New works

Get an overview of our latest publishing activities in the fields of orchestra, opera, vocal and chamber music.


Béla Bartók: Petite Suite | 2016

WP 2.8.2018 : KKL, Luzern (CH)

for string orchestra10’

Bartók’s Petite Suite is a reduction for piano of six of Bartók’s 44 Duos for Two Violins, arranged by the composer in 1936. American composer Jay Schwartz has now arranged the Suite in a version for two violins and string orchestra, as well as a version for string orchestra alone, returning to Bartók’s original Duos for Two Violins and expounding upon their inherent idiomatic stringed instrument characteristics. Schwartz’s orchestrations offer a small scale form reminiscent of a Concerto Grosso, as found in Bartók’s Divertimento, retaining Bartók’s style while expanding the canons and counterpoint found in Bartók’s original duos.

Schwartz remains true to Bartók’s aesthetic and Bartók’s characteristic scoring, including allusions to his “Night Music” and incorporating various elements of Bartók’s own orchestral renditions of folk music, while at the same time allowing himself the freedom of development and invention of material supporting Bartók’s ideas.

In addition to the six pieces from Bartók’s Suite, Schwartz has chosen two complementary pieces from Bartók’s violin duos to balance the arrangement as an orchestral form and offer a greater diversify of stylistic possibilities.

Alban Berg: Sonata | 1908/1909

for orchestra13’

Victoria Borisova-Ollas: Symphony No. 2 | 2017

WP 20.8.2017 : Göteborgs Konserthus, Göteborg (SE)

‘Labyrinths of Time’for orchestra30’

How does the mechanism which controls our ability to remember the past work?

My own solution to this mystery is a combination of three keywords: time, pulse, and memory.

In fact, we cannot remember events as if they were lined up as a chain of beautiful pearls from a perfectly neat necklace. Instead, we remember short sections of conversations, colors, still and moving images. We remember voices, melodies, and in more complicated contexts also texts, numbers, music scores, and drawings. Of course, all of that varies from one person to another depending very much on what sort of personalities we have, our occupations and our age range.

One can also experience the memory process as a walk in a labyrinth. I imagine that labyrinth as a giant interior of a church tower's clockwork. We take one step to the right, one step to the left while the huge machinery ticks, its wheels rattling and scratching. The clock hits a quarter of an hour, two quarters, three quarters … then the final chord arrives!

Time always has a pulse, and therefore it is closely related to the music. The heart beats faster or slower while the short episodes of the silent movie keep rolling back and forth. We remember, we breathe, we exist.

Symphony No. 2 “Labyrinths of Time” was written between 2015 and 2016. It was commissioned by Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra.

Victoria Borisova-Ollas

Max Bruch: Romanze | 1911

for viola and string orchestra arranged by Masao Yokoyamafor viola and string orchestra9’

Friedrich Cerha: 3 Situationen | 2015-2016

WP 2.10.2018 : Musikverein, Großer Saal, Wien (AT)

for string orchestra15’30”

The pieces were written in 2014; the full score was finished up to the middle of the third piece that same year. Then the work was left alone and was not finished until early 2016.


After the orchestra pieces Nacht [“Night”] and Eine blassblaue Vision [“A Pale Blue Vision”], my imagination avoided the harsh sonic opposites between discrete orchestral sections. I again became more interested in fine differentiations within a single homogeneous group, and thus these three pieces for 50 strings came into being.


In the first piece, they are divided by desks, yielding 25 parts. Sustained chords initially separated by silence predominate in various sonic formations. They are repeatedly disturbed by attacks in short note values, at first in single piano hits and then dense fortissimo concentrations of motion - as it were the incursion of harsh reality into the meditative basic events - until the antagonistic play regains the calm of the outset. The title: Verstörte Meditation [“Disturbed Meditation”]. The 50 strings are scored one to a part in the second and third pieces.


I initially notated the second piece on large paper graphically, but with exact indications of the pitches in the envelopes. I also painted a picture at the same time, Irrender Vogelschwarm [“Errant Flock of Birds”]; as a child, I had been fascinated watching the flight of swarms of starlings in the autumn as they descended on the vineyards.


My interest was intensified by subsequent film sequences; when a swarm flies from the observer’s viewpoint from left to right or vice-versa, small sections of the sky appear between the beating wings, creating a sort of black latticework against the background. If the flock turns toward the observer, the birds seem to overlap, a shimmering narrow patch, before new change restores the initial impression.


Beyond the optical events, I was also impressed by the complete absorption of the individual in the group, the precise maintenance of distance and the total solidarity in even the slightest of course alteration in flight. At the same time, I felt aware of the complete de-individualisation in the group in human societies – everything I hated and never wanted. The image of the birds’ flight merged with those of military parades, political marches and mass gymnastic exercises under National Socialism and Communism, group formations in systems which brooked no dissent, retaliating with banishment and death … as a child, I did not know that the starlings falling upon the vineyards also destroyed them.


The third piece represents a single yet sonically diverse motion from below to above. Deeply rooted in us are darkness, impenetrableness, Hades, Hell and death; above, there is brightness, clarity, the sky, and also iciness – as opposed to the warmth of the living. And we see an ascent in the change, in a development to maturity and breadth of mentality. In my music, “attempt at an ascent” [Versuch eines Aufstiegs] means a gradual upward motion from the uniformity of a deep, dark mass toward the icy flageolet of the high strings – naturally via sonically diverse, seamlessly merging positions.


(Friedrich Cerha, 2018)

Gardel, Collatti: Vidas de Gardel | 2017

WP 8.8.2018 : Auditorium Rai Arturo Toscanini, Torino (IT)

for tenor and orchestra31’

If life weren’t so much of a mystery,
it wouldn’t be this fascinating.

Carlos Gardel’s life (1890-1935) was certainly very enigmatic. For various reasons this mystery was fuelled and partly even utilised by Carlos Gardel himself. After his tragic death the thesis surfaced that his place of birth was Toulouse, probably motivated by economic interests on the part of his legal representative. The documents clearly state Tacuarembo, Uruguay. It is undeniable, however, that the fascination which Gardel’s voice generated and indeed still generates has always been influenced and modified by a number of legends about his life.

