COVID-19 Update

Despite the problems caused by the Corona-virus our Webshop and the contact forms on our website are fully available. You may also address your inquiries to Thank you for your understanding if our answer takes longer as usual because of the current restrictions. Your Universal Edition Team

Cristóbal Halffter: Memento a Dresden

  • 4 episodes (1994-1995)
  • for orchestra
  • 4 4 4 4 - 4 4 4 1 - perc(4), str
  • Duration: 24’
  • Instrumentation details:
    1. flute
    2. flute
    3. flute (+ picc.)
    4. flute (+ picc.
    1. oboe
    2. oboe
    3. oboe
    4. oboe (+ c.a.)
    1. clarinet in B
    2. clarinet in B
    3. clarinet in B
    4. clarinet in B (+ bass cl.(Bb))
    1. bassoon
    2. bassoon
    3. bassoon
    4. bassoon (+ cbsn.)
    1. horn in F
    2. horn in F
    3. horn in F
    4. horn in F
    1. trumpet in C (+ cl.tpt.)
    2. trumpet in C
    3. trumpet in C
    4. trumpet in C
    1. trombone
    2. trombone
    3. trombone
    4. trombone
    1. perc
    2. perc
    3. perc
    4. perc
    violin I (16)
    violin II (14)
    viola (12)
    violoncello (10)
    contrabass (8)
  • Composer: Cristóbal Halffter

Work introduction

In setting out to compose Memento a Dresden in August 1994, I had in mind a piece where the different groups of instruments are given a chance to demonstrate their skills one after the other - that is, the woodwind, the brass, the percussion and the strings. It was also my endeavour to introduce the orchestra as an ensemble in its entirety.

During the course of working at the piece, it became gradually clear to me just what a significant role the city of Dresden has played in the European culture and in that of the world. Little by little, what started out as a festive piece of music commemorating the anniversary of a major orchestra, turned into one movement on two levels, a festive and a transcendental one.

The festive character applies to the first movement where the brass section is given prominence. The second movement bears the title  "Spiel" ( "Play") and the percussion section is allowed to take the upper hand.  "Play" in the sense children engage in, changing the reality of an object into something completely different as their imagination and mood dictates it, and also in the sense of playing an instrument, injecting life into a score, turning this static object into something which only comes to life in time and which would not exist without this transformation. Any musical work becomes music, reality, through play(ing) in the highest sense of the word.

While working on the second movement in January and February 1995, I was continually hearing and reading news about the commemoration in Dresden of the fiftieth anniversary of the senseless bombing of the city - the barbarous attack annihilating it, razing it to the ground. Sitting in the quiet of my house, I could not and would not banish the thought from my mind, the thought of that tragic night fifty years before.

The third movement, marked by the alternation of the strings and the woodwind, is devoted to the memory of all those who fell victim to that incomprehensible act of murder against people.

The fourth movement is a summary of all the ideas developed during the compositional work. It has its own musical elements, of course, but traits of the first, second and third movements also recur, in different timbres, with different intensity and register. It was my intention to help the listener recognize what he heard before without repeating anything unchanged.

Despite all those reflections which are part of my work - just as the work is part of my life - I would like to emphasize that Memento a Dresden is first and foremost a piece of music. Its development in sound obeys the necessity arising from the strictest musical requirements based on my own aesthetic principles regarding beauty of sound in our time...

Cristóbal Halffter


World première

Philharmonie, Dresden (DE)
Dresdner Philharmonie
Cristóbal Halffter

Previously Viewed Works

No previously viewed works