Georg Friedrich Haas: Traum in des Sommers Nacht

Georg Friedrich Haas Traum in des Sommers Nacht
Traum in des Sommers Nacht

Georg Friedrich Haas: Traum in des Sommers Nacht

Year of composition:
Scored for:
for orchestra
Georg Friedrich Haas
3 3 4 4 - 4 2 3 1 - timp, perc(3), vln.I(14), vln.II(12), vla(10), vc(8), cb(6)
Instrumentation details:
1st flute
2nd flute
1st oboe
2nd oboe
cor anglais
1st clarinet in A
2nd clarinet in A
3rd clarinet in A
4th clarinet in A
1st bassoon
2nd bassoon
3rd bassoon
1st horn in F
2nd horn in F
3rd horn in F
4th horn in F
1st trumpet in Bb
2nd trumpet in Bb
1st trombone
2nd trombone
bass trombone
timpani: woodblock, temple block, wood headed drum
1st percussion: 2 tam-tam (high/low), 2 temple blocks (rather high/rather low), 2 gongs (d#/f#), snare drum, bass drum, crotales (b#'''), marimba
2nd percussion: snare drum, temple block (medium pitch), gongs (f, a, c#), tenor drum, 2 cymbals (large), crotales (g'''), vibraphone
3rd percussion: tenor drum, log drum, tom-tom (very low), gongs, tam-tam, crotales (e'''), guiro (x-large)
violin I (desk 1)
violin I (desk 2)
violin I (desk 3)
violin I (desk 4)
violin I (desk 5)
violin I (desk 6)
violin I (desk 7)
violin II (desk 1)
violin II (desk 2)
violin II (desk 3)
violin II (desk 4)
violin II (desk 5)
violin II (desk 6)
viola (desk 1)
viola (desk 2)
viola (desk 3)
viola (desk 4)
viola (desk 5)
violoncello (desk 1)
violoncello (desk 2)
violoncello (desk 3)
violoncello (desk 4)
contrabass (desk 1)
contrabass (desk 2)
contrabass (desk 3)
Auftragswerk von Gewandhaus zu Leipzig
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Traum in des Sommers Nacht

The complete perusal score (PDF-preview)

Work introduction

Dreams, eternity and the breaking of boundaries, fantasy and night-time, shadows and the unknown sides of human experience: all these are motifs of the Romantic movement, which have had lasting effects in the intellectual and cultural development of our society. In protest against the "demystification of the world" by industry and technology, the Romantics turned to the irrational, swore allegiance to the (supposed) spirit of long-ago times, devoted themselves to nature, re-evaluated the fragmentary and rejected, or at least re-interpreted, the idea of the superiority of human reason. In musical terms, this had the following effects, among others: the emphasis of emotional expressivity, the abandonment or revision of classical forms, the expansion and extension of traditional forms of harmony, along with the inclusion of "extra-musical" elements.

Some aspects of this attitude can also be heard in the music of Austrian composer Georg Friedrich Haas.  For one, Haas' work returns again and again to themes of night-time and strangeness: his 1997 piano concerto, for example, was titled Fremde Welten ; in 2000 Haas wrote the choral work Blumenstück, based on a text by Jean Paul; and Unheimat  for strings was premiered only recently in Munich by the Munich Chamber Orchestra. Furthermore, since the 1990s the composer has developed a tonal language which expands and oversteps the limits of traditional scales, either with the use of microtonality or with overtone scales.  The hallmark of his work is his experimental approach to sound, with gliding movements between notes, delicately filigreed structures, or gossamer-thin sequences layered on top of each other.

From this perspective, the orchestral composition Traum in des Sommers Nacht fits perfectly into the Haas canon, both stylistically and conceptually. The title can be read as a distant reference to Mendelssohn: on one side it refers to what is perhaps the composer's best known composition, "Ein Sommernachtstraum" op 61, written as incidental music for the stage; but on the other hand, the title draws attention to the fundamental difference between a summer's night and the Midsummer Night. The dark, troubled, twilight and ambiguous side of reality is here brought into the foreground.