Just as Garry Kasparov inverts a familiar saying in the title of his book How Life Imitates Chess, the words and aura of the tango also seem to dictate or inspire quite a few incidents in the life of Carlos Gardel (we tend to believe that reality nurtures fiction and forget that fiction also creates reality, that the two shape and feed each other). There is undoubtedly a communicative flow between Gardel as a person and his personality as an artist. His favourite topics were the neighbourhood, first love, gambling, returning to his beloved city, bravery, nostalgia, the tango itself …

For something to exist, many things seem to be necessary … time, facts, natural and social processes, etc. In Carlos Gardel’s golden age there was an entire city, and beyond that an entire country, that were longing to exist … Carlos Gardel lent a helping hand to Argentina in its desire to exist and acquire a personality of its own. Almost all Argentinians consider Carlos Gardel’s tangos and voice to be a kind of ‘birth certificate’ for the country, or proof of the value and the existence of this place in the world that was yearning to be Argentina.

Carlos Gardel made recordings in Spanish, Neapolitan, English, Guarani and French. He created films for Paramount Pictures. It can therefore be said that even though his art is associated with Buenos Aires and Argentina, his universality is well tested. This is not only due to the fact that he sings in various languages, but also because the artistic and poetic basis of his music overcomes geographical borders simply because he sings about human nature as such.

With this cycle of songs by Carlos Gardel I wanted to travel to those islands of his tangos, fly over the original terrain, sometimes land and visit an island, then take off again and continue; contemplating them from different perspectives, enjoying a state in which I am able to dedicate myself to these tangos with respect to the original ideas but at the same time challenging and discussing with an open and investigative mind (…).

The fact that these tangos were composed at the beginning of the 20th century, while the perspective and context in which this cycle appears are remote in comparison, constitutes for me a very relevant artistic aspect. I firmly believe in the dialectic capacity in art.

This cycle is like a conversation between Gardel’s tangos and my nostalgia, between the present and the past.

As a composer I place particular importance on the communicative aspect. I imagine a hypothetical audience. I think that one Gardel after another is too much sweetness, too much honey on one and the same piece of toast, as it were. I intend to set to music the psychological context in which these tangos were written. I know perfectly well that this is an imaginative, subjective, risky undertaking … and yet I contend that the best form of presenting these tangos is a cycle. It may be a pragmatic approach to alternate Gardel’s tangos with music that is somewhat more distant from this intensity of emotion and the tango, providing a sort of contrast. I examine the Italian term pianoforte and believe it to be a metaphor for my formal considerations underlying this cycle. Gardel’s tangos would be the fortes (or the pianos … ) and I felt compelled to interweave them with pieces that stray away from Gardel’s world, albeit not far, but still stray off in order to come back . in the same way that a swing can never only move back or forth. Gardel’s tangos are moving in a particular direction and I wanted to counter this.

Rather than merely orchestrating Gardel’s tangos, I intended to enter into a conversation with them as well as with their formal gestures, their harmonies, melodies, rhythms, timbres etc.

Gardel is part of Argentina’s ‘collective unconscious’. His phrasing or way of interpreting certain musical phrases has shaped forms of expression not only in the language of music but also in everyday language. The saying ‘Twenty years is nothing’ (‘Veinte años no es nada’), which appears in a tango and became famous across Latin America, is an example. During my work I listened to the recordings, trying to decode Gardel’s way of phrasing and comparing it with the notation which, of course, cannot be more than a simplification of Gardel’s masterly and virtuoso practice.

My intention is to set out on a kind of journey into Gardel’s world. In that respect I am the guide who has prepared an itinerary and devised a surprise or two, or a variation on the most relevant destinations, which are the tangos of Gardel.

Diego Collatti (2017)

David Fennessy: Conquest of the Useless

WP 28.1.2019 : National Concert Hall, Dublin (IE)

A vision had seized hold of me, like the demented fury of a hound that has sunk its teeth into the leg of a deer carcass and is shaking and tugging at the downed game so frantically that the hunter gives up trying to calm him. It was the vision of a large steamship scaling a hill under its own steam, working its way up a steep slope in the jungle, while above this natural landscape, which shatters the weak and the strong with equal ferocity, soars the voice of Caruso, silencing all the pain and all the voices of the primeval forest and drowning out all birdsong.”

Pretty much all the music here finds its origins in this short passage of text taken from the prologue to Conquest of the Useless, Reflections from the making of Fitzcarraldo, by the German director Werner Herzog. Little did I know that when I encountered that iconic image on the pages of a movie magazine ten years ago, it would lead me down my own path of obsession and immersion culminating in an hour-long cycle of pieces which I have also named Conquest of the Useless.

There are three parts, which run seamlessly from one to the next. 

Prologue takes as its starting point the central character in Fitzcarraldo, Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald, and his dream to build an opera house in the middle of the Amazon jungle. I wanted this introduction to have all the grandeur and over-the-top emotions of a romantic opera overture and as I began to compose it, that wish became more and more literally realised with snatches of Rigoletto writhing in the undergrowth accompanied high above by the “melancholy peeping” of tree-frogs. The trajectory of the ship, and the movement towards the realization of Fitzgerald’s dreams has been somehow translated here into a gigantic glissando, starting in the depths of the orchestra and slowly climbing. 

Caruso is an extended fantasy, “born of the delirium of the jungle”, as Herzog would have it. The music is almost completely made up of tiny extracts from gramophone recordings made by the tenor Enrico Caruso between 1903 and 1908, which are looped, stretched and combined to form a kind of ‘choir’ of Carusos. The electric guitar is a representation of an obsessive, creative force at the centre of it all – enveloped by, soothed by, often railing against and sometimes overpowered by this mass of sound.

Gold is the sweat of the sun, silver are the tears of the moon finally gives a voice and physicality to the driving force behind the quest to realise such a singular vision. An actor recites passages from the diaries while a mezzo soprano dives deeper into a more mysterious and sensual realm.

All the while the orchestra provides the setting and perhaps even the embodiment of what could be the true central character of this whole trilogy – the jungle itself and the river which flows through it.

David Fennessy: The Ground | 2018

WP 12.0.2019 : Glasgow City Halls, Glasgow (GB)

for orchestra16’

I began work on The Ground in the spring/summer of 2017, around the time when we were expecting the arrival of our second daughter. During a visit to the antenatal clinic I heard her heartbeats for the first time - incredibly fast and almost violent in their energy. Those heartbeats with all their potential as yet unleashed, drive the first half of this piece.


The voice that you can hear at the start and end is that of Robert Urquhart Brown (1906 - 1972), a renowned piper and piobaireachd player as well as an exponent of canntaireachd singing, the oral tradition of teaching the Ceol Mór (Big Music), as it is known. The recording was made towards the end of his days, and it is imbued with a rich sense of retrospective satisfaction at a life well lived.

The music of The Ground is essentially a mensural canon; the same tune at different speeds heard across a plethora of different voices.


