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Friedrich Cerha: 3 Orchesterstücke

  • for orchestra
  • 4 3 4 3 - 4 4 4 1 - timp, perc(6), hp, cel, str
  • Duration: 40’
  • Instrumentation details:
    1st flute
    1st flute
    2nd flute (+picc)
    3rd flute (+picc)
    1st oboe
    2nd oboe
    3rd oboe
    1st clarinet in A
    2nd clarinet in A
    3rd clarinet in A
    4th clarinet in A (+bass cl(Bb))
    1st bassoon
    2nd bassoon
    3rd bassoon (+cbsn)
    1st horn in F
    2nd horn in F
    3rd horn in F
    4th horn in F
    1st trumpet in C
    2nd trumpet in C
    3rd trumpet in C
    4th trumpet in C
    1st trombone
    2nd trombone
    3rd trombone
    4th trombone
    bass tuba
    1st percussion
    2nd percussion
    3rd percussion
    4th percussion
    5th percussion
    6th percussion
    violin I (8 desks)
    violin II (7 desks)
    viola (6 desks)
    violoncello (5 desks)
    double bass (4 desks)
  • Composer: Friedrich Cerha
  • Commission: I. (Berceuse céleste, 2006) im Auftrag des SWR II. (Intermezzo, 2010/2011) und III. (Tombeau, 2011) im Auftrag des WDR

Work introduction

I turned 80 in 2006 – an age at which one feels compelled to reflect upon how the world has changed during a long life, how one has also changed, and how one sees the world differently in the course of one’s life. I had the idea of three orchestra pieces in mind which would be connected with those thoughts.

Only the first one, Berceuse céleste, was realised in 2006. It is a simple piece, free from oppressive earthiness; it has something of a childlike naiveté, of an existence in which all experience is just beginning, which does not yet judge or separate into categories of values. It is mainly poised on a bright string sound, while the darker sides of this world are temporarily manifested in constructing and deconstructing figures in the brass.

Musically, this piece is diametrically opposed to No. III, Tombeau, which first began to take shape in 2010/2011. It is borne by the gradual, relentless events leading toward death, in which alteration, change wanes, leaving emptiness behind, and in which time ultimately ceases to be. Notwithstanding personal connotations, Tombeau is in fact a stringently structured piece. As with other works (e.g. the Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra), the organising principle I selected was a magic square ascribed to Mars in Arabic mysticism. (It consists of 25 fields numbered 1 through 25. The sequence of five fields always results in the sum of 65 in the most various of arrangements – horizontal, vertical, diagonal, etc. – and that determines almost consistently the pitches’ duration. The basis of the pitches themselves is the chromatic twelve-tone progression upwards, the octave pitches above and again the twelve-tone progression, this time downwards. That makes 25 pitches, corresponding to the 25 numbers of the magic square, which is therefore also the basis of the pitch organisation).

Notwithstanding its duration, I have given the name Intermezzo to the second piece, i.e. that which lies between the cradle and the grave; the title is meant somewhat satirically. It is a piece full of upswings, climaxes, agitations, fears, tensions, surprises and fractures – and among all these events ticks Time, unswerving in its forward stride, marked by short utterances of two coupled pitches which are often repeated in widely varied tone-colours and degrees of loudness.

Despite their differences, the other sections of the piece are based on a related, fundamental element and they occasionally share gestural similarity – one could think of “free variation” – yet they all refer to the same type of individual experience.

Friedrich Cerha

The complete perusal score (PDF-preview)

World première

Köln (DE)
Jukka-Pekka Saraste

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