Georg Friedrich Haas: Tetraedrite

Georg Friedrich Haas Tetraedrite

Georg Friedrich Haas: Tetraedrite

Year of composition:
Scored for:
for orchestra
Georg Friedrich Haas
3 3 3 3 - 5 4 3 1 - timp, perc(2), str (10 10 8 6 4)
Instrumentation details:
1st flute
2nd flute
3rd flute
1st oboe
2nd oboe
cor anglais
1st clarinet in Bb
2nd clarinet in Bb
bass clarinet in Bb (+clarinet in Eb)
1st bassoon
2nd bassoon
3rd bassoon (+contraforte)
1st horn in F
2nd horn in F
3rd horn in F
4th horn in F
5th 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
1st percussion
2nd percussion
violin I (10)
violin II (10)
viola (8)
violoncello (6)
double bass (4)
Ein Auftrag des Festivals Klangspuren Schwaz zur Eröffnung des neuen Stadtsaales, uraufgeführt am 13.9.2012 durch das Tiroler Symphonieorchester Innsbruck
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The complete perusal score (PDF-preview)

Work introduction

Georg Friedrich Haas describes the search for a title for his new orchestral work thus: “The silver ores mined in Schwaz were tetraedrites; to that extent, the name of the piece is a homage to the place where it was premiered. Normally, I initially have a purely abstract musical idea. The most difficult part comes when the piece is written: finding a name for it. During my research, I was greatly surprised to discover that Schwaz was a centre of silver production in the late Middle Ages in Europe – perhaps that is comparable to today with the oil fields in the North Sea or the Near East. I found a very fine parallel to my piece – that silver ore is only something ancillary, a contamination, of the main mineral in the ore.”

Haas concealed in this composition a fragment of a horn concerto by Mozart: the draft of a rondo, begun in 1791 and unfinished at his death that year. “There are Schubert fragments which he had to leave unfinished because he didn’t know Wagnerian harmony or he hadn’t studied Schönberg. He lacked the means to finish what was sketched out in his music,” says Haas about the fascination with fragments. “It was different with Mozart. Obviously he had the essentials in his head and the problem was finding the time to write it all down. I have a powerful, stark image before my eyes: that of aborted foetuses or preterm births – lives which might have become lives but which could not. The beginning of the horn concerto is such genius – one D major chord – and Mozart scores the chord as if it were the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 6th pitches of the overtone chord.” Franz Xaver Süßmayr tried to complete that perhaps visionary work, but Mozart’s striking harmonic effect is lost in Süßmayr’s orchestration. Haas calls it a “stillborn sound,” since the fragment is too short to perform, adding that it is an “astonishing parallel to my own sonic language.”

Haas concentrates on one detail in Tetraedrite: an overtone chord which fascinated him. “The Mozart quote occurs at four different speeds simultaneously in my piece,” he explains. “That means that the overtone chord occurs very often, and the simultaneous overlapping makes both the overtone chord and the dominant audible – almost like a contamination. Ultimately, this even results in a semitone cluster in the bass: D and C#. That is irritating, of course, and I play with that.”

However, Tetraedrite begins as a sonic study, with all the instruments (strings and winds) sustaining a unisono, the strings playing con vibrato. The unisono is enriched seamlessly with microtones, diffusing into a sonic cloud, blurring and dispersing. Suddenly something apparently familiar emerges: the fragment of Mozart KV 412 – “like the silver ore concealed in the tetraedrit.” The composer reveals nothing more: “Whether that overtone chord feels like home ground because it is a consonance, and whether everyone is quite happy about that – or whether it is something terrible, a chord sticking like a thorn in the flesh – I would prefer to leave that unanswered; every listener must find it out for himself.”

© Klangspuren programme booklet / Wiebke Matyschak

(Reproduction of the text in any form is only permitted with prior permission of the author.)

Special prints


Georg Friedrich Haas: Tetraedrite

study score
for orchestra , 14’
Instr.: 3 3 3 3 - 5 4 3 1 - timp, perc(2), str (10 10 8 6 4)

World première

SZentrum, Schwaz (AT)
Tiroler SO Innsbruck
Wen-Pin Chien

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