(Dave Fennessy)

Cristóbal Halffter: Alucinaciones | 2015

WP 27.8.2017 : Basler Münster, Basel (CH)

for trio basso and orchestra

Cristóbal Halffter: Contrastes | 2016/2017

WP 19.9.2017 : Sala Sinfónica, Valladolid (ES)

for orchestra15’

Leoš Janáček: Sinfonietta | 1926

WP 22.1.2017 : Rudolfinum, Prag (CZ)

for orchestra25’

The new critical and practical edition of Sinfonietta reflects all existing sources, including those recently discovered during the work on the edition. It is primarily based on the transcription of the score that was used to stage the premiere and then served as a print template. The transcription was subjected to the first press release, and contained the premiere manuscript orchestral voices, autograph and corrections. In principle, Sinfonietta is restored to the premiere version of 1926, when it was staged with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conductor Václav Talich.

However, the edition reflects some of the composer's wishes that were not taken into account at the premiere due to technical reasons and then did not make it into the edition (e.g. 12 trumpets used in the second sentence). The notes also point to the additions made by Václav Talich to the instrumentation. The use of these additions, which made it into the first edition, are thus at the discretion of the conductor. Elimination of errors and inaccuracies, which arose already in the transcription, when the copyist Václav Sedlá?ek inaccurately or incorrectly understood Janá?ek's illegible autograph, was also part of the work when preparing the edition. According to sources, the editor also added further dynamics, specified the tempo and corrected errors. In the notes, the score also makes some additions that Janá?ek tolerated, but it is not clear whether he completely identified himself with them (e.g. additions made by the conductor Otto Klemperer at the end).

The edition also includes possible solutions for problematic sound bottlenecks designed by Janá?ek's chief conductor Charles Mackerras. The edition also contains a detailed introduction, which elaborates on the genesis of the work and Janá?ek's views on interpretation of the composition, as evidenced by the sources (use of a military band, performance of a wind ensemble, type of instruments favoured by Janá?ek, etc.)

Wolfgang Rihm: Reminiszenz | 2016

WP 11.0.2017 : Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg (DE)

for tenor and large orchestra15’

Wolfgang Rihm: Requiem-Strophen | 2015-2016

WP 30.2.2017 : Herkulessaal, München (DE)

for soli, mixed choir and orchestra80’

Anna Prohaska on Requiem-Strophen:

Ms. Prohaska, when you sing music by Wolfgang Rihm, your voice occasionally moves in stratospheric regions – one could say, in the “air of other planets.” Do you feel it as a type of fresh-air influx when you get music by Rihm to study?

Prohaska: Fresh air? – definitely, in the sense that it has almost always been completely new pieces to date that I've sung and that Rihm actually wrote some of them for me. It is also an unbelievably great experience to open the score for the first time; it’s of course very exciting and delightful. But I would say, musically speaking, that Rihm’s music has always been strongly grounded in tradition; Rihm has his own sonic language, his own brilliance in his creativity, but he really does stand with both feet firmly planted in musical tradition. And I find that exciting about him; you don’t always have to reinvent the wheel when you're writing a new piece.

How does Rihm’s music lie with your voice? Is it possible to generalise?

Prohaska: Rihm always writes for individuals, for the person he has composed it for, the person who sings the premiere performance. He knows the extreme regions of the voice in question, but he also knows where that voice feels most comfortable. For instance, I’m often called a coloratura soprano, even though I’m actually not. I am a lyric soprano with coloratura. I’ve never sung Zerbinetta, I've never sung the Queen of the Night; I have the notes, but I’m just not at home up there – and Rihm knows that. That’s why these Requiem-Strophen with the two sopranos – I sing the second soprano – are so ingenious; some of my part lies very low. It goes from G below the staff to the D above it, yet there is always a wonderful balance; the voice always has moments when it can repose in the lower regions – it is not always stuck in the eternal ice up there.

What was it like when you saw the score for the first time?

Prohaska: Well, Mr. Schaufler, it was quite funny; we met in Berlin at the performance of the great dance-poem Tutuguri, given in a concert version by the Bavarian Radio Symphony at the Berlin Musikfest. It was a very strange moment; I had this big score on my lap as I was listening to another piece by Rihm, a piece from a very different time – a courageous, bombastic early work with a huge deployment of percussion at the end. And I was sitting there with the score and I couldn’t help myself; naturally I had to page through it and sort of have a look: how was it written? Of course that is distracting and it wasn’t as if one could get an idea of it at once in the mind’s eye, but I did get a bit of an overview of the amount.

In your view, what is Rihm’s motivation for scaling such heights? He wrote another piece for you, Mnemosyne, some of which lies very high. I always feel a moment of utopia when the soprano catapults herself into the very highest ranges. How is that for you as the performer?

Prohaska: First of all, I must say that a singer does not approach it so philosophically; at first, it is all technical and physical, which is truly a kind of tightrope walking. You sometimes feel like a vaulting horse – that is, it is a matter of managing to clear this and that hurdle while sounding especially elegant and musical and without it sounding like hard work – and that is not too difficult with Rihm’s music because he writes such wonderful cantilenas. Sometimes the pitches are extremely far apart – indeed, occasionally over two octaves – but without ever losing the thread. Often, the other instruments lead and accompany me. Rihm composes a musical Ariadne thread. He wrote Samothrake for me and the Gewandhaus Orchestra, and I was again able to experience – en gros, as it were – how it is to be surrounded by Rihm’s masses of sound; they are so unobtrusively composed that they do not cover the singer – I felt supported and accompanied. With Rihm, the singing is always ingrained in the musical texture; it is never mere fodder for virtuosi.

That is also obvious in his opera Dionysos; again and again, he gives a note to the sopranos from the orchestra, maintaining the integrity and never leaving the soloists isolated.

Prohaska: Yes, and that is naturally an incredible help to intonation as well. Mojca Erdmann, who sings first soprano, has perfect pitch. I admire that like mad, of course, because it makes learning a score a lot easier. I have relative pitch, so I am more reliant on the orchestra.

The Rihm violin concerto most frequently played is called Gesungene Zeit [“Sung Time”], not gratuitously, one could say. His music often has a vocal core. Do you sense that, as a performer of his music?

Prohaska: Definitely. I love his instrumental music, too, but of course as a singer I relate more strongly to the vocal music. I was still a child when I got to know his baritone songs through our mutual friend Richard Salter; Rihm wrote several things for him and he premiered some of them. That closeness to the words, that vocal expressiveness – that is the epicentre of his work, it seems to me.

When Beethoven wrote his Missa Solemnis, he was accused of writing against the voice – also in the sense that the failure had some allure. There are pieces by Rihm called Über die Linie [“Over the Line”]; are there times when he goes beyond the limits of what singing can do, as a deliberate stylistic element?

