, was one of the earlier works to explore the possibilities of phonemes, and is the first of a cycle of three sacred works. The text - in various translations as well as the original Hebrew - is deconstructed into phonemes, and these are rearranged to form musical chains of verbal sound. To match this, musical events overlap each other in layered succession, emphasised by spatial distancing of the voices, by the addition of speech, hissing and clicking elements which give timbral variety, and by vocal lines being stretched into unusual regions - all typical of the choral techniques being explored during the late 1950s and 1960s. The interest in the verbal was extended in a number of works, including Glossolalie (Speaking with Tongues, 1959-1960) for speakers and instrumentalists, written on 26 pages, playable in almost any form. Snatches of words or phonemes are predominant; the composer's own realization includes instrumental gleanings from well known works, and is a montage of verbal sounds and events worthy of Babel.
However, after a number of such works in the avant-garde period of the 1960s, Schnebel started a series of works under the general title Bearbeitungen (Arrangements), in which he sifted music of older composers through a modern filter, including Bach, Weber, Beethoven, and Wagner. The best of these works assimilating the past is perhaps the Schubert-Phantasie (1978) for orchestra. The basic material is from the first movement of Schubert's Piano Sonata in G major, D.894, but the filtering of this material is far from the fragmentary, mosaic structures of the avant-garde 1960s. Instead the basic impulse is a massive timbral layering of sound, based on the darker colours of strings, moving like the waters of the deep, out of which swell changes and larger waves, sliding back into the surface. This underlying layer is built of superimposed chords, with notes clustered, through which gleams basic tonal combinations drawn from Schubert. This would be interesting enough in itself, Schubertian lines atmospherically recast through the techniques of the modern orchestral composer. But this accumulation of layers, as uncertain of its direction as a bare ocean, starts to reshape itself into a cast that is unmistakably Mahlerian, building up in small accretions, eventually reaching a massive sonorous climax before subsiding into the undirectional layer of clusters on the violins. The effect is to draw a continuum between the Vienna of Schubert, the Vienna of Mahler, and today, and in a musical soundscape to present the indivisibility of the past in the present.
In a counter-series, Tradition, Schnebel's intention is the reverse: to filter the sounds of contemporary composition through the forms of the past. Thus In motu proprio (1975) and Diapason (1976-1977), both for chamber ensemble, are both canons, though the thinness of textures, the sparseness of idiom, and the fragmentary nature of the material of the former bring it closer to the invective of the 1960s avant-garde than the sumptuous dream-world of the Schubert-Phantasie. Diapason, within a similar framework, has more obvious references to the techniques of the past, as well as an eerie, neo-Impressionist section, but the enfolding of historical continuity remains most powerful in the Schubert-Phantasie, which should be sought out by anyone interested in contemporary music.
- Composition and Schubert-Phantasie for orch.
- trumpet concerto; Analysis for strings and percussion; Choralvorspiele for organ, instruments and tape; Glossolalie for speaker and instruments
- Diapason (Tradition I no.2) for chamber ensemble
- series Visible music and Réactions for various forces
- series of Bearbeitungen: Bach-Bearbeitungen for 20 voices and harpsichord; Beethoven-Bearbeitungen; Wagner-Bearbeitungen; Webern-Bearbeitungen for strings; - various works for mouths, projectors, etc.
- Stücke for string quartet
- für stimmen...missa est (part I dt 316 for 12 or more vocalists, part II AMN for 7 vocal ensembles, part III :! (Mandrasha 2) for three choruses)
- works for schools
Schubert-Phantasie (1978) for orchestra
Diapason (1976-1977) (Tradition I no.2) for chamber ensemble
born 22nd August 1928 at Mödrath (Cologne)
died 5th December 2007 at Kuerten-Kettenberg
Perhaps no composer in the second half of the 20th century has inspired such anger and bewilderment in those unfamiliar with new music than Stockhausen, unless it be Cage. By the same token, perhaps no other composer has been so influential in the development of new musical ideas in Europe in the 1950s and 1960s, analogous to the dominance of Cage in the United States. His position in the 20th century has been compared to that of Wagner in the 19th, and if taken as a general parallel there is an element of validity in this comparison. As with Wagner, once the unaccustomed and novel languages that Stockhausen employs become more understood, the eminence of his position is fully justified.
His musical maturity dates from his discovery in 1951 of the serial potentials opened up by Messiaen, and his subsequent studies with the French composer. The essence of such serialism, sometimes known as `total serialism', is that not only could the pitches of the notes be organized along rational, preordained structural lines or systems - that had been established by the 12-tone composers - but also that the other parameters of music, rhythm, duration, timbre, dynamics, could be subjected to similar procedures, thus creating a total cerebral control over the material. Other fellow-composers such as Boulez and Nono, mostly associated like Stockhausen with the summer courses at Darmstadt, were following similar directions.
What distinguished Stockhausen were two impulses. The first was that he realized that such serial developments had much more potential than the mere structured organization of musical parameters. They could allow music to break away from the traditional bodies that took music from the written page and actually brought it to life, such as the symphony orchestra or the human voice, either by inventing totally new media, or by extending the traditional parameters of such bodies out of recognition. Such ideas had often been mooted or attempted, but threatened to disintegrate into chaos because the forms had not been developed to contain them; total serialism provided such forms, by relating each element to rational rules and structures.
Indeed, eventually such new musical sounds became established in themselves, and no longer needed the formal structures of serialism to maintain them. That process, in which Stockhausen himself has had a hand, is still too young and too little assimilated to be evaluated. Conversely, these new musical carriers could free serialism from being another method of arranging traditional musical ideas, and extend it into genuinely new musical horizons. Of course, other composers came to similar conclusions, but Stockhausen's extraordinarily fertile and energetic imagination was capable of seizing on and exploiting a wide range of such possibilities, pioneering many of them in the process, whereas many of his fellow composers were content to use inherited traditional means to express their serialism, or concentrated on one branch of the new media.
The second factor has been Stockhausen's single-minded concentration on the structures that contain his music, rather than the details of the music contained within them. The conception and the comprehensiveness of the former must be complete before the latter are tackled. This is the antithesis of the concept of organic growth, in which the outlines of the overall form are partly recognized and determined by the growth of the internal musical ideas. However contained, be it in sonata form or a suite, it is such linear organic growth that listeners are most used to in our Western tradition, and whose apparent absence in much avant-garde music can be so disconcerting to newcomers. Thus those coming to Stockhausen's music for the first time will derive real benefit and considerably more understanding and pleasure if they can grasp the overall structures and principles of one of his pieces first, before listening to the realization. This is the reason that so much modern music is accompanied by detailed programme or sleeve notes. Unfortunately, they are often couched in such perverse, obscure and complex terms as to be rendered meaningless, but it is still worth searching out or demanding good ones. Stockhausen's own are often models of lucidity, unlike some of his other pronouncements.
Of course, this does not mean that Stockhausen is unconcerned with the internal details of his works - far from it, for he can be a meticulous craftsman - only that they are a secondary process, and indeed, have often been left to the performers, to chance, or to completion by others. In this his imagination prefers the broader implication, and in recent years has developed a huge spiritual dimension, that had indeed always been a factor in his music. Since the mid-1970s he has concentrated on a gigantic cycle of seven operas or musical ceremonies (discussed below), designed to coalesce mythologies and ideas from all over the world in one super-synthesis, and to utilize all the different musical innovations and experiences that Stockhausen had developed over his previous musical career. In such a combination of all-embracing vision and the implant of new musical ideas, the comparison with Wagner is most apt. No other contemporary composer has had such a breadth of impulse, and such single-mindedness of execution.
After Kreuzspiel (Crossplay, 1951) for piano backed by oboe, bass clarinet and three percussionists, in which Stockhausen applied serial methods to duration as well as pitch, the work that firmly established a new voice was Kontra-Punke (1952, revised 1962-1966) for ten instruments. This utilized Webern's conception of what became known as `pointillism', the importance of each and every note. It was followed by a series of influential piano pieces, (Klavierstücke I-X, 1952-1955, IX and X revised 1961) that continued the exploration of serial possibilities within the medium of the piano. Klavierstücke XI (1956) extended these developments beyond the traditional parameters of the instrument, along the lines Stockhausen was simultaneously exploring elsewhere. It is made of 19 written fragments. In addition, and separate from these fragments, there are six different tempi, dynamics, and types of pianistic touch available to the performer. The pianist can then play the fragments in any order, applying his or her choice of the tempi, dynamics and touch available. When any one fragment has been repeated three times, the piece ends. This process exactly describes Stockhausen's concern with the precise parameters of the overall structure or process, and his willingness to allow musical events to have more freedom (and the performer to have a larger role in the execution of a piece) within those parameters. In addition, the piece is available in the form of a roll packed in a cardboard carton, in the form of a piece of board, or as a roll complete with a little wooden stand to put on the piano.
Meanwhile the influential Zeitmasze (Tempi, 1955-6) for five woodwind instruments was carefully composed in detail, down to the use of new markings (and the excellent expedient of writing out all accidentals as sharp signs, and not using naturals or flats, which performers have found much easier to read in such complex music). The score is a serial extension of Webern, but the chief innovation is the freedom of rhythmic impulse. Some sections follow traditional pulse and bar-lines, as moments of reference, but others go completely beyond their bounds with great suppleness. Almost every note carries its own dynamic marking; at times the different instruments play at different metronome markings. The effect is fascinating, but potential listeners should be warned that (unlike most of Stockhausen's later works), familiarity with the type of 12-tone sound pioneered by Webern is really essential before listening to Zeitmasze, as otherwise these rhythmic innovations get lost in a sea of coping with the other serial and pointillistic effects.
The opposite of allowing the performer freedom within strict parameters (thus creating a myriad of possibilities for the outcome of a piece) is the complete control of the composer in every aspect of a performance. This Stockhausen also wanted to achieve, and Zeitmasze was one possible approach. However he found more fertile directions in the new medium of electronic music, where every parameter is controlled by the creator and not left to the caprice of a performer. He started working with electronic equipment in 1953 (Studien I and II), and with such means started to achieve another musical ambition. The realization of traditional music has involved one area of sound source (the concert platform), albeit a broad one in the case of a symphony orchestra. Attempts had been made to free that constriction in the past (Monteverdi, Berlioz, and Mahler were among those seeking more spatial effects), but nothing on the scale that Stockhausen envisaged, in common with some of his contemporaries. If pitch, duration and dynamics could be organized by rational rules and patterns, then so could the spatial sources from which music emerged: one element from one direction, another from another, and so on, following preordained and composed patterns. Ideally these would be chosen from a 360o arc around the audience, and not merely from in front of them. Such conceptions had problems of co-ordination and control with live performers, but electronic tape avoided such difficulties. Gesang der Jünglinge (Song of Youth, 1955-1956) was the first such product. The tape is composed partly of sung sounds, recorded and then transformed, and which sometimes emerge clearly as a praise to God from the Book of Daniel, and partly of electronically created noises that mimic vowels, consonants, and the tone-mixtures between. It was designed for five banks of speakers that surround the audience to create spatial effects. In the piece, strands of children's voices emerge and fall away in different spatial areas. Against these, the purely electronic elements pattern a series of events mainly concerned with sonority and colour. Overall, it is as if fragmentary aural memories of childhood join up, reemerge in the adult consciousness, and then fade away. We are removed from the reality of our ordinary experience and consciousness, and that removal is akin to a dream-like or reverie state.
Stockhausen then applied these spatial concepts to live orchestral music in Gruppen (Groups, 1955) for three orchestras, each with their own conductor. One orchestra of 37 players is placed in front of the audience, the other two, each of 36 players, to either side. The intent was not merely to create spatial effects, with interaction and opposition between the three orchestras, but also to allow layers of different tempi to exist simultaneously, clarified by their emergence from different directions. In addition, the colours of the orchestras, similar in each group, were chosen by a serial structure of timbral colour (the `scale of timbres'). It is an iron-edged, sometimes brutal score, of short isolated events whose serial melodic base is easy to discern and identify aurally. These pointillistic elements overlap or conjoin in serial fashion. What marks the score out is the spatial content of those events; the 3-D effect gives a clarity to their conjunction that is on a different scale to the usual post-Webern score. It allows an uncommon sense of freedom to the material, and a new layer of momentum when the colours and material of one snatch are taken up or continued by one of the other orchestras. In this spatial relationship, colour and sonority, whether in conjunction or in opposition, emerge as principal concerns. It is a score that may seem bewildering at first, but whose vision becomes clear with familiarity.
