Georg Friedrich Haas: Bruchstück

Georg Friedrich Haas Bruchstück

Georg Friedrich Haas: Bruchstück

Year of composition:
Scored for:
for large orchestra
Georg Friedrich Haas
4 4 4 4 - 8 4 4 2 - perc(4), str(16 14 12 10 8)
Instrumentation details:
1st flute
2nd flute
3rd flute (+picc)
4th flute (+picc)
1st oboe
2nd oboe
3rd oboe
4th oboe (+c.a)
1st clarinet in Bb
2nd clarinet in Bb
3rd clarinet in Bb
4th clarinet in Bb
1st bassoon
2nd bassoon
3rd bassoon
4th bassoon (+cbsn)
1st horn in F
2nd horn in F
3rd horn in F
4th horn in F
5th horn in F
6th horn in F
7th horn in F
8th horn in F
1st trumpet in Bb
2nd trumpet in Bb
3rd trumpet in Bb
4th trumpet in Bb
1st trombone
2nd trombone
3rd trombone
4th trombone
1st tuba
2nd tuba
1st percussion
2nd percussion
3rd percussion
4th percussion
violin I (16)
violin II (14)
viola (12)
violoncello (10)
double bass (8)
Auftragswerk der Landeshauptstadt München - Münchner Philharmoniker
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The complete perusal score (PDF-preview)

Work introduction

Georg Friedrich Haas’ Bruchstück was written between 2006 and 2007 in response to a commission from the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, and belongs to the same series as his previous orchestral works natures mortes (2003) and Hyperion (2006). Compositional methods and thematic ideas from these works are further developed in Bruchstück, where once again overtone harmony and chords play a large role. Haas’ preoccupation with extreme differentiations of tonal space and an expansion of the timbral spectrum by means of microtonality presents an extremely challenging experience for both performers and listeners. The score bears the completion date: "Basel, 25 January 2007".

As in Hyperion, Bruchstück also presents unison melodies which move against one another in their various rhythmic grids. Here again, one hears dense sound masses merging into one another, tension constructed by means of harmonic friction and soundscapes which themselves undergo inward change. The one-movement work, which contains no major pauses but rather develops in the form of a great arch, is based for large stretches on overtone chords, which are often developed into dense, many-voiced webs of sound, or used to bind the individual parts into delicate polyphonic structures. 

Haas starts off with microtonally spaced wind sounds accompanied by short attacks from timpani and other percussion. From the beginning on, rhythmically complex figures played by divided lower strings, initially almost inaudible, point to later similarly conceived but much more densely layered passages,. Brief rising figures based on microtonal scales in the horns are introduced as a further central motif. As the piece proceeds, the musical texture thickens into complicated overtone chords, which sometimes appear as blocks, but then divide into several individual lines. The strings are frequently divided into individual parts, which form highly complex vertical combinations. From these basic materials Haas develops large sections of the score. After an extended passage in which the strings in particular dominate and the wind merely anchor the piece by means of long, sustained notes, the piece attains its first dynamic climax in the subsequent tutti section. This outburst leads to a gradual calming down: long sustained overtone chords are heard simultaneously both in horizontal form and spread out vertically as short figures on the horns and trombones. 

The fact that the musical substance in many places sounds apparently ‘out of tune’ reflects the express wishes of the composer, who particularly treasures the harmonic spectrum, and the extended possibilities opened up by the use of microtones,. And yet alongside this there are also longer sections in Bruchstück which confine themselves to the traditional chromatic scale. It is precisely this kind of playing with different harmonic levels which lends Haas’ pieces their charm. So, when the passage just described is followed by a section characterised almost exclusively by scurrying chromatic scales rising upwards, it forms an exquisite contrast to the complex overtone chords which, immediately afterwards, yet again determine the harmonic fabric. It is then a logic development when these scalar patterns become more finely differentiated and end up metamorphosing into glissandi, thereby traversing the entire range of sound without any gradations. Later however the instrumental forces used here for the first time once again dissolve back into scalar patterns, so that compressions and expansions of tonal space alternate with one another and thereby create moments of increasing and decreasing tension. In this way Haas thickens the musical texture into a gigantic accumulation of countless individual voices, which in its complexity and polyphonic structure can hardly be surpassed.

The harmonic ‘deceleration’ which follows is accompanied by a gradual attenuation of the orchestral texture. At the same time the percussion steps into the foreground for the first time, the densely divided strings providing only a gentle backdrop. Characteristic of Haas’ musical thinking is the subsequent passage with horns and tubas. The vertically spaced overtone chords heard here have already been exposed in the opening section, but they now acquire a more distinct shape. Gradually this motion too ebbs away, before in a tenderly played epilogue, played as if sighed by the strings, the fleeting figurations heard in the earlier section once again surface. This passage produces an effect like a blurred remembrance of things past: "A sound should emerge as if coming from another world." In this annotation by the composer in the score, too, his kinship with the aesthetics of Romanticism once again reveals itself: the "other world" of which the Romantics dreamed was also always an alternative version of reality, the promise of a utopian ideal which neither could nor would be satisfied with social reality. The close of this dream-like passage holds yet another surprise in store, as the "sounds from another world" abruptly break off, disappearing into nothing. The composition ends with a long general pause, a collective silence which is a central part of the work and once again legitimates the title ‘Fragment’.

Martin Demmler
(translation Peter Burt)

Special prints


Georg Friedrich Haas: Bruchstück

study score
for large orchestra , 30’
Instr.: 4 4 4 4 - 8 4 4 2 - perc(4), str(16 14 12 10 8)

World première

Philharmonie, München (DE)
Münchner Philharmoniker
Markus Stenz

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