Prohaska: I can well imagine that he tries to do that. But with a singer like Mojca Erdmann, for instance, it is not even noticeable that there are such limits, because she just soars over it all, like with Proserpina or the large part in Dionysos. I admire what she does madly. Besides, Rihm already knew what she could do and where her strengths lay, and that he could fully exploit them.

I don’t think that Rihm is a composer who deliberately writes against the voice, so that it is detrimental, so it becomes scratchy, so that you have to force yourself – which can entail long-term damage to these poor little muscles. There are other composers who couldn’t care less about that, who see only their genius hovering before them – and the singers and instrumentalists are the poor little performers. With Rihm, I feel that it all goes hand in hand: interpretation, performer and piece.

What else is there to say about the music before the first rehearsals of the Requiem-Strophen?

Prohaska: I fell in love with the wonderful Lacrimosa parts at once, one of them in Latin and the other in German. There are simply those heartrending intervals and I am simply looking forward to finding Klangfarben with Mojca Erdmann – that perhaps we will try to sound the same, or wan, or with vibrato, depending – to seek and try a mirror image and, then again, a completely different line. One can only find these things out during the rehearsal stage and really grasp what it will then become.

That almost sounds a bit like Mozart's C-minor Mass.

Prohaska: Yes, a little bit, I can imagine – but it’s also a bit more extreme and maybe a little more romantic. Hanno Müller-Brachmann, the baritone, has a sonnet that he sings completely alone.

I think that is a very beautiful idea: such a symmetry, with the male voice in the middle, surrounded by the female voices, like a triptych.

br musica-viva, März-April 2017

Kurt Weill: Song-Suite for Violin and Orchestra [EAMC]

WP 21.0.2017 : Alex Theatre, Glendale (US)

for violin and chamber orchestra19’chamber version

Chamber orchestra / ensemble / chambermusic

Béla Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra

WP 5.2.2018 : Musikverein, Brahms-Saal, Wien (AT)

for ensemble (or chamber orchestra)38’

My arrangement of Béla Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra is the second of the three I have done for Peter Keuschnig’s Kontrapunkte Cycle 2017/2018 in the Musikverein.

Along with the Miraculous Mandarin, it is probably Bartók’s most important orchestral piece and the most extensive work of the composer’s late period – one which has fascinated and excited me since boyhood.

My goal was to prepare a version for large ensemble (also playable by small orchestras with multiple strings to a part) which, despite the reduced forces, is in no way inferior to the original – that is, not a reduction expediently pared down to a restricted ensemble, but rather a variant retaining the luminescent tone colours and the unbridled power of the original – quasi a new raiment for the original, without sacrifices.

So I chose this instrumentation: 2 flutes, oboe, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, bassoon, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion, harp, piano and solo (or multiple) strings.

Roland Freisitzer

Béla Bartók: The Miraculous Mandarin

WP 16.9.2017 : Musikverein, Wien (AT)

for ensemble (or chamber orchestra)21’

Luke Bedford: Faraway Canons | 2018

WP 21.3.2018 : St John's Smith Square, London (GB)

for bass drum and piano5’

Luke Bedford: Orbita

WP 8.5.2017 : Bridgnorth (GB)

for string quartet15’

Everything in the piece Orbita is derived from three bars of Haydn’s Emperor Quartet. The harmony and rhythm are at times so distorted so that it might seem unrecognisable. But the piece is on an eccentric orbit around the Haydn, sometimes very close to it, at other times seemingly very distant. The gravity of Haydn’s music is such that my piece can never fully escape it.

Alban Berg: 5 Orchester-Lieder | 1912

nach Ansichtskartentexten von Peter Altenbergfor soprano / mezzosoprano and 13 players10’

Berg’s superb musical interpretation of Peter Altenberg’s texts transcends the ostensible discrepancy between the brevity of the texts and the sweeping momentum of the music. This is Alban Berg’s first composition for orchestra. Eberhard Kloke, who received international acclaim for his arrangements of Lulu and Wozzeck, has also scaled down this orchestral song cycle so that it can be performed by either a medium-sized orchestra or an ensemble of 13 players.

Georges Bizet: Carmen Suite No. 1 | 1875

WP 21.4.2017 : Musiktheater, Linz (AT)

arrangement by Gábor Kerényifor chamber orchestra13’

Georges Bizet: Carmen Suite No. 2 | 1875

WP 18.10.2018 : Schauspielhaus Promenade, Linz (AT)

arrangement by Gábor Kerényifor chamber orchestra23’

Pierre Boulez: Le Marteau sans maître | 1953/1955

WP 18.5.1955 : Baden-Baden (DE)

for alto and 6 instruments35’

Le Marteau sans maître is a nine-part cycle, composed for contralto and six instrumentalists. Each of the parts is scored differently; four are for voice and changing instruments, while five are purely instrumental. On the one hand, the five instrumental pieces are organised in a prelude and postlude to the first vocal piece and, on the other, in three commentaries on the third vocal piece.

However, cohesive vocal and instrumental parts do not follow one another directly; they are woven throughout the entire piece like a web. The words of the second poem appear in two musical versions (Nos. V and IX). Comparison of the two versions makes the difference in handling the singing voice very clear: one the one hand, cantabile-melismatic, then syllabic voice leading combined with the melodic instruments alto flute, guitar, viola and, on the other, Sprechgesang with predominantly percussion accompaniment and wordless, quasi instrumental singing.

Der Hammer ohne Meister

Das rasende Handwerk
Der rote Karren am Rand des Nagels
Und Aas im Brotkorb
Und Ackerpferde am Hufeisen
Ich sinne den Kopf auf der Spitze meines Messers Peru

Schönes Gebäude und die Vorahnungen
Ich höre wandern in meinen Beinen
Das tote Meer Wellen hoch überm Haupt.
Kind der wilde Molenweg
Mann der nachgeahmte Wahn.
Reine Augen in den Wäldern
Suchen weinend das bewohnbare Haupt.

Henker der Einsamkeit
Der Schritt hat sich entfernt der Wanderer ist verstummt.
Auf das Zifferblatt der Nachahmung
Wirft das Pendel seine Last willenlosen Granits.
Übersetzung: Wolfgang Fink

Le Marteau sans maître
Poèmes de René Char

L’Artisanat furieux
La roulotte rouge au bord du clou
Et cadavre dans le panier
Et chevaux de labours dans le fer à cheval
Je rêve la tête sur la pointe de mon couteau le Pérou.

Bel édifice et les pressentiments
J’écoute marcher dans mes jambes
La mer morte vagues par-dessus tête
Enfant la jetée-promenade sauvage
homme l’illusion imitée
Des yeux purs dans les bois
Cherchent en pleurant la tête habitable.