Such spatial conceptions were taken further in Carré (1958-1959) for four orchestras and four choirs, whose complete conception was worked out by Stockhausen, but whose details were realized by his pupil, Cornelius Cardew, under the composer's supervision. Again, the four groups of performers each have their own conductor, and the audience is arranged in a circle, each quadrant facing a different direction. The text is entirely phonetic, apart from a few names of friends. From its opening, like the deep chant of some eastern ritual emphasized by the use of brass, timbre is dominant. The events are much more slow-moving than in Gruppen, the textures far thicker, the voices fused into the orchestral density of sound, with the occasional interjection of a single cry or note. Again the spatial elements give clarity, unravelling by spatial disposition what would otherwise be a dense wall of sound, reinforced by notes being built up on each other in chords whose composition bears little relationship to traditional methods. Much of the momentum is now far removed from the sequential succession of events that have become traditional in Western music, though the piece becomes increasingly frenetic, underpinned by held vocal notes. Instead it has something of the nature of eastern musics, in which there is no overt direction towards an end, but rather patterns of sounds designed for contemplation rather than linear progression - another departure that has become increasingly common in modern music, but requires a shift of perception and expectation on the part of listeners unused to such idioms.
The next development, again using spatial elements, was to combine the electronic and the instrumental. This Stockhausen explored in Kontakte (1958-1960), whose title (Contact) refers in part to the contact between live instrumental sound-groups and pre-recorded tape, though there is also a purely electronic version, with speakers all around the audience. In this electronic version the distancing of reality felt in Gesang der Jünglinge is taken considerably further. There is little connection with any sounds or techniques recognizable from conventional experience. A completely new sound imagination has emerged, one again primarily concerned with successive swathes of timbre, in dense, dark-coloured sounds, often of a metallic nature. Momente (1961-1962) for soprano, four choral groups, and thirteen instrumentalists, combined all these techniques, including two electronic keyboard instruments. It added (to an orchestra that already included a very large variety of percussion instruments) other unconventional sounds to be performed by the chorus: boxes with lead shot, cardboard tubes hit with rubber mallets, and steel tubing - an early example of the use of `found objects'. With sounds also produced by such things as clapping, knee-slapping and clicking, Stockhausen was intent on increasing still further the range of timbral colour available to him. The moments of the title are arranged in three groups: melody-orientated moments, sound-event moments, and polyphonic moments, which influence each other during its performance. The arrangements of these moments are variable, and depend on the forces and time available; they are prearranged for performance. Against the multiplicity of sound-sources available, there are regular periods when the choral writing sounds like some distorted grand oratorio, and overall there is an element of self-consciousness in both the means and the content of Momente when compared to other works of the period, for all its moments of fascination and power.
Meanwhile, Stockhausen had further developed the possibilities of free, performer-controlled elements within a formal structure. In Zyklus (Cycle, 1959) for one percussionist, an element of visual drama or activity was added. The title refers to a number of cycles: the first a general plan of 17 periods, whose order is chosen by the performer; the second 9 cycles, each further sub-divided and each characterized by a particular rate of strokes; and lastly, the cycle which the performer transcribes by moving slowly around his battery of percussion instruments, playing each in turn or in conjunction. The philosophical intent was the closing of an open form within a circle, and within these parameters the player has considerable freedom of alternatives. The results very much depend on the choices of the performer.
In the early 1960s, the developments of electronic technology gave Stockhausen more freedom to explore. Electronic manipulation of instruments could now be achieved while the instruments were playing, and not just afterwards through the manipulation of a recording in the studio. Stockhausen formed his own ensemble, and in a number of works utilized either such live manipulation or the simultaneous playing of electronic taped material with live instruments. Mikrophonie I (1964) electronically manipulated the sounds of the tam-tam, Mikrophonie II (1965) the human voice against an organ, with taped moments (`windows') recalling earlier Stockhausen works. Mixtur (1964) for orchestra, sine-wave generators, and ring-modulators, extended this interplay to the orchestra, using four technicians to modify the sounds of an orchestra divided into four groups (woodwind, brass, two string groups) and issue them through four banks of loudspeakers, interweaving the results with the live playing - hence the `mixture' of the title. A fifth orchestral group of three percussionists are amplified over a further three loudspeakers. The electronics were capable of transforming timbre, pitch and rhythm, and Stockhausen's intent was to utilize in live performance timbres that had previously been possible only in electronic music. This interaction on such a large scale was pioneering: it is only in the 1990s that such techniques are becoming more widely used, as small portable computers make the task of simultaneous transformation considerably easier. The chief interest of Mixtur remains the colour effects produced by the interaction.
The purely electronic Telemusik (1966) was the summit of all these experiments and developments while introducing a new philosophical concern and direction into Stockhausen's canon, and it remains one of the most successful and satisfying electronic scores ever written. Stockhausen attempted to fulfil a desire he had long held, to integrate the essence of musics from all over the world (of which his knowledge and experience were considerable), including Balinese, Gagaku (Japanese), Spanish, Saharan, Amazonian, Chinese, into a kind of supra-world music. Even Stockhausen himself was not sure how he did it, allowing these influences to infiltrate by instinct. It is composed of a multitude of electronic sounds whose origins are found in the kind of sounds heard naturally as radio interference. These are carefully layered from the very lowest to a regular background of extreme high frequency, acting as a sort of constant firmament, an Ariel moving around the rigging of Prospero's ship. Within this extreme clarity of vertical texture, there is considerable drama that unfolds with an inexorable if unanalyzable momentum, and into this framework are dispersed the distorted echoes, sometimes distantly recognizable, of the world musics Stockhausen has incorporated. There are few electronic scores whose elements emerge so cleanly or so clearly, that so constantly hold the attention, and are so persuasive in their creation of a sound world that is impossible to create or imagine through normal methods of sound production, and at the same time remain so evocative. It also has the inestimable virtue, uncommon in electronic scores, of being exactly the right length for its material.
This philosophical bent was then put in more concrete form in Hymnen (1967). This is a tape based on, and transforming, national anthems, although the tape performance can also be joined by four musicians who comment on the proceedings, or even an orchestra in one of its sections. With such direct material, its intent and execution are clear, though its length (two hours) is daunting. Spiral (1968) for one soloist with short-wave radio, paid homage to one of the early inspirations for electronic music, the electronic noise generated by radio signals, while extending the parameters of control and improvisation into areas that everyone can experiment with (as Stockhausen points out, most people have a short wave radio and a voice). The basic concept is that the soloist, using whatever instrumental means are appropriate, imitates, transforms, and interacts with the sounds from the radio. The composed parameters are the alternation between periods of actions and silence, and detailed signals of how material already played is to be transformed in the next section (such as dynamics, pitch-range - higher or lower - as well as such elements as decoration and chordal accumulations). Within those `transformation signs' all the other parameters are determined by the material issuing from the short-wave radio and the player's choice. Thus an infinite number of possibilities are available in one of Stockhausen's most aleatoric scores, though the element of chance is controlled by what is on the radio during performance. Precisely the same techniques were then extended to a number of players in Kurzwellen (1968), and the two pieces are essentially variants of one idea. Such techniques were then used in Opus 1970, commissioned by Deutsche Grammophon (DGG) to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Beethoven's death, except that the material for live transformation are fragments of Beethoven's music.
Such aleatoric happenings, for their various possibilities, carry with them the seeds of redundancy when any reaction to anything that is happening becomes valid. For many, that is exactly what seemed to be happening in Stockhausen's work. Then in the same year (1968) he unveiled a work that, like Telemusik, proved to be seminal in his output: Stimmung (`tuning' but also `mood' in both the atmospheric sense and that of `world-harmony', a German equivalent to `karma' - the title is deliberately ambiguous) for a group of six a cappella singers. It appeared to be a complete volte-face, it was an instant sensation, and its influence continues to reverberate through modern composition. Its basis is a series of magic names (drawn from anthropological sources, and representing magic talismans from all over the world), days of the week (themselves full of mythical symbolism) and phonetic vowels, set out in a formal scheme whose order is partly determined by the drawing of cards. The calling of a magic name signals a change of mood, during which the name is repeated and gradually clarified until another magic name is called, and the process repeats. Much of this had in fact been heralded by earlier Stockhausen works: the use of phonemes, the philosophical content of the `world-music', the use of non-determined patterns in a pre-arranged formal structure. Even some of the vocal techniques that caused a stir when Stimmung appeared had been used earlier, if only in brief snatches (the little high swoops and vocal flutters, for example, appear in Momente).
But what made Stimmung so revolutionary was first its basis in a harmonic structure that is instantly audible and has connections, however distant, with the Western tradition, in complete contrast to Stockhausen's preceding works. The basis is a held low B fundamental, on which are built conglomerations of the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th, and 9th intervals - pure tones of the harmonic overtone sequence (in equal temperament), and this fundamental chord is softly played on an electronic tape in the background of a performance. Vocally it is the interval of the (pure) seventh that is most prominent, but because of the sequence of overtones, it has absolutely no conventional connotations (in which it would edge to the octave). Secondly, Stockhausen insisted on very specific vocal techniques - long breaths, no vibrato, and a concentration on the overtones built on the fundamental B. In performances the vocalists are also subtly amplified, to allow them to produce sounds that remain on a low level. In addition there is no conductor - instead, one voice emerges as dominant, and when the moment is felt to be appropriate, hands over to another. Thirdly, the whole atmosphere of the piece is gentle, quiet, meditative - purring might be an apt description - overlaid with occasional calls reminiscent of bird-cries. The effect is of a nocturne, but it is also intentionally meditative, timeless in that the progression of time, and any linear association of musical events, are irrelevant. Indeed, it is best listened to in meditative mood, to achieve what Stockhausen calls `inner quietness'. All these elements have their basis in Eastern musics, not only the meditative philosophy, but also the specific vocal techniques, which were based on Asian models. Stimmung demonstrated to contemporary composers that eastern techniques and approaches could be assimilated into an entirely original Western compositional conception. It also demonstrated the possibilities of a return to recognizable, if unconventional, harmonic structures without the need for either a serial or a traditional base. Its influence has - by example rather than imitation - infiltrated a number of subsequent developments, not the least the Minimalists, who turned similar conceptions and influences in their own directions. Above all, it is a deeply alluring score, of gentle sounds phasing in and out in a continuous texture, occasional cries emerging like the calls of mythical birds in a darkened but moon-lit magical landscape, a ritualistic atmosphere that is elemental, sensual and yet complex, transporting the listener into some musical realization of the collective unconscious.
The succeeding works consolidated the musical and philosophical ground already covered. Mantra (1970) for two piano four hands, uses transformations of material and electronic modulation (operated by the pianists), and is built on a sequence of 13 notes arranged into the eastern symbol of the mantra of the title. The work is a series of sequences of this mantra in 12 forms of expansion and 13 x 12 transpositions, and emerges like an old man taking a gentle perambulation, occasionally rattling the railing with his walking-stick, or becoming briefly annoyed at some event in his path. Sternlag (Starsound, 1971) is for five electronic ensembles in a park, communicating through music and by human messenger. Trans (1971) for string orchestra arose from a dream, the players bathed in light, gentle chords backed by wind sounds and percussion changing in reaction to a tape. Tierkris (Zodiac, 1975, in arrangements for various forces) explored the signs of the zodiac. Der Jahrelauf (The Course of the Year, 1977) is for Japanese gagaku ensemble, or its Western counterpart. Jubilum (1977, later revised) for an orchestra divided into four groups from bass to treble, each running at different tempi, is derived from 15 harmonized notes divided into five phrases divided by orchestral colour moments. In the revision, a number of amplified solo lines were added, linking the different layers. Written for a festive occasion, it is a sonorous showpiece for orchestra, one of Stockhausen's most approachable works. When its fanfare-like block chords move against a twittering, middle-voice background it is reminiscent of mainstream European orchestral developments, but is otherwise full of touches that are typical of Stockhausen's canon, and the solo instruments weave intricate weaves, often quite lyrical. None of these works had quite the influence or impact of Stockhausen's earlier music, but the stage was set for his most ambitious project.