In his "Homage a Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy", running at a scant 20 minutes, Haas expands on another idea: namely, that Mendelssohn can be understood not merely as a composer of charming, elegant 19th-century pieces, but also as an artistic innovator. To this end, Haas has written an essay in conjunction with his orchestral piece under the title "Mendelssohn, der Avantgardist" (Mendelssohn, the avantgardist), in which he gives a detailed analysis of the aspects of Mendelssohn's approach to music which he believes to be most central to the work.  Like the piece, the essay refers to selected works by Mendelssohn - and to very specific passages within each of these works.  Haas is particularly interested in two aspects of these extracts. For one, the existence of a chromatic field or twelve-tone scale within the fourth section (Melodrama) of "Ein Sommernachtstraum" op 61.  For another, the composition with tone colours in the overture "Meerestille und gluckliche Fahrt" op 2. Haas compares this to the musical development of the 20th century, describing it as a precursor to the experiments of Arnold Schoenberg and the serial music of the 1950s.  Haas sees these passages as demonstrating Mendelssohn's interest in the sequence of sounds themselves, beyond melody and harmony.

This analytical approach to Mendelssohn's compository practice is also Haas' inspiration for his orchestral piece.  The music is based on a number of rhythmic and melodic quotations and combinations of quotations, which do not represent themselves, but rather serve as the foundation for a completely new approach to sound colour and movement structure. Starting from his analysis of particular features of Mendelssohn's music, Haas creates entirely new soundscapes and variations of sound structures, demonstrating his entirely modern take on the work of the Romantic composer. But where the analysis refers only to two pieces, the orchestral work includes short segments from a range of Mendelssohn's work: "Ein Sommernachtstraum" op 61 (Overture, Intermezzo, Scherzo, Melodrama, Wedding March), the overtures "Meerestille und gluckliche Fahrt" op 27 and "Die Hebriden" op 26, as well as the Fourth Symphony op 90. These works were mostly written around 1830, before Mendelssohn took office at the Leipzig Gewandhaus - but already they demonstrate the qualities which would mark the young composer out as an exceptional talent.

It is clear from the very beginning of Haas' piece that the title of the composition is more than just a passing reference: "dream" and "night" are aural and conceptual points of association for our entry into the music - in Romantic terms, one might say, into another world.  In vague, intangible percussion and string pianissimo, Haas first weaves a web of musical quotations, layered on top of one another, which take up the whole of the first two minutes. During this sequence, the instruments repeat their assigned motifs at varying tempi, each part repeating the motif a varying number of times (between 32 and 203 times each), while also repeatedly changing articulation and dynamic. And finally, the first four chords of the overture to the "Sommernachtstraum" emerge through the confusion.  These chords then turn out to be the start of a series of musical fields in permanent motion (even if it is only through tiny changes) which constantly create new soundscapes, sometimes in statis, sometimes in colourfully changing chords, sometimes as a web of layered motifs, sometimes as internally differentiated rhythmic sounds, punctuated with quarter-toned structures.  But they do not follow a single planned pattern of exposition, and neither are they concretely delineated from one another.  The first layer of chords, for example, slowly turns in the string section into ascending glissandi, and the brass is gradually removed, before, finally, the start of the Hebrides overture can be heard, first in the trombones and then in the 2nd bassoon. The six-tone motif, so well known to any music lover, then establishes itself step by step in every voice in the orchestra - but sometimes in the minor variation, sometimes in different time signatures and rhythms, so that the result is a dense web in which the original source material can no longer be heard. This web then disentangles itself to end with a clear statement, following the musical technique which Haas saw in Mendelssohn as evidence of his avant-garde approach: the twelve-tone sequence from the melodrama of the "Sommernachtstraum". It is no coincidence that in the middle of this composition Haas explicitly draws out the contra-bassoon line - and thus makes the connection between his work and that of the Romantics perhaps most clearly. "Mendelssohn, the avantgardist" is still present - and no longer in the "dream world" of the piece (whose further development will contain even more Mendelssohnian features), but indeed in the music of today.

Dr. Christiane Sporn

Special prints

Traum in des Sommers Nacht

Georg Friedrich Haas: Traum in des Sommers Nacht

study score
for orchestra , 18’
Instr.: 3 3 4 4 - 4 2 3 1 - timp, perc(3), vln.I(14), vln.II(12), vla(10), vc(8), cb(6)

World première

Gewandhaus, Leipzig (DE)
Riccardo Chailly

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