Bourreaux de solitude

Le pas s’est éloigné le marcheur s’est tu
Sur le cadran de l’imitation
Le Balancier lance sa charge de granit réflexe.

©1934 Editions José Corti, Paris
Textes reproduits avec l’aimable autorisation de l’éditeur

The Hammer Unmastered

Furious handicraft
The red caravan beside the iron nail
And corpse in the basket
And carthorses in the horseshoe
I dream the head on the point of my knife, a Pérou.

Find building and premonitions
I hear walking in my limbs
The dead sea waves overhead
Child the wild pier
Man the imitated illusion
Pure eyes in the woods
Weeping seek the habitable head.

Hangmen of solitude
The step has gone away the walker fallen silent
On the dial of Imitation
The Pendulum casts its load of granite in reverse.

Translation: Paul Griffiths

Pierre Boulez: Mémoriale | 1985/1993

WP 29.10.1985 : Paris (FR)

( ... explosante-fixe ... Originel)for flute and 8 instruments7’

explosante-fixe… is not a message, I think, which reflects Stravinsky’s influence on me. Stravinsky himself gave a comparable example when he wrote the Symphonies of Wind Instruments in memory of Debussy, since these wind symphonies truly are extremely different from Debussy in their tone colour, form and musical ideas. It is the same with …explosante-fixe… .

I made an initial first written-out version in 1972. At first, the material was rather primitive; I worked it out some more in the next step. I assigned a very precise register to each instrument, in which each one moves independently of the others. That, so to speak, is the fixed dimension of …explosante-fixe… . At the same time, the instruments were to mutually influence one another, thus undermining the register boundaries.

I again expanded Mémoriale in the 1990s by aligning its instrumentation of the two other sections, which meanwhile exist in …explosante-fixe…. However, since I did not alter the substance, it can also be performed in this version without electronics … it is a very quiet, restrained work … it now forms the final section of … explosante-fixe .

Pierre Boulez

Simone Cardini: Threshold | 2015

for ensemble10’

The implicit ambivalence of the word threshold allows us to imagine the suggestion of a new beginning, to intend or circumscribe an entrance, to determine a boundary, or to condition a limit; it obligates each of us to bear the risk of interpreting our position with respect to it through a choice: deciding whether to belong to the one side or to the other.

Only a further choice will allow us, possibly, to overstep or go beyond that door.

The compositional attempt absolves gestures and expressions from their randomness: the initial network of echopraxia and echolalia reveals itself through the mimetical realisation of those precise gestures and expressions, in a relation of reciprocal and constant differentiation among themselves.

The medium of their emancipation is precisely that sclerotic freedom expressed and revealed by the action.

The concealed tale of living on the edge of (psychic/social) madness makes unavoidable a conscious management of one's own Lebenswelt and of that sort of transition that always more frequently we have to face between ourselves and the imposed necessity to act.

Simone Cardini

Friedrich Cerha: Kurzzeit | 2016-2017

WP 5.9.2018 : Helmut List-Halle, Graz (AT)

for ensemble13’

Friedrich Cerha: Trio | 2015-2016

WP 21.9.2019 : Musikverein Gläserner Saal, Wieden (AT)

for clarinet, trombone and violoncello17’

Claude Debussy: Golliwogg’s Cake Walk | 1906-1908

for ensemble or chamber orchestra3’

In this piece, based on the lively African American dance of Cake Walk, the playful character is mainly preserved thanks to the clarinet theme, as the clarinet is considered the liveliest instrument of the orchestra, used by many other authors to emphasize lively, playful or joking passages. In this work, the theme is also entrusted to other winds except for the central episode, a quotation of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, where the strings, with which the melody is entrusted with an intense and expressive character, stand out. The arrangement is brilliant and of high timbral variety thanks to the use of the percussive pizzicato of the strings which is the background of the dancing theme.

Claude Debussy: Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune | 1890-1894

WP 19.5.2018 : Kammermusiksaal, Freiburg (DE)

for ensemble or chamber orchestra11’

This symphonic poem is inspired by Stéphane Mallarmé’s poem L’après-midi d’un faune, of which an historical version by Arnold Schönberg already exists. The substantial difference between these two arrangements is a single instrument of the ensemble: Schönberg's version includes the harmonium in his own instrumentation, while in this version the harmonium is replaced by the French horn. The presence of the French horn gives to this work greater brilliance and fullness of the sound and the orchestral mix. This arrangement is not derived from Schönberg’s version, but from the original orchestrated by Debussy.

Edward Elgar: Pomp and Circumstance March No. 4 | 1907

WP 4.5.2017 : Turner Sims Concert Hall, Southampton (GB)

for ensemble or chamber orchestra5’

Gabriel Fauré: Pavane | 1887

for ensemble or chamber orchestra6’

This piece, dedicated to Countess Elisabeth Greffulhe, whose pavana is meant to be a kind of portrait in music, was composed in 1887. At the request of the dedicatee, Fauré himself added the chorus part. In this reduction most of the orchestral sounds have been preserved thanks to the instrumentation. The harp, an instrument totally absent from the original version, is used moderately so as not to overly alter the original sonorities conceived by the author. The arrangement can be executed, like the original version, with the addition of the choir.

Cristóbal Halffter: La rebelión de los ecos | 2017

WP 19.0.2018 : Basler Münster, Basel (CH)

for double string quintet20’

Gustav Holst: A Somerset Rhapsody | 1906/1907

WP 25.1.2017 : St. Martin's Church, Firbeck (GB)

for ensemble or chamber orchestra10’

Leoš Janáček: On an Overgrown Path

WP 20.4.2019 : Musikverein, Wien (AT)

for ensemble / chamber orchestra30’

The piano cycle Po zarostlém chodní?ku (On an Overgrown Path) was composed by Leoš Janá?ek in the years between 1900 and 1909. The short pieces titled:

1. Our evenings
2. A blown-away leaf
3. Come with us!
4. The Frýdek Madonna
5. They chattered like swallows
6. Words fail!
7. Good night!
8. Unutterable anguish
9. In tears
10. The barn owl has not flown away!