The first of the projected cycle of seven operas or ceremonies, one for each day of the week and collectively titled Licht (Light), was Donnerstag (Thursday, 1977-1980). The subject of this cycle (planned for completion in 2002) is an invented primordial ur-myth, heavily dependent on symbolic elements of the autobiography of Stockhausen and his family. The scope of the intent is indicated by its prelude (Michael's Greeting, including a gamelan influence), played in the foyer, and its postlude (Michael's Farewell) played by five trumpeters dispersed around the roof or balconies of the building concerned. Behind the scenario are `invisible choirs' on tape, and the central character is a trumpeter, Michael. The first of three acts is entitled `Michael's Youth', and describes his childhood, first love, and examination to enter music-school. The second is `Michael's Journey around the Earth', in which he is seduced by Eve disguised as a basset-horn player, and the third `Michael's Return Home' to his heavenly residence, united with Eve. The whole of this extraordinary scenario bursts with symbol, allusion, and stylized or surrealist characters, from Lucifer-as-Father to Eve-as-Moon, to a visual artist with three `compositions of light'. Such a scenario attempts through text and staging the distancing from common reality that Stockhausen had earlier sought entirely through musical means. It is difficult to divorce the intellectual conception from the total spectacle Stockhausen intended, in which these symbols are reinforced by the sense-perceptions of the staging, design, spatial qualities, and the stylization of the performance. Musically, the whole canon of Stockhausen's skills are employed, often to eerie and magical effect.
The second in the cycle, Samstag (Saturday, 1981-1983) follows similar lines. The chief protagonist is Lucifer himself, and it opens with his greeting for 26 brass and two percussionists. They appear at four high cardinal points in the auditorium, and this structure of points, lines and diagonals is used formally for the subsequent events. The first is `Lucifer's Dream', for bass voice and piano only, designed with projections and colour bands of light notated in a formal scheme. The second is `Lucifer's Requiem', for flute and six percussionists, which is in the form of musical exercises listened to by the soul for 49 days after death. In `Lucifer's Dance', the third scene, the whole orchestra is arranged in the shape of a human face, with different dances for each feature, each with their own rhythmic pattern. Scene Four, `Lucifer's Farewell' is for male choir, organ and seven trombones, and is designed to be performed not in the opera house, but in the quiet surroundings of a nearby church, and uses St.Francis of Assisi's `Hymn to the Virtues'. Typical of the obscure symbolism is the birdcage carried by one of the singers (who are all dressed as monks), containing a blackbird, eventually set free outside to form the end of the performance. The most recent in the cycle, Montag (Monday, 1984-1988) extended the element of spectacle considerably further by being designed not for the confines of the opera-house, but for a stadium such as a football stadium.
At this stage, it is far to early to assess the success of such a gigantic enterprise, or indeed to decide whether Stockhausen's vision has now become so complex and so intertwined with personal symbolism that it is impossible to get behind the references and understand the drive of the work. In other words, Licht may operate only through the emotional reactions and sense-perceptions of the audience, bombarded with the visual spectacle and the undoubted moments of musical beauty or force. If so, the symbolism merely stirs individual resonances within each audience member's own psyche, and is thus ultimately unanalyzable. Fortunately, Stockhausen has designed many of the sections of the cycle to be capable of existing in their own right, and these individual compositions are probably easier to assimilate for a newcomer than the complete ceremonies. Thus Unsichtbare Chöre (1979) - the Invisible Choirs tape of Donnerstag - works very successfully on its own, with dense layers of choral sound influenced by chant, even when one ignores Stockhausen's suggestion that it should be listened to in combination with other earlier Stockhausen electronic works, with a starry firmament projected on the ceiling of the hall. Lucifer's Dream is also Klavierstück XIII in the long-running series of piano works. Indeed, the whole enterprise was preceded by a series of fifteen works (`texts') Aus den Sieben Tagen (From the Seven Days, 1968). Of these the raucous and ugly Kommunion follows Stockhausen's interests of the time in its disposition of voice, short-wave receiver, glass and stones, and electronic transformation, while Intensitt uses electronics and found objects, including nails, hammers, and four car horns. Fais voile vers le soleil creates a particularly effective sonorous atmosphere, with live instruments and electronics, and a slow moving, regular pulse. What further grandiose extensions Stockhausen has in mind for his cycle of operas remain to be seen.
Not all Stockhausen's music is successful, or fulfils the expectations aroused by the fertile imagination of its formal schemes. Momente can emerge as academic, Hymnen or Opus 1970 wearisome after the initial conceit is enjoyed, and works such as Kurtzwellen or Spiral must be much more fun to play than to listen to. Parts of Licht, divorced from their visual accompaniment, are stupefyingly boring, though in all these works there are always moments of surprise. However, at his best, he is extraordinarily successful, and in this lies a puzzle. Everything in Telemusik or Stimmung seems exactly right, a quality shared by such works as Gesang der Jünglinge. This feeling of rightness is recognized by many who have encountered Stockhausen's music, be they specialists or newcomers. Why this should be so, and why such completeness seems to have eluded so many other composers trying similar experiments, is unclear. Each note and event appears to be in exactly the right place, as if fulfilling expectations, and the progression of events emerges completely naturally. The reasons seem to be beyond current methods of analysis, and perhaps not even Stockhausen can provide the answer: for all his formal structures, there is a large element of instinct, as Stockhausen has himself admitted on occasion. An intellectual mastery of the formal plan is combined with an astonishing sense of what sounds right, and it is that surety of instinct that marks Stockhausen out as a remarkable composer.
It also presents difficulties for those coming to his music for the first time. The innovations take all but the earliest works so far from our traditional expectations of the musical process, that if you arrive armed with those expectations, you are almost inevitably going to experience bewilderment, incomprehension, or even downright fury. Perhaps the easiest way to approach Stockhausen is first to luxuriate emotionally in the colours and textures in which he so often indulges, be they soft or hard, and ignore everything else that is going on (a process that many of those deeply immersed in music find extremely difficult or impossible to do, as their whole experience and training is to apply familiar, but in the context inappropriate, musical parameters to the sounds they are hearing). Once such textures and events have become familiar, as with the sound-patterns of a new language, it is then considerably easier to start identifying and understanding the processes and structures that emerge from behind this emotional layer, and which are initially so incomprehensible and daunting. Again like learning a new language, such an approach is not quick, and the best Stockhausen scores need considerable familiarity to yield up their secrets. But in those works the results are worth it, and once such familiarity is achieved (such as allowing a meditative state in listening to Stimmung), then the experience is never forgotten, and not only do new Stockhausen scores become much easier to appreciate on a first hearing, but so do the works of many other composers working with similar means. The same presumably could have been said of a listener who knew only Rossini and early Verdi, and was suddenly faced with a Wagner opera.
Finally, it is worth pointing out that the spatial effects in many of Stockhausen's works are difficult to reproduce in recordings, which are still the means by which most people will have the opportunity to encounter or explore Stockhausen's music: the sound stage remains largely on one plane. But Stockhausen, with a typical attention to detail and a desire to retain control of every aspect of his phenomenon, and with his considerable knowledge of acoustical principles, himself reduced multidirectional recordings to stereo tapes, often with complex rearrangement of the spatial elements. They are remarkably successful, especially on larger equipment or through headphones.
Stockhausen was one of the editors of the magazine Die Reihe (The Row), a quarterly review of serial music, and lectured extensively on his own music.
- Formel, Inori, Jubilum, Punkte, Spiel, Stop, Trans, and Ylem for orch.; Mixtur for orch. and ring modulators; Gruppen for three orch.; Carré for four orchestras and four choirs; Mixtur for orchestra and electronics
- Kurzwellen for performers and electronics; Opus 1970 for performers and tape; Prozession for tam-tam, viola, piano, tape, and live electronics; Sirius for trumpet, soprano, bass clarinet, bass voice, and electronics; Sternklang for five instrumental groups; Tierkris in versions for various forces
- series Aus den Sieben Tagen (15 works for various forces); series Für kommende Zeiten (4 works) for live electronics and five instrumentalists
- Amour, Harlekin and Kleine Harlekin for clarinet; Musik im Bauch (Music in the Belly) for percussionist and musical clocks; Solo for any melody instrument and tape; Spiral for soloist and shortwave radio; Pole for two performers; sonatina for violin and piano; Schlagquartet for piano and timpani, revised as Schlagtrio; Refrain for three instrumentalists; Adieu for wind quintet; Zeitmasze for 5 woodwind; Kreuzspiel for piano, oboe, bass clarinet and 3 percussion
- 14 Klavierstücke for piano; Mantra for two pianos and electronics
- Indian-lieder for mezzo-soprano and tenor; 3 Lieder for alto and chamber orch.
- 3 Choruses after Verlaine and Choral for unaccompanied choir; Atmen gibt das Leben, versions for chorus, and chorus and orch.; Stimmung for 6 vocalists- Momente for soprano, chorus and orch.
- Mikrophonie I for tam-tam and electronics, Mikrophonie II for 12 singers, organ and electronics
- opera cycle Licht: Donnerstag aus Licht, Montag aus Licht, Samstag aus Licht
- electronic Gesang der Jünglinge, Hymnen, Kontakte (also versions with instrumentalists), Studien I & II and Telemusik
from Aus den sieben Tagen (The Seven Days): Fais voile vers le soleil (1968)
Gruppen (1955-1957) for three orchestras
electronic Gesang der Jünglinge (1955-1956)
Jubilum (1977) for orchestra
Klavierstücke I-XI (1952-1956, revisions 1961) for piano
Klavierstücke XII-XIV (1977, 1981, 1988) for piano
electronic Telemusik (1966)
Stimmung (1968) for voices
electronic Unsichtbare Chöre (Invisible Choirs) (1979)
Zeitmasze (1955-1956) for five woodwind
ed. J.Cott Stockhausen: Conversations with the Composer, London, 1973
J. Harvey The Music of Stockhausen, London, 1975
M.Kurtz Stockhausen: A Biography, London, 1992
R. Maconie The Works of Karlheinz Stockhausen 1976
K.H. Wörner Karleinz Stockhausen, 1973
STRAUSS Richard Georg
born 11th June 1864 at Munich
died 8th September 1949 at Garmisch-Partenkirchen
Richard Strauss strides two centuries, a colossus who has usually been seen as a giant in the end of the 19th and a gradually tottering anachronism through the first half of the 20th, when his essentially Romantic idiom seemed increasingly out of place. Recently this view has slowly changed. The works of his later life are becoming better known, and the overall achievement of this fertile, often flawed, regularly bombastic, but above all exuberant composer of the richness of emotional life is becoming more appreciated.
His most important works divide in fairly straight forward fashion between ten tone-poems, mostly written before the turn of the century, and fifteen operas, all but two written between 1903 and 1941. The former represent the summit of the form of the 19th-century tone poem, and the most significant and enduring achievement by any composer of the genre. The latter, together with operas by Berg, Britten and Janáček, form the basis of the 20th-century repertoire, a situation that seems unlikely to change as the century moves to its close.
Strauss' earliest works were heavily influenced by Brahms and Mendelssohn, and include the Symphony in D minor (1881), of interest to those following Strauss' development, but otherwise the product of an immature composer with some talent. The Symphony in F minor, op.12 (1883-1884), conceived on a very large orchestral scale, shows similar antecedents, but more Wagnerian influence and characteristic Straussian turns of musical phrase; with its stirring moments it is more than just a curiosity. With Aus Italien op. 16 (1886), a four-movement programmatic symphony that is to all intents and purposes a tone-poem about Italy, and the now little heard Macbeth op.23 (1886-1889), the Wagnerian influence becomes predominant and Strauss established his own development of that idiom. With Don Juan op.20 (1888-1889) and Tod und Verklärung op. 24 (Death and Transfiguration, 1888-1889) that emerging voice achieved musical maturity.
Don Juan, the story of the famous lover, immediately establishes the voluptuous sensuousness that is elemental in Strauss' fabric, and the basis of his style in the major tone poems and the earlier operas. The orchestra is densely and intricately packed, all sections having an equal importance in the overall sound, creating a lush impact of sinuous interweaving colour and line. Against this he will pull out an individual instrument for a sensuous or charged melody, ripe with beauty, typically over soft rich colours, usually conceived at great length so that it can soar and develop over lengthy time periods. He interjects brass fanfares or passages that seem to be bursting their restraint. The appeal, by almost overwhelming the senses, is entirely to the emotions; the post-Wagnerian harmonic palette is essentially tonal, but supercharged by a mass of chromaticism created by the profusion of instrumental activity, and constantly being left in unresolved states. All this is underpinned by the energy, the flurry and the constant restlessness of the rhythmic activity. Phrases launch out, soar up, twirl away, are overtaken by others, generating still more, often fragmented, and emphasized by the diversity and volume of the large orchestras he employs, often extending instruments to extreme ranges and employing unusual instruments. The fragmentation and reposition of phrases and ideas, combined with the long span of melodies, and their uses for purely descriptive narrative based on the programme of the work concerned, provide the basis of the larger structure.
