In the commentaries to his Six Monologues from Everyman Frank Martin describes how, looking for a text to set for the baritone Max Christmann, he came across Hofmannstahl’s theatre piece Jedermann [Everyman]. At first he planned to make an opera out of it, but then he selected six monologues that he set for voice and piano in 1943. In 1949 there followed the orchestral version. Martin intended to express a psychological progression in his music, from the fear of death to the prayer in which the rich young man repents of his sins and pleads to heaven for forgiveness. In the Sixth Monologue he realises that his faith and repentance have earned him God’s mercy and that the gates of heaven will be opened for him.
From the preface of the Repertoire Explorer Miniature Score:
The 6 Monologe aus Jedermann after Hofmannsthal are among Frank Martin’s most performed works. The piece was premièred on 1 December 1911 at the Zirkus Schumann in Berlin under the direction of Max Reinhardt. In 1920 it served as the opening play for the newly reopened Salzburg Festival, where it continues to be an annual tradition to this day.
The experience Martin had acquired in the German language with Die Weise von Liebe und Tod des Cornets Christoph Rilke after Rainer Maria Rilke formed the basis for 6 Monologe aus Jedermann. Martin commented (posthumously published in A propos de…: commentaires de Frank Martin sur ses Œuvres, edited by Maria Martin in 1984):
“When the baritone Max Christmann asked me in 1943 to compose a song cycle for his voice, I looked unsuccessfully for a long time for a poem which could energize me about the project. And when it occurred to me to leaf through the text of Hofmannsthal's Jedermann, I did not have a lot of hope that I would find something suitable in the play for a song cycle. I was lucky, however, and was able to extract six monologues [this designation comes from Martin and is not found in the Hofmannsthal], which were so complete in themselves, that they summarized in a moving way the psychological and mental development of the main character – beginning with the creature's fear of death up to his perfect surrender in trust in forgiveness, his gradual detachment from earthly things, and his ascent in fear and sorrow into the spiritual world. In the face of such themes I could only have been silent, if the poet had not led me, if he had not taught me that attitude of total simplicity and humility, to which he took himself: In his octosyllable verses the poet not only lets the simple language of age-old human fears resound but also the language of the Gospel of Redemption which teaches us through love. He opens the curtain just far enough that the drama of death and life, of sin and healing in the spirit of each listener, can unroll itself. Through the search for appropriate music to set this simple and meaningful language, I became even more aware of the wonderful construction of this dramatic poem, from its deep psychological understanding to the perfect beauty of language and form and the pure rhythm of the verse, so supple in their wonderful monotony and so truly medieval.”
Martin completed 6 Monologe aus Jedermann in the original version for baritone or alto and piano on 13 December 1943 and dedicated it to Max Christmann. The octave transposition for the alto voice is provided as an alternative, but Martin preferred the original baritone range. At the première in Gstaad on 6 August 1944 Max Christmann was accompanied at the piano by the composer. In July 1949 Frank Martin orchestrated 6 Monologe aus Jedermann for baritone or alto solo and orchestra. The première of the orchestra version took place on 9 September 1949 in Venice by the alto Elsa Cavelti (1914-2001), who had also christened Der Cornet, under the direction of Rafael Kubelik.
Christoph Schlüren, 2004
Translation: Lynn Gaubatz
For the Repertoire Explorer Miniature Score please contact Musikproduktion Jürgen Höflich.