“contain distant memories. They are so dear to me that it seems I will never forget them.” This was written in a letter by Janá?ek in 1912. Memories of farewells, love songs and lullabies, bitterness and disappointment, weeping, of a letter that has been finally put aside, …, and a premonition of death – in the motif of the barn owl in the final piece – are the poetic starting points for the compositions. There are no motivic, thematic developments, merely moods, contrasts, stirring harmonies and turns, themes – which, like the rhythms, seem inspired by Moravian folk music but transformed entirely – , and sound, an autobiography in sound, an overgrown path of memories, a path along which the journey began at the beginning of the 20th century and was continued by me at the beginning of the 21st century with my transcription of this cycle into the sound world of a large ensemble or chamber orchestra. The fact that this is far more than merely an arrangement in the traditional sense and rather a (present-day) act of re-composition stems from my deep conviction that for this project (and actually for all instrumentation) being restricted to a level that is merely technical or purely philological can neither prove worthy of the spirit of the original composition, nor create a living work of art. The love of the original work and its composer demands a fresh creative approach to the process.

Richard Dünser

Gustav Mahler: Adagietto aus der 5. Symphonie

WP 13.2.2017 : Tischlerei, Berlin (DE)

for chamber ensemble10’

Gustav Mahler: Kindertotenlieder

WP 8.10.2018 : Madrid (ES)

for lower voice and chamber ensemble20’

One of the persistent fallacies about Mahler tells how he was moved to compose the Kindertotenlieder (Songs on the Death of Children) following his older daughter’s death after a serious illness. Although Mahler’s (as other composers’) music does contain autobiographical elements, the Kindertotenlieder were written during the summers of 1901 and 1904, years before the distressing death of his daughter Maria (known as ‘Putzi’). The resulting popular hypothesis that Mahler had prophetic powers is not serious.

Mahler wrote the Kindertotenlieder – as well as Symphony No. 6 which he himself referred to as ‘The Tragic’ – at a time when almost all of the elements of his life were at their peak: The Vienna Hofoper (Court Opera) was in its heyday with productions of Pique Dame, Tristan, Louise and Falstaff (to name but a few), he had a wealth of inspirations for his compositions, his first successes as a composer were on the horizon, his recent marriage was – from his point of view at least – in good order and the two children were experiencing a happy father – at least during the summer months by Lake Worthersee. The fact that Mahler chose this particular moment to write his most tragic and hopeless music was even at the time difficult to understand, and caused Alma, for instance, to invent a series of interpretations ‘of a biographical manner’ (Jens Malte Fischer, Gustav Mahler. Der fremde Vertraute, Vienna 2003).

Unlike the composer Mahler, the poet Friedrich Rückert (1788-1866) did base the Kindertotenlieder on his own experiences: The death of two of his children (Luise on 31 December 1833 and Ernst on 16 January 1834) induced Rückert to write an extensive cycle of more than 400 poems which were published posthumously in 1872. Mahler selected five of the poems to set to music. Unlike in other song compositions, he altered only very little of the poems – mainly to repeat words. As with the majority of his songs, Mahler initially composed a piano version which he then orchestrated. Both versions were published in 1905 by the Leipzig-based publisher C. F. Kahnt. The world premiere took place on 29 January 1905 at the Vienna Musikverein, conducted by Mahler and sung by Friedrich Weidemann.

1. Nun will die Sonn’ so hell aufgeh’n (Once more the sun would gild the morn, composed in 1901): This song has a strikingly linear structure. It opens with sparse, desolate, bleak lines of ‘rhythmless’ constant notes. More rounded ‘harmonies’ only begin to join in gradually. This not only produces an atmosphere of emptiness and grief (‘melancholy’ according to Mahler), but is also reminiscent of very early music (historicism of the time) and the simplicity of some of the then-contemporary art (Secession, Toorop, Japan).

2. Nun seh’ ich wohl, warum so dunkle Flammen (Ah, now I know why oft I caught you gazing, composed in 1904): The characteristic three-note anacrusis is necessitated by the text of the poem (‘Nun seh’ ich’), but can be found in several of Mahler’s works and is one of his ‘favourite phrases’ (Eggebrecht) – such as in the well-known Adagietto from Symphony No. 5. The prominent role of the harp is also reminiscent of this piece which received its world premiere at the same time (Cologne 1904).

3. Wenn dein Mutterlein (When thy mother dear, composed in 1901): The third song is characterised by melodies reminiscent of children’s songs and stereotypical chanted counting rhymes which try in vain to ‘bring back’ the dead child. The melodies are embedded in a linear accompaniment that harks back to the first song, but with movement twice as fast as the voice part.

4. Oft denk’ ich, sie sind nur ausgegangen (I think oft’, they’ve only gone a journey, composed in 1901): Chromatics and abrupt key changes characterise this meditation in which a personal song is linked to resigned acceptance. Rhythm changes with significant pauses allow for quiet sighs, silence, composed speechlessness, as well as reflection and a search for consolation.

5. In diesem Wetter, in diesem Braus (In such a tempest, on such a day, composed in 1904): This is the only song to open with a Mahler-style march, which recalls the key (D minor) and melodic style of the first movement of Symphony No. 3 (song bar 9, symphony bar 136). But this tempestuousness is not sustained – it flows into a ‘lullaby of endless tenderness’ (Fischer): ‘langsam, wie ein Wiegenlied’ (‘as slowly as a lullaby’, bar 101), the father sings a song for the eternal rest of his child.

In the Kindertotenlieder as a whole, Mahler achieved a rather indescribable balance between extreme expressiveness and a moderated, well-balanced total restraint, which is directed inwards with a conquering power and does not lessen or romanticise the grieving process, but makes the listener hear and feel the acceptance of the inevitable.

Reinhold Kubik, Autumn 2008

Gustav Mahler: Rückert-Lieder

WP 15.1.2017 : Jyväskylä City Theatre, Jyvaskyla (FI)

for lower voice and chamber ensemble22’

Claudio Monteverdi: Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda | 1624

for chamber ensemble25’

Thoughts on my new arrangement of Claudio Monteverdi’s Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda, created as a meaningful coupling with Luke Bedford’s opera Through his Teeth (2013/14).

Monteverdi’s music – especially his music for the stage – was played prior to the advent of historical performance practice, always in performing versions expressly prepared for the occasions. Thus, the Monteverdi Complete Edition (published between 1926 and 1942) by the Italian composer and musicologist Gian Francesco Malipiero, however highly meritorious, must be defined as a child of its time, since it appears historically “incorrect;” dynamic indications, phrasing marks, etc. are rife in his edition, all of which contradict the originals. Nevertheless, it contributed decisively to Monteverdi’s rediscovery, and it is still in widespread use today.

No less a musical figure than Luciano Berio arranged Monteverdi’s Combattimento in a similar manner in 1966, scoring it for soprano, tenor, baritone, harpsichord and strings (three violas, violoncello and contrabass). Published by Universal Edition, it is still performed today by such ensembles as the Munich Philharmonic and the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra.