Tod und Verklärung is one of Strauss' finest creations, perhaps because the development of the two principal ideas is so directly geared towards the final end, each being gradually extended, restrained and stretched again until their apotheosis in the final pages. But it also introduces many philosophical themes that, in greater or lesser form, were to occur throughout Strauss' output. The programmatic basis is the dying person, remembering events and childhood, finally dying and achieving transfiguration. The sincerity of the imagination is considerable; when its more luminous moments are combined with the corresponding late meditation on death, the Four Last Songs (see below) which quote the earlier work, together they form the arch within which all Strauss' major works are contained. The theme of the personal, of musically moving in to the scene of an individual's life, of making heroes of ordinary mortals, which has often been misunderstood and is here seen in embryonic form, also infects much of Strauss' work.
The best known and most popular of Strauss' tone-poem is also his shortest, Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche op.28 (1894-1895, a title difficult to translate into English, but usually and horribly known as Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks). Originally conceived as an idea for an opera, it tells of a trickster whose antics finally lead him to the gallows, though his musical theme has the final word, whether he escapes (as in the original folk-tale) or has the last laugh from the beyond, as some critics asserted after the tone-poem appeared, and which the final pages certainly suggest. As in Don Juan, the hero of the title has two themes associated with him, and it opens with a famous idea that aims at nobility, but in keeping with the character, doesn't quite make it, counterpoised by cheeky woodwind. In its short span are stirring noble drama, the constant injection of perky humour, an unforgettable march, a swirling, slightly macabre waltz, and the full dire majesty of the law at the end. It is an indication of how a novel musical language can be considered so difficult by the first generation to encounter it, and yet can be accepted so naturally by the next, that when this now universally popular work was first given in England in 1896, it was considered so complex it was played twice.
Strauss turned to a philosophical content for his next tone-poem. Also sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spoke Zarathustra, 1896) is based on the philosophical prose poem of the same title by Nietzsche, and its programme is to convey a sense of the development of the human race from its origins to Nietzsche's idea of the Superman. In this it continues Strauss' theme of the hero, though here in a more abstract form, and the score has a strong element of pictorial nature-mysticism. It is divided into nine sections with an opening and close, strongly demarcated in mood, from `Von den Hinterweltern', using a Gregorian chant as its melodic base, through the fugue of `Von der Wissenchaft' (`Of Science') to the tolling bells of `Nachtwanderlied' (`The Song of the Night Wanderer'). Its opening is one of the most impressive in music, a slow stirring fanfare announcing the motto of the `World-Riddle' against the huge thunder of organ and timpani. For all its moments of sheer size and sonic power, it is a more contemplative, illusive and intricate score than the other Strauss poems, with sections of visionary beauty, and its ending in two different keys (components of the World Riddle) was experimental for its time. It was one of the best known of Strauss' tone-poems at the beginning of the century, but it lapsed into obscurity until the opening was used in the film 2001 in 1969, catapulting it into an instant, world-wide revival.
A more tangible hero appeared as the subject of Strauss' next tone-poem, Don Quixote op.35 (1897), based on the novel by Cervantes. But this, of course, is a hero of a different kind, as he is the common man who not only has the delusion of being a hero, but actually lives that delusion, though Strauss has considerable musical sympathy for him, as if saying that the very attempt is worthy of our respect. Strauss' innovation is to use a solo, concerto instrument to portray Don Quixote himself - the cello. Within this format, the descriptive content is vital and vivid, allowing moments of a quasi-Eulenspiegel mischief and bombast as well as those of tenderness and seriousness. The choice of the cello, with its mellow tones, appropriately gives Quixote something of the character of a Falstaff, and two passages have become particularly well-known: the tilting at the windmills, a furioso of discordant, giddy dissonances, and the battle with the sheep.
From the depiction of historical or philosophical heroes, Strauss turned to that of the artistic hero in the autobiographical Ein Heldenleben op.40 (A Hero's Life, 1897-1898). This work has sometimes been held at a critical arm's length because of the autobiographical content. Yet the concept of personal internal exploration reflects the new Freudian view of the world; the unusual feature is that it is cloaked in Romantic hues, not Expressionistic ones. That personal depiction remained a theme throughout Strauss' life, and his portrait of the artist-self as a type of hero, with its origins in Nietzsche, has been more easily understood in recent years. But it has obscured one of Strauss's noblest scores, full of beauty and rich delights - from the tubas that describe the critics and self-doubts, through the glorious theme, worthy of Elgar, that intertwines with the theme of the hero's Companion, to the marvellous juxtaposition of themes from Strauss' earlier works as he struggles between his self-doubts and achievements. Overall, the tone-poem is cast in the form of a sonata, and it ends in warm loving happiness, the Hero with his Companion.
Such criticism has been nothing compared with the vilification heaped on the Sinfonia Domestica op.53 (1902-1903), which depicts his own household - one famous American conductor told Strauss he should never intrude his own personality or his domestic life on the public! But such a portrait was only an extension of Strauss' subject-matter, and much of the scorn can be traced to attitudes towards women and domestic life that considered that the former should be seen and not heard, and the latter kept behind closed doors. This attitude still prevails in some musical quarters, which consider the work unsavoury. Again, Strauss seems to have been ahead of his time, and indeed he returned to a similar subject in the opera Intermezzo. There is, however, a certain musical contradiction between the intimate depiction and the large scale of forces employed, but to compensate the score is full of perky wit and humour, from the picture of the baby having a bath, to the all-to-real musical grumblings of the composer-father, underpinned by the regular intrusion of the idea of the waltz in various guises, and a genuine and infectious exuberance cloaked in counterpoint. Perhaps of all Strauss' tone-poems, this is the one most enjoyed if the details of the programme are followed while listening; conversely, it is also, with its symphonic structure, rewarding if regarded as purely abstract music.
With this work, Strauss set aside the tone-poem, apart from one final vision, Eine Alpensymphonie (An Alpine Symphony, 1911-1915), describing walking up the slopes, and then climbing an Alpine mountain, entwined with elements of nature-mysticism. Here perhaps Strauss does overreach himself in the compatibility of the gigantic forces (including at least 64 strings, an offstage band, and cow-bells), for some of the work emerges as bombastic and it does not sustain its material. However, there are enough glorious moments of sonic splendour, power, and sheer visual depiction to make the symphony (which is actually in 22 clearly defined sections) well worth hearing, and in it Strauss reached the summit of his powers of descriptive orchestration, as he himself recognized - from then on, his scoring is gradually and artfully reduced.
At the turn of the century, Strauss' main thrust shifted away from the tone-poem to opera, and turned from the depiction of male to female protagonists. If the musical means of these stage works belong to the end of the Romantic era (mostly in the large-scale forces and effects, and in the chromatic harmonies), it is difficult to so easily pigeon-hole (or dismiss) the subject-matters and concerns they express. The vivid characterizations of Salome and Elektra in the first two major operas, agonizingly laying bare the raw flesh of desires and emotions which the 19th century was at pains to suppress, are the erupting recognition of a Freudian world. The masterpieces written with librettist Hugo von Hofmannstahl developed that understanding of the human subconscious by adding layers of symbolism designed to express the complex interplay of the unconscious and the real world, even in the least symbolic of their operas, Der Rosenkavalier. In doing so they create an ethos best explained in Jungian terms, combined with a regular delight in the illusion of time and reality that often gives that interplay a sheen of elegance and wit. By no stretch of the imagination can this be called a 19th-century view of human nature: the Pandora's box of the subconscious had been opened, and cannot be closed again. That Strauss still uses late Romantic methods to express this in part reflects his own place in such a transition of human thinking, and it may be they have more force because they are placed in a more familiar musical context.
There may be another factor that has made it difficult for some to accept such new wine in old bottles. For all his understanding of the depths of the human psyche (and it is difficult to see how Strauss could have achieved such characterization without such a personal understanding), there is a sense in which the expression of Strauss' personal psyche is always filtered at one remove in his scores, as if he is not going to reveal himself directly in his operas, unlike Berg or Britten. Such an impression emerges most directly through the strange little opera Intermezzo, that clearly describes one of Strauss' own marital arguments, but in which the very presentation of such a scene is a kind of mask to divert reality, held up to diffuse its reality through operatic presentation and convention. More pervasive is the dominating concentration on women in his operas (unlike the subjects of the tone-poems). The most stunning, the most beguiling and the most psychologically complex portraits are all of women, as if Strauss needed the removal of gender to allow such expression. There are some marvellous male roles - Herod in Salome is an extraordinary study of paternal evil for whose creation the original playwright Oscar Wilde is primarily responsible - but perhaps the most memorable male role, that of Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier, is sung by a woman, and it is perhaps significant that when Strauss revised Ariadne auf Naxos, adding the role of the composer, Strauss insisted that it should be sung by a woman, somewhat to Hofmannstahl's disgust. The use of symbol, so prevalent in the Hofmannsthal operas, is another method for the expression of unconscious human motivations and emotions without a direct, personal involvement.
Strauss' earliest opera, the Wagnerian Guntram (1892-1894), is spoiled by its poor libretto, as is its successor Feuersnot (Fire-Famine, 1900-1901). Both are now consigned to the sphere of the Strauss addict or expert, although the love scene of the latter between the heroine Diemut and the young magician Kunrad is worth reviving; during its climax every fire in the village, extinguished by his magic, flares up again. But with Salome (1903-1905), Strauss found in Oscar Wilde's treatment of the biblical story of Herod, Salome, and John the Baptist, a libretto whose dramatic structure could shape a taut container for the sumptuousness of his musical idiom, and whose hedonistic and sensual milieu, clashing with the morality and stern dignity of John the Baptist, matched his own musical inclinations and philosophical curiosity. Its voluptuous sensuousness, its undercurrent of sudden violence, the incestuous implications, and its heady atmosphere, in which the very nightscape itself becomes cloying, shocked contemporary audiences and remains massively potent. The `Dance of the Seven Veils', danced by Salome to seduce and sexually infuriate both John the Baptist and Herod, is often heard on its own under that title, and is one of the most familiar pieces of Strauss' music; it is a variant on a recurrent theme of Strauss' work, the waltz, in which the formalities of the Viennese waltz tradition have been totally subverted to the ends of pure eroticism.
Strauss then turned to classical Greek tragedy for his next opera. In doing so, he discovered the perfect verbal match for his musical instincts, for the version of Elektra (1906-1908), the Sophocles drama he chose, was a free modern version by the young playwright Hugo von Hofmannsthal. The story follows in the wake of Agamemnon's murder by his wife Clytemnestra and her subsequent marriage to Aegisthus. Elektra is determined to murder them and their whole household in revenge for her father's death. In the event, the deed is carried out by her brother Orestes, but the entire opera is a study of her obsession, the most extreme characterization ever attempted by Strauss, a terrifying realization of a human being whose every emotion has been subverted into a single ghastly aim. It is a study of psychosis, and Hofmannsthal read Freud's and Breuer's study of hysteria before writing it. Strauss' music entirely matches this portrait, with a title role of such stunning proportions that it has limited performance of the opera (Elektra is on stage virtually the entire time). The action fluctuates between extreme tension and moments of relaxation, and Strauss extreme chromatic harmony, with a huge orchestra (around 115 players) deployed to provide force and a welter of colour. He had taken Expressionist opera in its post-Wagnerian garb to the limits of possibility.