Therefore, the question inevitably arises as to whether it is reprehensible or even hubristic to produce yet another version which, once again, is not historical: why, when there are top-class Baroque orchestras everywhere which can play Monteverdi historically “correctly?”

In the spring of 2015, when stage-director Hendrik Müller and I decided to find a piece to complement Luke Bedford’s short opera (ca. 55 min.) Through his Teeth, we ended up selecting Monteverdi’s Combattimento; we liked its stylistic contrast along with the simultaneous contextual parallels. As with Through his Teeth, Combattimento has three singers whom we could adopt quasi identically. In the Monteverdi, the roles of both Testo and Tancredi are sung by one tenor, although the two parts can very well be performed by a mezzo-soprano and/or a baritone, since the tessitura is unusually high.

We assigned the role of Testo to the mezzo-soprano who, in Bedford’s opera, plays the triple role of Interviewer/Sister/S, and we adopted our performer of R (a baritone) from Tancredi. Clorinda remains a soprano, as in the original, performed by the singer of A.

Our ambition was to manage to the extent possible with the eight-man instrumental group of Through his Teeth when I was arranging the Monteverdi for our purposes; thus, for the first time in its 20-year history, the Holst Sinfonietta (the ensemble of the premiere production – they actually perform music of the 20th and 21st centuries) was going to play old music. It was an unusual task for me; normally, I prefer to arrange Mahler or Berg.

Now, what has been changed in my new version of Combattimento? The clarinet, which plays a large part in Bedford, was not used; it suggests anachronism with Monteverdi. Instead, I added a second violin, making it possible to have a four-part string group, as Monteverdi intended. Bedford does not use a viola, which means that the violoncello and the contrabass must occasionally play higher than usual; the cello in particular often plays in the alto range. A harp, accordion, trumpet and percussion are new; I used them very deliberately in terms of the dramaturgy.

The harp is used as the main continuo instrument, instead of a lute or harpsichord. It also has small solo passages when Clorinda sings; therefore, altogether it symbolises the Feminine in the piece – what could be better suited than the harp, which has always been used as a very feminine instrument? The accordion plays only when Tancredi sings, i.e. in contrast to the harp, it is the “masculine” continuo instrument.

The trumpet and percussion (tambourine, tom-tom and whip) support dancing, celebratory and bellicose scenes; they were composed as an additional commenting layer. As a result, Monteverdi’s orchestra is larger in my new version, with a wider tonal palette compared to the original and to Berio’s arrangement; my concern was with variety, colourfulness and theatrical effectiveness.

Nevertheless, it is a testimonial to Monteverdi’s genius; the three singers’ music is 100% Monteverdi, the spirit of the early Baroque is not broken but merely dramaturgically reinforced – nothing more and nothing less.

Klaus Simon, July 2016

Arvo Pärt: Nunc dimittis | 2001/2016

for 9 saxophones7’

Maurice Ravel: Ma Mère l’Oye | 1911

for ensemble or chamber orchestra18’

Originally for 4-handed piano, Ma Mère l’Oye was orchestrated by Ravel in 1911, and in the same year it was expanded to a ballet. This version for ensemble is presented in 5 movements and has been orchestrated with both the orchestral and the piano versions, so it is possible to make small changes to some sections while safeguarding the initial compositional idea, as in the case of the part of the solo contrabassoon from Les entretiens de la belle et de la bête in this version, which is split between doublebass and cello, an idea already suggested in the version orchestrated by Ravel.

Maurice Ravel: Pavane pour une infante défunte | 1910

for ensemble or chamber orchestra7’

This famous piece, originally for piano, was orchestrated by Ravel in 1910. In this ensemble version, all the orchestral nuances created by Ravel have been preserved thanks to the choice of instrumentation, and above all to the use of the French horn, which in this piece in particular, is entrusted with the main theme. Furthermore, this instrument, thanks to its timbral characteristics, returns us and allows us to enjoy the fullness of orchestral sound despite the small number of instruments.

Jay Schwartz: Music for string quartet | 2017

WP 17.4.2018 : Arnold Schönberg Center, Wien (AT)

for string quartet25’

Music for String Quartet

Jay Schwartz's first string quartet was intended to accompany Schoenberg's fourth quartet in the Schoenberg cycle of the Asasello Quartet. Where Schoenberg is committed to the equivalence of the using twelve chromatic tones in his music, Schwartz tries to blur the spaces between the chromatic and to remove the rigid foundation from the whole 12-tone system in which he lets the tones glide, glissandi, tones without a fixed pitch in permanent movement between the conventional fixed steps of the scale.

Instead of composing motifs, Schwartz usually works on a music that is not based on the European rhetoric - as we know it from Bach to Schoenberg and beyond.

For me, European, motivic-based music - from Gregorian to Schoenberg to contemporary music - is similar to an English Garden. The walk through the garden leaves the senses with each step new and detailed often perceive surprising experiences, colours, scents and contexts. This way of composing is based on rhetoric. The music is related to the flow of speech and the composition is made up of motifs, words, sentences and phrases as well as pauses, flexion rules, accents, etc.

My compositional process has - for whatever reason - avoided to appropriate that rhetoric. To get back to the first picture, I'd like to play my music - far away from the idea of an English Garden - as a flight over an immeasurable expanse. Maybe you could say it's a flight over the desert - whereby this formulation in no way reflects the idea of static music. This flight is a journey and has a teleological dynamic. The wide landscape in view is constantly changing organically. From the desert, over the mountains, to the sea. However, these pictures in no way denote a program. I'm just using it, to describe this non-rhetorical composing. It's not about a musical program, although one could certainly speculate about whether this way of creating music, has been influenced biographically, through my childhood and adolescence on the Pacific Ocean, and in the desert of New Mexico. (Jay Schwartz)

Johannes Maria Staud: Wheat, not oats, dear. I'm afraid. | 2015

WP 10.9.2015 : Helmut List-Halle, Graz (AT)

for seven instruments11’

Peter Iljitsch Tschaikowsky: 5. Symphonie | 1888

WP 22.3.2017 : Yellow Arch Studios, Sheffield (GB)

for ensemble or chamber orchestra47’

Tchaikovsky’s epic 5th Symphony is performed on the symphonic stage countless times a year and is beloved by performers and audiences alike. This new arrangement for ensemble or chamber orchestra allows the work to be taken away from the grandest of stages and into perhaps more intimate and interesting venues.  The orchestration, designed to maintain the energy and vivacity of the original, allows Tchiakovsky’s counterpoint and interweaving melodies to come to the fore, without being lost in a full symphony orchestra.  Here, single winds are joined by a pair of horns, solo trumpet and trombone, alongside timpani and strings (from quintet to 6 5 4 3 2).