Hugo von Hofmannsthal had been the absentee librettist of Elektra, but for Strauss' next opera he collaborated directly, starting one of the most fruitful and brilliant opera partnerships in history. In Der Rosenkavalier (The Knight of the Rose, 1909-1910) Strauss seemed to renounce all the tortured expressionism of his previous two operas. In its place the composer and librettist concocted a comedy that intentionally echoes the humorous, flirtatious, innuendo-laden world of Mozart's Marriage of Figaro. It was an instant success, and has remained so ever since. Hofmannstahl's libretto creates a historical Viennese world that has no direct authenticity, but is, so to speak, the world of our historical fantasies. It weaves misunderstandings and amorous situations that, like all the greatest comedies, both threaten to turn to tragedy and allow depths of genuine human feelings, be they the musings of the Marschallin (countess) on the autumnal years of a woman's life, or the outpouring of love by the young Sophie. Strauss responded with a score of Mozartian delight and airiness, but did so entirely within the terms of his own musical fantasy, without any suggestion of neo-classicism. The orchestra is huge, but used almost throughout with a deft touch, a proportion at a time. Behind the entire opera lies the spirit of the Viennese waltz, sometimes overtly (as in the waltz that the Baron Ochs sings when inspecting his proposed fiancée Sophie), but otherwise as a kind of blueprint to the writing. Within the characteristic general method of drawing out and extending melodic ideas, and using themes as leitmotifs, time and time again phrases occur that might be developed into a classic Viennese waltz, or might belong to part of one, but instead immediately launch off into different directions. Above all, this is an opera of happiness, its characterization, both in text and music, brilliant within its limitations, and its climax - the Act III trio for three women's voices - one of the supreme operatic moments. If it does not have the psychological power and depth of Salome or Elektra, it instead suggests another aspect to the human condition that does not negate those earlier explorations: the delight in diversion and love, and in particular the pleasure and warmth, both emotional and, by implication, sexual, of the women caught up in its intrigues.
Strauss and Hofmannsthal's next opera was on a chamber scale, with an orchestra of only 37 players. Ariadne auf Naxos (1911-1912) was originally designed as an ending for a Max Reinhardt production of a condensed version of Molière's Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, whose main characters watch from the side. The play and the opera proved a clumsy and lengthy combination, so for a 1916 performance Strauss replaced the play with a prologue set in a house in Vienna; the opera is the evening entertainment. In doing so, he added the character of the composer, sung by a soprano, which has become a coveted role for aspiring singers. The opera itself is the classical story of Ariadne and Bacchus, in the style of `opera seria', but to make life more complicated, there is the simultaneous involvement of a commedia del'arte troupe. They have come to present a buffo-style farce, and are ordered to present it simultaneously. In the event, they take part in the other opera, too, rather like the critics in Prokofiev's Love of Three Oranges. The entire work develops a theme that Strauss was to return to in Capriccio, the multiple illusions of art, with a delightful and delicate musical wit, full of neo-classical references, humour, pomposity, and parody, and another soprano role requiring considerable vocal prowess, that of Zerbinetta. Both the original and the revised version are still presented, though the latter is more common.
In the meantime, Strauss and Hofmannsthal had been evolving a much more serious and lengthy work, Die Frau ohne Schatten (The Woman without a Shadow, 1914-1918). It is the grandest of Strauss' works, and considered by many (including this writer) to be both Strauss' and Hofmannsthal's greatest achievement, but it carries with it genuine difficulties, which have combined with the extremely large stage and vocal demands to ensure that its presentation is a rare and major occasion. In it Hofmannsthal plunged into a story that combines myth, folk-tale and complex layers of symbolism. The Emperor has married the daughter of Keikobad, king of the spirits, but unless their union produces children (their childlessness is symbolized by the Empress throwing no shadow, hence the title) the Emperor will be turned to stone. The Empress and her nurse go down to a different level of humanity, that of ordinary mortals, and there persuade the dyer Barak's wife to sell her right to have children to the Empress. At the last moment, threatened by her dignified and noble husband, the woman refuses, and the ground swallows Barak and his wife into an underworld. In the final Act, the Empress is told to drink the Waters of Life to gain her shadow, and deprive Barak's wife of hers, or else the Emperor, who now has turned completely to stone except for his eyes, will be totally and literally petrified. Torn between her desire to save her husband and to spare the innocent Barak and his wife, she refuses, and in her refusal finds redemption. The opera ends with the voices of the unborn children of both couples. Such are the bare outlines of the opera, but they scarcely do justice to the multiple layers of allusion and symbolism that Hofmannsthal creates. The work has often been described as Freudian, but it is much more accurately termed Jungian. For, as in the great fairy-tales and myths, Hofmannsthal has succeeded through symbolism in penetrating the archetypal truths of the human condition, from the central question of the opera - the balance between earthy materialism and esoteric spiritualism, and the necessity for both - to that of the innate unquantifiable desire for the continuation of the essence of being human in having children. Indeed, all the characters, from the Emperor to the Keeper of the Temple, are of archetypal status, and like all great myths this work yields up more and more insights into the human condition - on a level of psychological response - the more one is familiar with it. Above all both Hofmannsthal and Strauss seemed to understand, and respond to, the essential need for myth in any society, including our own, and created their contribution. Strauss was exactly the right composer to set such a libretto, with his understanding and command of the use of themes and musical symbolism, his sympathy with many different sides of human nature - Barak is one of his most sympathetic musical portraits - and his ability to reach into the subconscious response of the audience through the magnitude and variety of his orchestration. Nor is this confined to the larger moments, for Strauss often turns his huge forces into a chamber delicacy; the theme of the spirit-messenger, represented by a falcon, is as haunting and as pictorially accurate as any Strauss wrote, and even the simple song of the watchmen, heard crying the hours of the night in the distance, has an unforgettable atmosphere. Die Frau ohne Schatten is the last great opera written using all the panoply of Romantic means; the Expressionism of earlier works (or indeed, of its contemporary, Berg's Wozzeck) is absent; in its place is something just as modern, an archetypal myth. Those sceptical of such concepts will be unlikely to respond to this opera; but in recording, and even more in the opera house where the symbolism can be matched and clarified by the visual staging, it is an overwhelming musical experience.
For his next opera Strauss himself wrote the libretto. Intermezzo (1918-1923) is an autobiographical opera, with the two central characters, Robert and Christine, representing Strauss and his wife Pauline. The basic plot is that while Robert is away, Christine takes under her wing the young Baron Lummer, whom she meets in the second scene of Act I on the ski-slopes, where on her toboggan she collides with the Baron (who is on skis). Her patronage has elements of flirtation, but she is horrified first when he turns out simply to want money, and then when she intercepts a letter apparently from some lover to Robert (based on an actual incident in the Strauss' marriage). In Act II Robert is equally horrified when telegrammed by Christine, for he knows nothing about the supposed affair (although he does know the woman); eventually it turns out that the letter was sent to Robert in error, being intended for someone else. The opera ends with the reconciliation of the couple. In the meantime, the chaotic disorder of the Strauss household has been displayed, Strauss' love of the game of skat, and the multiple sides of Pauline's character, and the awareness that both of them were stimulated by their arguments and rows, underneath which was a strong romantic love. The orchestral forces are small (strings, three horns and two trombones), and Strauss aims for the lightness of Der Rosenkavalier, at which he sometimes succeeds; the opera is unified by a host of leitmotifs and personal references to Strauss's own music and works by other composers. The orchestral interludes between the scenes are an important element. Reactions to this work have varied; the strain of the sentimental is too overpowering for some (especially in the final duet), the accuracy of the portrait of Pauline (not always flattering) too much for others, though Strauss seems to have been unerringly honest in both. Family life is now not so clothed in secrecy as it was in the 1920s, and, the sentimentality apart, Intermezzo is perhaps an opera easier to assimilate now than at its time of composition; certainly the importance of quarrelling in successful relationships (and Strauss's marriage seems to have been that) is something that has only recently been appreciated psychologically. The orchestral interludes are marvellous, and were reworked into an orchestral suite.
Fortunately Hofmannsthal returned as librettist for the next opera, Die Ägyptische Helena (The Egyptian Helen, 1923-1927, revised 1932), though this is the most problematic and least heard of their collaborations. The basis of the story is an old legend that the real Helen of the Greek Trojan story did not go to Troy, but in fact remained on an island until reunited with Menelaus, while a spirit double took her place. Hofmannsthal complicates this idea. He opened with Menelaus dragging Helen off the ship to kill her. About to do so, he is stuck by her beauty, a shaft of moonlight hitting her face. Through a complicated set of potions and trance-states, Menelaus then is persuaded that this Helen is the real Helen, and the one dragged off the ship an illusion, whereas they are in fact one and the same person (this is Hofmannsthal's twist). In the second Act a desert chieftain further complicates matters by falling for Helen, and being seen by Menelaus as a second Paris. Helen decides Menelaus must know the truth (through the potion of Recollection), in spite of the dangers to herself. However, on waking, Menelaus realizes he has found the whole Helen, her history included, and embraces her rather than killing her. Hofmannsthal does not seem to have realized what he had written, imagining it to be a light comedy; what he produced was an equivalent to a dream, with similar patterns of action, symbolism, and multiple illusions, and it awaits a major production that would single-mindedly present it as such, when its strange action may then match the power and beauty of some of the music, especially Helen's `Zweite Brautnacht' from Act II. This is the Strauss opera that most glorifies the singing voice, and is worth hearing for that alone.
The last collaboration between Strauss and Hofmannsthal was also one of their most successful. Arabella (1930-1932) was once ignored as being a reworking of the milieu of Der Rosenkavalier, but the similarities are confined to the Viennese setting and the return to naturalism. The scoring is lighter, more direct, and warmer than the earlier opera, and the story, on the surface light and entertaining, has the darker undercurrent of the best comedies (it has been pointed out that it is an accurate portrait of an addictive family). Count Waldner, an inveterate gambler, is living in a hotel with his family, trying to keep up noble appearances. The older daughter, Arabella, has to find a wealthy husband; to save money the younger, Zdenka, is dressed up as a boy. The penniless Matteo is in love with Arabella, but she sees a Croatian stranger Mandryka, who has fallen for the photograph of Arabella that her father had sent his now-dead father. They are to be introduced at the Cabmen's Ball that night. In the second Act they meet at the ball, and agree to marry each other. Matteo is heart-broken, and threatens to commit suicide; Zdenka, who is in love with him, sets up a deception where he will think he is visiting Arabella's room that night, but will actually encounter Zdenka in the darkness. Mandryka overhears this, and thinks he is being duped. In the last Act, Matteo is astounded to encounter Arabella, whom he thinks he has just left in the darkened room; Mandryka further compounds the misunderstandings, and is left alone, thinking he has lost Arabella, until she comes in to the room.
The next two operas have all but disappeared from the repertoire. Die schweigsame Frau (1933-1934), to a libretto by Stefan Zweig based on Jonson's The Silent Woman, is a lighthearted comedy in which Strauss, not altogether successfully, tried to emulate his 19th-century predecessors, with division into set pieces and spoken dialogue. Friedenstag (1935-1936) to a libretto by Joseph Gregor is a short one-act anti-war opera, opening in the middle of a war, the countryside and its people devastated. This setting is interrupted by a folk-song from a Piedmontese youth, in Italian style, and at the end the desperate, starved people storm the fortress. The town officials and the officers debate whether to surrender the town to the enemy - after all they are people just like them. The Commandant is set on resistance, despite all the odds, but seems to relent; in fact he plans to blow up the town and all in it. The central section of the opera concerns the Commandantís wife, and her love and support for her husband. He tries to persuade her to leave, showing his fondness for her, but she elects to stay with him. The last section is a melée of preparations and remonstrations as the enemy advance, joined by the sound of bells, with the arrival of peace, and a set-piece choral ending. Friedenstag is the strangest opera in Strauss's output, darker and harsher, and with more choral writing than usual, some violent, half-satirical marches, and a subject-matter showing a very different side to the composer and a rare political-social message. The work is marred by the set-piece ending, but needs to be taken out of its obscurity.
The next Strauss-Gregor collaboration is one of Strauss's most lyrical, most beautiful and most happily-proportioned works, but again is very little known. Daphne (1936-1937) is based on the story of Daphne from Ovid's Metamorphoses, where Daphne regrets being attracted to the disguised Apollo, who kills her mortal admirer Leukippos. Apollo, admitting his own errors, transforms her into a laurel tree. The undercurrent to this plot is the opposition between the Apollonian and the Dionysian (Leukippos tries to persuade Daphne to join in the Dionysian rites). The one-act opera is built in an arch, from the magical pastoral opening, with its evocation of nature, through the central turbulence of the Dionysian rite, to the transformation of Daphne, with only her on stage, her words turning to sounds as she reaches to the Apollonian light. Although Gregor's actual poetry is pedestrian (one longs for Hofmannsthal's skills), it does not hamper the flow of the story or Strauss's marvellous music, dramatically intense but on a chamber-scale; the final transformation scene is inspired, approaching the kind of luminosity he achieved in his final works.
The full-length Die Liebe der Danae (1938-1940) was intended as a witty mythological opera. The original inspiration is from Hofmannsthal, who had produced a viable and interesting outline joining the legend of Danae with that of Midas (the love of gold being the common denominator). Unfortunately, Gregor so adulterated and complicated the basic idea that it is virtually unmanageable as a theatrical work, though it contains fine music: the Symphonic Fragment for orchestra, arranged by Clemens Krauss and mostly drawn from the first scene (which contains the finest music of the opera) is sometimes heard on its own.
Strauss' final opera is among the finest of all his creations. For Capriccio (1940-1941) he eventually found in Clemens Krauss a librettist who could again match his particular genius, and help achieve the kind of synthesis of idea, word and music that he had experienced with von Hofmannsthal. It is also the most personal of all his operas, completely breaking the operatic rules and conventions, and it assumes a knowledgeable and sophisticated audience that can respond to its intellectual wit, its emotional mellowness, its myriad of detailed allusion, its subtle delight in its invention. As such, it will never be popular and has often been considerably misunderstood, but such gems are so rare that it will always be cherished. On the surface Capriccio is a conversation piece, a series of conversations that explore the relationship between music and words, the very nature of the operatic conceit - Strauss exploring the essence of his artistic experience. With its complete lack of any kind of action, that is enough to put many off. But it is a work of much more depth that any such cursory impression conveys. The setting, recalling Der Rosenkavalier and Arabella, is a nebulous one of Paris towards the end of the 18th century, but it is deliberately timeless, and indeed works on the folding of time. For in the Countess' house music and drama is performed and discussed, but some of it is itself from previous eras (magically, the mythical subject-matters under consideration turn out to be the subjects of earlier Strauss operas). We therefore look in on a series of windows looking in on windows, starting from our own time, and moving backwards. Its completely unconventional aspects include a long opening consisting entirely of the movement of a string quartet, in a style that manages to be both of the period and unmistakably Strauss. Underneath is a gentle undercurrent of love and emotion in different guises, presented with affection but without moral or physical certainties. The characters - including the countess, a poet-librettist, the composer, a sleepy prompter, and the theatre director, a study based on Max Reinhardt - are drawn with marvellously subtle detail, and totally without censure or appraisal. It evolves into one of most satisfying theatrical twists in all opera: the Countess and the house-guests decide to write an opera, one that will reflect the everyday concerns and life that they experience by relating the events they have gone through. We realize that what we are listening to is that very opera, having reached the point at which they are discussing writing it. It ends equally brilliantly with the Countess undecided about which of her admirers she is going to chose, and waiting to hear how the proposed opera is to end. Thus there are no certainties or finalities, and indeed it would be quite possible to then repeat the opera in a series of never ending circles. For this Strauss draws on all his own experience - especially the theme latent in all his works, of art as the expression of the personal and the intimate - as well as his understanding of the relationships between men and women. What Strauss seems to suggest is the illusionary nature of reality, neatly underscored by a glimpse of the servants, presenting quite a different picture of the proceedings. There ultimately are no answers to the Great Riddle of Zarathustra, or the primacy of words or music, or to the permanence of the Countess' choice. What is more, in Capriccio Strauss suggests that in that very lack of firm and definite answers lies the secret of life - in being able to love, live and argue and then take pleasure in the ambiguities. He himself does this in the music, a luminous score of wonderful assuredness, a seamless flow of natural song, building into a great central octet, and culminating in the translucent mirage of the Countess' final song, as she contemplates how it will end. The opera glows with the gentle warmth of the wisdom of a composer in his old age, one who has reached the stage of artistic enlightenment when there are no longer any musical axes to grind. Both libretto and score are masterpieces.
Strauss did not expect to live to see the premiere of Capriccio; not only did he do so, but he then produced a number of works of extraordinary luminosity, in which he bathed in the setting Apollonian sun to which his music had so often reached. Behind so many of Strauss's earlier works lies a restlessness exemplified in the rhythmic fragmentation, however much it was submerged in sheer sumptuousness or lyricism. In these last works, that restlessness fades away.
The Horn Concerto No.2 (1942) initiated this period; it combines Romantic writing for the soloist with a somewhat neo-classical cast to the orchestra. But it is Metamorphosen (1945) for twenty-three solo strings that is, with the Four Last Songs, the most remarkable of these late works. The title was inspired by Goethe, and describes the tone of the work rather than any musical procedure. It unfolds a continuous sonorous web of interlinking string lines and changing textures, completely seamless, its rich glowing colours like amber or burnished walnut. Initially emotionally restrained, it builds very slowly to more impassioned moments, sometimes with the warmth of old age, sometimes with intense tragedy, alluding to Wagner's Tristan und Isolde and to Beethoven's Eroica symphony. The Oboe Concerto (1945-1946) is a captivating little work, a rumination of old age with a Mozartian lightness, a lovely slow movement, and constant suggestions of earlier Strauss works, especially in the orchestra. The Vier letze Lieder (Four Last Songs, 1948; the title was the publisher's) is perhaps the most perfect music Strauss ever wrote. The settings of Eichendorff and Hesse are autumnal, with the warmest glow of sunset colours; with all the wisdom and serenity of his old age, Strauss looks back over his life with equanimity and understanding, and at the same time forward, beyond death, from the same point of vision. These songs are suffused with nostalgia, and sometimes sadness at the coming parting, but never with sentimentality. The music ranges from the rich textural tapestries of `September' to the luminosity of `Im Abendrot'; rather than the almost neo-classical sensibilities of his other late works, Strauss returned to the rich sonorities of the late-Romantic orchestra. Only warm colours are used, strings predominant, the harmonies moving with astonishing fluidity; to this base are added a luminosity created by flute figures, the mellowness of the horn, and floating vocal lines of a motion so ethereal they are almost disembodied. In the final song `Im Abendrot' (actually the first to be written) there is a quotation from Tod und Verklärung and a return to the atmosphere and colours of the end of Der Rosenkavalier, tinged with the radiance of nostalgic peace.
Strauss wrote songs throughout his life (though the majority were written before the period of the operas), and many of them have become staples of the lieder repertoire. He generally chose poems more for their ability to be expanded by musical setting than for their literary merit, and often they had a personal significance for Strauss and his wife Pauline, herself a fine singer. Consequently they are most commonly heard sung by women. The characteristics of Strauss's songs are an emphasis on the melody, often extended and developed through the song with a sense of melodic freedom, usually strict formal structures, and rich piano accompaniments to support the melody and the flow, and delineate the formal structure (and were once aptly described as "brilliant water-colours"). Many are exceptionally beautiful, and among the most lyrical of all lieder, direct in their appeal. They lend themselves to orchestration, and Strauss orchestrated many of the better known songs, sometimes years later (Zueignung, for example, was written in 1885 and not orchestrated until 1940). Among the finest are the sensuous, undulating and ecstatic Cäcile (1894, orchestrated 1897), the limpid heart-rending nostalgia of Morgen (1894, orchestrated 1897), Ständchen (Serenade, 1886), the lovely rocking nocturne Traum durch die Dammerung (1895), and the gossamer threads and exceptional melodic beauty of Wiegenlied (1899, orchestrated c.1916), especially in its orchestral version.
Strauss's first opus number is dated 1876, the year of the premiere of Wagner's Siegfried, his last work 1948, the year of the first pieces of musique-concrète. To cover such a span, in which music and the Western world so massively changed, with a continuous creative output, is scarcely imaginable. But this Strauss achieved, and, in spite of his unevenness, produced masterpieces throughout this huge period of history. He held conducting posts at Meiningen (1889-1894), Munich (1886-1889), Weimar (1889-1894) and Berlin (1898-1908), before devoting himself entirely to composing, though he often appeared as guest conductor and recorded a number of his own works. In 1933 he was made president of the Nazi Reichsmusikkammer, but he subsequently resigned (his librettist Stefan Zweig was Jewish), relatively safe in his reputation as Germany's greatest composer but out of official favour, spending much of the war in relative obscurity in Austria.
- 2 numbered symphonies; Sinfonia Domestica
- 2 horn concertos; oboe concerto; violin concerto; Duett-Concertino for clarinet, bassoon, strings and harp; Panathenäenzug and Parergon zur Symphonia Domestica for piano left-hand and orch.
- Ein Alpensinfonie, Also sprach Zarathustra, Aus Italien, Don Juan, Ein Helbenleben, Macbeth, Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche, Tod und Verklärung, and other orchestral works
- Metamorphosen for 23 strings; 2 sonatinas for 16 wind instruments
- Daphne-Etude for solo violin; cello sonata; violin sonata; Allegretto for violin and piano; piano quartet; string quartet
- piano sonata; Five Piano Pieces, Improvisations and Fuge in A minor on an Original Theme and Stimmungsbilder for piano; Capriccio Suite for harpsichord
- song-cycles including Jugendlieder, Kramerspiegel, 4 sets of Gesänge, 24 sets of Lieder, Vier letze Lieder (Four Last Songs) and other songs, many orchestrated.
- Taillefer for soloists, chorus and orch. and other works for chorus and orch.; Cantata, Deutsche Motette and other choral works for unaccompanied voices
- ballets Josephslegende and Schlagobers
- operas Die Ägyptische Helena, Arabella, Ariadne auf Naxos, Capriccio, Daphne, Elektra, Die Frau ohne Schatten, Friedenstag, Fuersnot, Guntram, Intermezzo, Die Liebe der Danae, Der Rosenkavalier, Salome and Die schweigsame Frau
tone-poem Also sprach Zarathustra op.38 (1896)
opera Arabella op.79 (1930-1932)
opera Capriccio op.85 (1940-1941)
opera Daphne op.82 (1936-1937)
tone-poem Death and Transfiguration (Tod und Verklärung) (1889)
tone-poem Don Juan op.20 (1888-1889)
tone-poem Don Quixote op.35 (1897)
opera Elektra op.58 (1906-1908)
opera Die Frau Ohne Schatten op.65 (1914-1918)
tone-poem Ein Heldenleben op.40 (1897-1898)
Horn Concerto No.2 (1942)
Metamorphosen (1945) for 23 strings
opera Der Rosenkavalier op.59 (1909-1910)
opera Salome op.54 (1904-1905)
songs (see text)
tone-poem Till Eulenspiegel lustige Streiche op. 28 (1894-1895)
N.Del Mar Richard Strauss (3 vols.), 1962-1972
Wilhelm, K. Richard Strauss: an intimate portrait, 1989
born 2nd March 1900 at Dessau
died 3rd April 1950 at New York
Kurt Weill was the 20th-century composer most successful in fusing the classical tradition with populist elements, especially those drawn from Berlin cabaret jazz and vaudeville. Others such as Eisler had used a similar idiom, but it has become inextricably linked with Weill, and widely emulated (most obviously in the musical Cabaret). His output, influenced philosophically by his teacher Busoni, is almost entirely vocal and for the stage, and after his early works, falls into three periods, the development of his mature idiom (1925-1928), the period of his most famous works (1928-1936), and from his move to the United States until his death, a period dominated by his production of Broadway musicals. He worked best, both in Germany and the United States, when using material with strong social comment and satire, exemplified in his collaborations with Bertolt Brecht. The cornerstones of his mature idiom are first a genius for populist and hauntingly memorable melodies, often bitter-sweet, so the sentimentality set up by the beauty of the line is instantly destroyed by the musical context (in the accompaniment and harmonies), and by dramatic situation (which exactly suited Brecht's aesthetic). It should be noted that many modern, and especially North American, renditions of his more popular songs, taken out of context, entirely destroy this undercurrent of irony through re-arrangement or through the delivery. Second, his orchestrations, almost invariably for small ensembles, set up an often jerky, often raucous and usually ironic layer derived from jazz, especially in the clean-cut chordal emphasis on the beat, either regular or syncopated, and in the rhythms chosen; harmonies verge on the edge of tonality. The tango often appears associated with sexual expression, usually ambivalent, illicit or betrayed, as well as many other jazz-derived rhythms, but they are usually merged with more traditional orchestral elements and often march rhythms and tunes. The combination of these two basic elements is sometimes (but not always) deliberately vulgar as part of the satire. There is also a kind of ur-song that permeates Weill's work, appearing in various guises in The Threepenny Opera, Happy End and Johnny Johnson, as well as other works. With The Threepenny Opera and The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny he forged a new kind of opera (or in the case of the former, music-theatre) that sealed the validity and general acceptance of drawing on popular elements and fusing them into a more serious tradition and subject-matter.
Of Weill's non-vocal music, the Symphony No.1 (1921) is of interest mainly as an assured example of Weill's early style, before he reached a personal voice and before he had turned to the stage. The most successful portion of the Symphony No.2 (1933-1934) is its central slow movement. The whole symphony has a classical construction and feel, built to support melodic and sometimes lightly ironic march tunes. The slow movement recalls Prokofiev of the ballets, in the melodic ideas, the phrasing, the orchestral colours, mixed with typical Weill supporting rhythms, and it has an instant and slightly mournful appeal. But as a whole the symphony fails; too many passages seem just note-spinning, without constructive or emotional weight. Throughout Weill the song-writer seems to be straining to be released from the symphonic form, which was a response to a commission rather than an artistic goal, but it is worth discovering for the slow movement.
Royal Palace (1925-1926), though now largely forgotten, was the first work in which Weill used jazz overtly, notably in the orchestral tango accompaniment to the suicide of the bored socialite whose life forms the main theme of the opera. The one-act Der Zar lässt sich photographieren (The Tsar has his photograph taken, 1927), is much more successful, in part due to its libretto by Georg Kaiser. The unidentified Tsar of the title is to have his photograph taken, but three terrorists take the place of the actual photographers, one of whom almost seduces the Tsar. Eventually they are captured before they can carry out their assassination, and the real photographers finish the work. In this fast-moving comedy, utilizing unity of place and time, Weill used a male chorus commentating on the action, a generally Expressionist tone, and again a tango at the climax of the work.
These works were essentially Weill's operatic apprenticeship. It was through his collaboration with Bertolt Brecht, starting with the Mahagonny Songspiel (1927), that the particular elements which Weill had been seeking in stage works came to fruition. Brecht had published the texts of Mahagonny Songspiel (often known as Kleine Mahagonny) in 1926, writing music for them himself (Weill reused one of the tunes, and part of another). Brecht's text is a biting, semi-grotesque, semi-surrealistic satire on the results of capitalism, its characters distanced from reality. Both music and text are a deliberate mixture of the sophisticated and the coarse, with echoes of the chamber stage-works of Stravinsky, but combined with elements of jazz and Berlin cabaret. Above all, the work, which was originally staged in a boxing-ring with Expressionist back-projections, relies on formal songs (hence the title) in the tradition of the popular ballad, with melodies of instantaneous appeal, repeated with each verse (though Weill always varies the accompaniment). The result continues to appeal to both musically knowledgeable and mass audiences, the former for its satire and for the skill of Weill's writing, the latter for the infectiousness of its tunes, displaying Weill's skill at combining a honed cutting-edge with a bitter-sweet flavour. The colours are brash, the rhythms feverish, and the vocal writing intended for trained operatic singers.
Their next collaboration has become the most celebrated work by either artist, and its best-known song, `Mack's Ballad', is probably the most widely-known piece of music by any composer in this Guide, under its more popular title of `Mack the Knife'. Die Dreigroschenoper (The Threepenny Opera, 1928) redefined the boundary between music and words, being a combination of theatre, opera, vaudeville, and cabaret entertainment, without being obviously any one of those. Consequently it has become one of the cornerstones of `music-theatre', and its music was designed to be sung by actors with a strong musical ability rather than by trained opera singers (with the exception of one song, usually cut). The story is based on Gay's 18th-century The Beggar's Opera, itself a parody of the Handelian opera of the day; Elizabeth Hauptmann (who apparently laid the groundwork for a number of Brecht's works) translated the original for Brecht. Polly, daughter of Peacham, king and controller of the London beggars, is in love with, and marries (in a scene added by Brecht) Peacham's younger rival, Mack, who protects beggars through his friendship with the Police Chief. In the second act Peacham, strongly disapproving of his daughter's match, persuades the Police Chief to arrest Mack, who is betrayed by a prostitute, Jenny, in a brothel. Mack escapes from prison, is recaptured in the third act, and about to be hanged when an emissary from the King pardons and raises him to the peerage, a deliberately farcical ending intended to prevent anyone taking the earlier events too seriously. Weill's music works on two levels: first, its often bitter-sweet melodic cast and the jazz rhythms are immediately entertaining, and second nearly every song parodies, in some fashion or another, the conventions of traditional opera, not the least in the orchestral forces introduced in the overture (saxophones, trombones, trumpets, timpani, banjo and harmonium). This combination of biting social satire, popular entertainment, and artistic parody has ensured the continuing popularity of this marvellously outrageous work.
If The Threepenny Opera was intended to parody operatic convention, their next collaboration was intended, at least on Weill's part, to forge a new operatic style. Aufsteig und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny (The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, 1927-1929) was a development of the Mahagonny Songspiel, and includes the music of the earlier work. Set in a fantastical and ungeographical America in the city of the title, designed by Alaskan trappers as a place of pleasure, it attacks the pretensions of the bourgeoisie and on the false allure of capitalism. Once advertised, this dream city attracts customers with its illusions of easy women and riches. After a boom, its purveyors recognize some of its hollowness, and the city is threatened by a hurricane. When the hurricane has passed, a series of scenes shows the degradation of the city has come to, from gluttony to violence and alcoholism, seen through the story of Jimmy, who kills another man but whose main crime is not being able to pay his debts. He is sentenced to death. In a close as fantastical as that of The Threepenny Opera, but to very different ends, the city burns and the inhabitants parade placards for and against capitalism, to a chorus from hell (the inhabitants, we have already learnt, can't be sent to hell by God since they are already there). It develops the general orchestral cast of The Threepenny Opera, and the strong influence of Berlin cabaret jazz, while adding a flow of strings and woodwind that completely alter the overall sound, taking it from the music-theatre to the opera stage. Weill's music strips away the kaleidoscope of parody and style of the earlier opera for a more consistent, more flowing and less populist idiom, far less sentimental and more biting in its social comment, to create his finest work. It should be noted that different versions with a large number of small alterations or changes of order exist for both The Threepenny Opera and Mahagonny (as they are usually known), including a completely different alternative set of names for the latter in the printed score.
The next collaboration between Brecht and Weill was a work that in many respects is The Threepenny Opera revisited. Happy End (1929) has a story of American gangsters and a Salvation Army worker that bears an uncanny resemblance to an American short story by Damon Runyon, which became the basis of the hit musical Guys and Dolls. Brecht disguised the origins of his work with fictitious sources (he could not have seen the short story, which appeared in 1932), and the two may have had a common, earlier American source. It is excellent, tongue-in-cheek drama, and the music contains, besides parodies of Salvation Army music, three of Weill's most famous songs, `Surabaya Johnny', `The Bilbao Song' and the `Sailor's Song'. Their next work was a school opera based on a Japanese nōh play, Der Jasager (The Yes-Sayer, 1930). Unfortunately, the text is unwittingly marred by a fatal flaw, in which the moral, intended to show the importance of steadfastness to Marxist principles, could all too easily be interpreted as condoning either Nazi or Stalinist brutality (Brecht tried, somewhat unsuccessfully, to change it, turning the yes-sayer into a no-sayer). For the music, tailored for school ensembles, is entirely successful, showing Weill's characteristics while muting the harder edge of his harmonies and instrumentation, and devoid of parody.
Brecht and Weill collaborated on concert as well as stage works. Berliner Requiem (1929) commemorates Rosa Luxembourg and the end of World War I. To the characteristic melodies and rhythms of their stage works is added a denser polyphony in rather a stern work; more effective is the short Zu Potsdam unter den Eichen (1929) for unaccompanied male choir, again marrying vintage Weill with a traditional polyphonic cast. Their final collaboration was the sung ballet Die Sieben Todsünden der Kleinbürger (The Seven Deadly Sins of the Petits Bourgeois, 1933), written in Paris after Weill had fled the Nazis. The protagonists are two Annas, one the narrator of the story and the other her representation in dance; they leave their bourgeois home in Louisiana for seven sleazy but lucrative episodes each illustrating one of the deadly sins. The moral is of the hypocrisy of bourgeois values when set against bourgeois actions, reinforced by their occasional desire to return to virtue and Louisiana. Now rich, this they do, to the house built by their relatives (who call them back throughout the work) from their immoral earnings. Musically it is a less biting version of the Threepenny Opera idiom.
Meanwhile, Weill had produced two operas without Brecht, now largely forgotten. Both Die Bürgschaft (The Pledge, 1931) to a complex and unsuccessful libretto by Caspar Neher, and Der Silbersee (The Silver Lake, 1932), to a libretto by Georg Kaiser, have Brechtian overtones and fantastical allegorical plots, and both contain some fine music. After Weill left for the United States in 1935, he increasingly turned to the medium of the Broadway musical, which lies outside the scope of this Guide. In these he produced a number of songs that have entered into the currency of the American heritage, and two works are worthy of note in the present context. Johnny Johnson (1936) is a biting anti-war satire to a libretto by the left-wing American folk playwright Paul Green, and is essentially a kind of folk-opera. It is excellent satirical drama, and contains very fine music, including the haunting `Johnny's Song'. Street Scene (1947), with a libretto by Elmer Rice (based on his 1929 play) was a deliberate attempt to write an American popular opera rather than a musical.
- 2 symphonies
- violin concerto
- Quodlibet for orch.
- cello sonata; 2 string quartet (one acknowledged)
- song cycle Frauentanz (Women's Dance) for soprano, flute, viola, clarinet, horn and bassoon; Three Walt Whitman Songs for voice and piano; ballad Vom Tod im Wald for bass and ten wind instruments; cantata The Ballad of Magna Carta for solo voice, chorus and orch.; cantata Das Berliner Requiem for males voices and wind orch.; cantata Der Lindberghflug for soloists and orch.; cantata Der neue Orpheus for soprano, solo violin, chorus and orch.; ; Kaddish for cantor, chorus and organ; Zu Potsdam unter den Eichen for unaccompanied male choir
- dramatic staged oratorio The Eternal Road
- ballet Die Seben Todsünden der Kleinbürger (The Seven Deadly Sins)
- operas Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny (The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny), Die Bürgschaft, Down in the Valley, Die Dreigroschenoper (The Threepenny Opera), Happy End, Der Jasager, A Kingdom for a Cow, Der Protagonist, Royal Palace, Der Silbersee, Street Scene and Das Zar lässt sich photographieren
- musical play Johnny Johnson; musicals lady in the Dark, Knickerbocker Holiday, Lost in the Stars and One Touch of Venus; film music; incidental music
opera Aufsteig und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny (The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, 1930)
school opera Der Jasager (1930) (see text)
opera Die Dreigroschenoper (The Threepenny Opera) (1928)
opera Happy End (1929)
musical play Johnny Johnson (1936)
Kleine Dreigroschenmusik (1929)
Mahagonny Songspiel (1927)
Symphony No.2 (1934) (see text)
Zu Potsdam unter den Eichen (1929) for unaccompanied male choir
D.Drew Kurt Weill: A Handbook, 1987
R.Sanders The Days Grow Short, 1980
born 25th August 1902 at Berlin
died 4th April 1972 at New York
Stephan Wolpe has regularly attracted limited attention as a composer of structurally rigorous works that developed a personal 12-tone and serial idiom. This interest has come more from musicologists (he has been seen as a link between Busoni and the avant-garde) than performers, and it is still difficult to encounter his music or get an overall view of his relatively large output.
In the 1920s and 1930s Wolpe was influenced by the Berlin jazz of the day (often ironically) and by left-wing German politics and its associated music. The Tango (1927) and short Rag-Caprice (1927), both for piano, are examples of the former, and the series of piano marches Cinq marches caractéristiques (1928-1934) of the latter, though the motoric Stehende Musik (Stationary Music, 1927), in one movement derived from a lost piano sonata, shows an early preoccupation with form in its contrasts of tension and release through repetition. In 1933 he fled Berlin, and studied briefly with Webern before moving to Palestine, and most of his works from this date avoid any descriptive title, preferring to indicate their form. An intermediate and fine work is the Passacaglia (1936) for piano, relentlessly logical in its construction, but building through increased density in its overall structure. In this period Wolpe also wrote some less severe works, especially songs and choruses for the Kibbutz movement (some of which have become accepted as folk-songs in Israel), including the Songs from the Hebrew (1938) for soprano and piano.
In 1938 he moved to the United States, and his later style has been described as abstract expressionism, and connected with such painters as Klee. Structures are usually built from small cells, which then are subject to highly detailed changes, using asymmetrical metres and rhythms, variations of instrumentation and colour, and expressive contrasts (sometimes abrupt) of density and of complexity. Though some of the techniques are derived from serial procedures, the basic structures often hark back to Classical models; the concentration on the detail of each element is traceable to the influence of Webern. These techniques are essentially personal rather than closely following any formal system, and the resulting idiom emerges as formal, rugged, capable of a sense of instinctive freedom through the contrasts and consequently often more lucid than much of the writing of the avant-garde. The concentration on the vertical detail, and on the activities with short time-frames, mitigates against any sense of linear development, and it is this which has perhaps hampered a wider appreciation of his music. Its virtues are the combination of meticulous detail with the capability of emotional expression, but the results are rather astringent, well described as more to be admired than enjoyed.
His later techniques are exemplified in the one movement Form (1959) for piano. It opens with a short, light, toying phrase made up of the first six notes of the 12-note row used. The next bar uses the same notes in a completely different arrangement and register, entirely altering the tone into a dark, abrupt and more complex cast. The third bar overlays the two moods, and a trill then introduces the next six notes of the row. This basic material is then utilized for a free interaction of lucid, airy textures, before the notes of the opening return. There is an analogy to classical sonata form, with the two opening bars representing two themes, the main body of the work the development, and the return of the opening notes the recapitulation; the abrupt contrast of mood at the opening is typical of Wolpe's abstract Expressionist contrasts. It is a fascinating work, but it remains dry, as if Wolpe was suppressing emotional expression through the formal play. It was joined by a later companion piece, Form IV: Broken Sequences (1969) for piano.
Of the other better-known works, Battle Music (1943-1947) for piano is one of his more expressive pieces (and one of the few with a descriptive title) and exemplifies the combination of a classical formal base and abstract expressionist procedures; it includes a quote from the Marseillaise. The half-hour Enactments (1950-1953) for three pianos displays the fragmentary style and fertile complexity, but also the expressive possibilities. It is cast in five movements, of which the third and fourth movement include plucking strings. The tough serial Symphony (1955-1956, revised 1962) has little linear development. After these larger-scale works, Wolpe compressed his idiom into shorter and more succinct works, signalled by Form (1959) for piano, discussed above, that lost none of the complexity of construction while exploring the possibilities of changing shapes. Dominating these were a series of complex works for chamber ensemble, usually constructed by initially stating a small number of notes that then undergo constant changes (without following any strict system), with strong contrasts, notably between extreme registers and close groups, giving an expanding and contracting effect. Longer term movement is created by the removal of certain pitches and the addition of others, thus slowly changing the overall harmonic cast. Typical of these later works is the most effective Chamber Piece No.1 (1964) for fourteen instruments, a parade of revolving motions of contraction and expansion with pointillistic instrumental writing.
Wolpe was an important teacher in the United States, and this influence has probably been of more significance than his music, in common with one of his own teachers, Busoni. He taught privately in New York (1938-1952), at Black Mountain College in North Carolina (1952-1956) and at Long Island University (1957-1968); among his pupils were Morton Feldman and Charles Wuorinen.
- For Piano and 14 Instruments
- Chamber Piece No.1 and Chamber Piece No.2 for 14 instruments
- Solo Piece for trumpet; Piece in Two Parts and Second Piece for solo violin; Piece in Two Parts for flute and piano; Duo im Hexachord for oboe and clarinet; violin sonata; Trio in Two Parts for flute, cello and piano; string quartet; quartet for tenor saxophone, trumpet, piano and percussion; From Here on Farther for clarinet, bass clarinet, violin and piano; Piece for oboe, cello, piano and harp; In Two Parts for 6 instruments; Piece for Two Instrumental Units for 7 instruments; Piece for trumpet and 7 instruments
- Battle Piece, Cinq marches charactéristiques, Dance Piece, Dance in the Form of a Chaconne, Displaced Spaces, Encouragements, Form, Form IV: Broken Sequences, Passacaglia, Pastorale, Rag-Caprice, Seven Pieces, Stehende Musik, Tango, Toccata in Three Parts, Two Studies, for piano; Enactments for three pianos,
-Quintet with Voice for baritone, clarinet, horn, cello, piano and harp; Street Music for baritone, speaker and 5 instruments; Cantata about Sport; Cantata for Voice, Voices and Instruments; songs
- ballet The Man from Midian
Battle Music (1943-1947) for piano
Chamber Piece No.1 (1964) for 14 instruments
Enactments (1950-1953) for three pianos
Form (1959) for piano
Passacaglia (1936) for piano
ZIMMERMANN Bernd Alois
born 20th April 1918 at Bliesheim (near Cologne)
died 10th August 1970 at Grosskönigsdorf (near Cologne)
Bernd Alois Zimmermann (not to be confused with the German composers Udo Zimmermann, born 1943, or Walter Zimmermann, born 1949) is best known for a single work, the opera Die Soldaten, whose reputation and influence secured him an important position in post-1945 German composition. His earlier works are emotionally Expressionist, using an essentially tonal base. From the middle 1950s he turned to strict formal structures and serial procedures, but from around 1960 he forged a synthesis of various styles, avant-garde in overall cast, in an idiom he called `pluralistic', which could range from the avant-garde jazz of such works as the instrumental Die Befristenten (The Numbered), through electronic works, to the extreme Expressionism of Die Soldaten, and often involved quotations of past music (Dialogues for two pianos and orchestra, reworked as Monologue, 1964, for two pianos, quotes from Bach, Beethoven and Messiaen). Central to his aesthetic was the idea that time as a concept includes the simultaneous confluence of past and future as well as present (partly explaining his use of quotation); in this he was influenced by such writers as James Joyce. Although he only wrote one opera, the basic impulse of most of his music is dramatic effect.
The Symphony (1951) in one movement illustrates his earliest phase. Zimmermann himself pointed out the symphony was not a compression of the customary movements into one, but a single evolutionary event, an arc from chaos to organization with the full statement of thematic material at the end. However, no such explanation is needed, for this tremendously vital symphony has a clear logic of its own, a kind of compression into a single concise movement of Mahlerian events turned wild, with impressive clarity of orchestration and essentially tonal points of reference. The Oboe Concerto `Homage à Stravinsky' (1952) is an obvious tribute to the older composer, emulating his small blocks of orchestral sound. The flowing solo line (though with wide leaps) is supported by the orchestra, rather than in opposition; the work has a neo-classical hue and, given the dearth of oboe concertos, is worth the occasional revival, but is not typical of Zimmermann's general idiomatic concerns.
Zimmermann's most important work is Die Soldaten (1958-1960, but revised and not staged until 1965). This huge opera, building on the Expressionist legacy of Berg, is based on a 1771 play by Jacob Lenz about Marie, a respectable woman who is thrown aside by her officer-lover, and becomes the regimental whore. Dense in both dramatic and musical texture (action happens simultaneously on a number of stages), and requiring huge forces, including 26 singers and a very large orchestra, it is a harrowing and unrelieved work that draws on a number of different styles, from jazz to dance, pantomime, and the use of tape. With its study of the military and of sexual repression, it is overwhelming in its visual and musical complexity, in its harshness, in the difficulty of much of the vocal writing, in the extremes of the emotions, and in its assault on the musical and dramatic senses. Whereas Berg in Wozzeck keeps his material under careful control while brilliantly understanding and expressing the emotions, in Die Soldaten Zimmermann seems to be directly expressing his own inner fervour, sometimes barely keeping control; in this it is the culmination of Expressionism in music. Ultimately, it does not stand comparison with Berg's opera, but it is an extraordinary experience not to be missed.
In common with a number of Zimmermann works, the piano trio Présence (1961) was envisaged (and has been staged) as a ballet, and is designated as `ballet blanc en cinq scènes', although it also carried the subtitle `Concerto scénique pour violon, violoncelle et piano'. It illustrates Zimmermann's technique of quotation, veering abruptly but smoothly from avant-garde writing to quotation (Debussy, Strauss, Prokofiev and Stockhausen) and pastiche and back again. Each of the three characters is represented by one of the instruments, Don Quixote with the violin, Molly Bloom (from Joyce) with the cello, and King Ubu (from Alfred Jarret's black comedy Roi Ubu) with the piano; these three instruments often move in completely different patterns, and appreciation of the trio, which covers a wide range of effect and expression, is enhanced by knowledge of the character base. King Ubu reappeared in his own `ballet noir' Musique pour les soupers du Roi Ubu (1966).
The cello was a favourite instrument for Zimmermann, who used a panoply of extended instrumental techniques in his writing for the instrument; his last work was the Vier kurze Studien (Four Short Studies, 1970) for solo cello. Don Quixote reappeared in the Cello Concerto `en forme de `pas de trois'' (1965-1966), which was originally envisaged as a ballet and whose subtitle refers to a union of soloist, orchestra and ballet. This colourful and dramatic work is divided into five sections, reflecting various visions of imaginary ballet figures; in the final section the various characters come together. Against the virtuosic solo writing, the unusual orchestration includes a concertante group of mainly plucked instruments (mandolin, guitar, dulcimer, celesta, harp, piano, harpsichord) giving a distinct and unusual hue to the overall colours. There are jazz and blues influences, but the predominating sense is that of the dance, overt in a section for cello against castanets and clockwork percussion. An earlier cello concerto was titled Canto di Speranza (Song of Hope, 1953, revised 1957). Intercommunicazione (1967) for cello and piano opens with solo cello sounds reminiscent of electronic effects, and throughout the two instruments are kept as distinct layers. Dark, sonorous, and austere expression from the solo cello dominates, often in two voices and with quarter-tone intervals. The piano initially provides chordal counterjections, or snatches of repetitive phrases, before taking up the deep timbres of the cello writing, until towards the end both instruments become more agitated, taking on new colours. The more tragic, pessimistic aspects of this sonorous, slow-moving and effective work reflected an increasing grimness in his output - Requiem für einen jungen Dichter (Requiem for a Young Poet, 1967-1969) for soloists, choruses, orchestra, jazz group, organ and tape sets verses from three poets who committed suicide - leading to Zimmermann's own suicide in 1970.
Meanwhile, in 1966 Zimmermann created one of the finest of all purely electronic works, Tratto I. In it he avoided the synthesised sounds that were just becoming available and which have become the norm of more recent electronic music, and turned to the pure electronically created sine vibration (`simple tones'). A basic interval, the tritone (with its overtones) dominates the work. The Italian title refers to both a stretch of time (or a physical feature) and a place in a written work, and was used in Die Soldaten to title the interludes. The piece, fifteen minutes long, is a slow moving vista of shifting sonorities, its internal pacing bearing little relationship to conventional music, and gradually building to a climax; its timbral qualities, and its sense of perfect proportion, are unforgettable.
Zimmermann taught at the Cologne University (1950-1952) and at the Musikhochschule (1957-1970).
- Symphony in One Movement
- 2 cello concertos (subtitled Canto di Speranza and `en forme de `pas de trois'); oboe concerto (Homage à Stravinsky); concerto for strings; trumpet concerto Nobody Knows de Trouble I See); violin concerto; Antiphonen for viola and orch.; Dialogue for two pianos and orch.;
- Alagoana, Dialogue, Impromptu, Kontraste, Photoptosis and Stille und Umkehr for orch.
- solo cello sonata; Vier kurze Studien for solo cello; Tempus loquendi for solo flute; solo viola sonata; Intercommunicazione for cello and piano; violin sonata; Présence for piano trio
- Enchiridion, Extemporale and Konfigurationen for piano; Monolugue and Perspektiven for 2 pianos
- Requiem für einen jungen Dichter for soloists, choruses, orchestra, jazz group, organ and tape ; cantata I wandte mich for 2 speakers, bass and orchestra
- cantatas Lob der Torheit and Omnia tempus habent; Tantum Ergo for 4 voices;
- ballet Le Roi Ubu
- opera Die Soldaten
- electronic Tratto I and II
Cello Concerto en forme de `pas de trois' (1965-1966)
opera Die Soldaten (1958-1960, revisions to 1964)
Intercomunicazione (1967) for cello and piano
Symphony in One Movement (1947-1951)
electronic Tratto (1966)