Anton Webern: 2 Lieder | 1918/1919

for voice and ensemble

Anton Webern: 6 Stücke op. 6 | 1909

WP 25.0.2018 : Stadthaus, Winterthur (CH)

for chamber orchestra12’

Vocal and choir

David Fennessy: Hashima Refrain | 2018

WP 16.10.2018 : St Canice's RC Church, Kilkenny (IE)

for choir (16 voices) a cappella12’

Hashima Refrain is the final part in a triptych of works beginning with Letter to Michael (2014), followed by Ne Reminiscaris (2017), which I have written for Chamber Choir Ireland and Paul Hillier. 


The text for Hashima Refrain comes from two sources - a poem found graffitied on a wall of the abandoned Hashima Island in Japan, and the final entry of the 10th century text Sarashina Nikki, a memoir of a lady in waiting during the Heian Period of Japanese history.


Somewhere in my tangled mind I began to think of the writer of the lines from Sarashina Nikki as a different embodiment of the same persona who wrote the lines of the first piece in the triptych, Letter to Michael, now reflecting at the end of their life. In fact, I started to see the three pieces of the triptych as perhaps the expression of a single consciousness in three states of being - anticipation/ longing, the absolute present, and finally, looking back. Musically, it’s a kind of long journey in search of a fluid form of self expression. 


My hope is that once the music reaches the very simple setting of the poem at the end of Hashima Refrain, some kind of catharsis has been achieved. 


(David Fennessy)

David Fennessy: Ne Reminiscaris (Remember not) | 2017

WP 30.3.2017 : Cork (IE)

for choir (16 voices) a cappella9’

Arvo Pärt: And I heard a voice ... | 2017

WP 18.1.2018 : Capilla del Colegio Fonseca, Salamanca (ES)

Ja ma kuulsin hääle ...for mixed choir a cappella5’

Commissioned by the Centro Nacional de Difusión Musical CNDM (Madrid) on the occasion of the 800th anniversary of the founding of the University of Salamanca in 2018.

The work is dedicated to the memory of Archbishop Konrad Veem.

The text underlying the choral piece is taken from the Revelation of John (14:13):

And I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’
‘Blessed indeed,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!’
(John, Revelation 14:13)

The Estonian edition of the Holy Bible, which Arvo Pärt used for this setting, translates the word “rest” to “hingama”, which in Estonian can also mean “breathe”. This thought that the creative people who had passed away may rest, but still “breathe”, i.e. continue to live and be among us, as are their works, this thought inspired Arvo Pärt to the choral piece.

Hardly any other place breathes like a university that has been feeding the spirit of mankind for 800 years.

The memory of the Estonian archbishop Konrad Reinhold Veem, who died in 1996, also led to this passage. His life's work is still alive today.

Wolfgang Rihm: Missa brevis | 2015

WP 11.2.2017 : Prinzregententheater, München (DE)

for choir a cappella20’

Missa brevis, for a capella chorus, was commissioned by the Bavarian Radio. By now, the word has spread that Rihm’s music always has a cantabile heart; in writing for the choir he interlaces the broad cantilena with great technical mastery.

Jay Schwartz: In Paradisum | 2018

WP 18.3.2018 : Santa Maria in Campitelli, Roma (IT)

mixed choir, 2 violoncellos, 2 double basses and organ20’

My composition In paradisum for choir, 2 cellos, 2 double basses and organ, takes its reference and inspiration from the Gregorian chant of the same name. During my stay in Rome I was once again fascinated by the acoustics of the churches of this city, which had brought forth the Gregorian chants. I undertook small studies, made recordings of chants and liturgical acts in the churches of Rome, and experimented with the collected material on the computer in my studio.

The giant, richly resonant acoustics of these sacred buildings and their extreme reverberations act as an amplifier and multiplier of the sound, so that relatively simple chants are clothed in a shimmering, lush robe of acoustics […] I perceive the subject of my composition as a rite of passage: life as a transition. The musical means of the glissandi, the tones always moving between fixed steps – a musical language that has long since become a fixed vocabulary of my musical aesthetic – embodies this state of permanent transition in the composition.

Jay Schwartz

Opera / ballet

Max Brand: Maschinist Hopkins | 1928


With his opera Maschinist Hopkins (composed from 1927–1928 and first performed in 1929) Brand really caught the spirit of the time: the opera is a mixture of thriller and jealous tragedy, with industrial romanticism and the glow of stage revues combined with corporate arrogance and unemployment. With all this tension, there is even a portion of romantic sentimentality.

The music of this ‘first German factory opera’ is powerful, full of contrast, colourfully orchestrated and garnished with fashionable dance. In the scenes of personal emotions, Brand’s musical language is of a rich operatic character. In the machine hall scenes he uses mechanical sounds, and as a third stylistic element – also used to portray a certain emotional context – he makes use of jazz styles. Brand’s music symbolises a lascivious, sensuous world.

The deeper meaning of the libretto (written by the composer himself) is concerned with celebrating work as the highest possible virtue. The protagonists are in a sense unimportant. The motivation and source of all events is the spirit of the machines, personified by the machinist Hopkins.

It is not that the machine that should serve man, giving him a respectable and honourable existence, but rather that man is simply part of the machine. He serves it, and by doing so helps advance the idea of work towards its goal. This is why Bill, who wants to use the machines for his own ends, must die. Hopkins himself has no human qualities; he’s just the executive organ of the idea of the machine, he has become a machine himself.

This ideology corresponds to the futurism movement of the time, an aesthetic current that regarded technology and civilisation as the greatest advances of all and scorned all other values.

By 1933 Maschinist Hopkins had been performed over 200 times in 37 different productions, and its composer seemed to be on his way to becoming a famous composer. This, however, was not to be. The worldwide economic crisis and the rise of the Nazis drove Max Brand to emigrate in 1937, first to Prague, and then to Geneva, Rio de Janeiro and finally New York.

The Maschinist Hopkins has earned its place as a significant work of the 20th century. It has lost none of its ideological power and now in the 21st century offers a sober but also moving perspective on technological advancement.


In a bar in a working class area the factory workers are meeting to discuss their concerns with their foreman Jim. One of them leaves the group: the machinist Bill. He goes to Jim’s wife Nell, who will do anything for him. She gives him the key to the factory safe, which is in Jim’s safekeeping, and goes to the factory with Bill, who intends to steal the factory secrets from the safe. Jim appears, observing the commotion of the machines, with their almost human appearance, and notices Bill and Nell. In the ensuing fight Jim is killed by the flywheel of a machine started by Nell.

Years after the action of this prologue, the first act takes place. Bill and Nell are married and have become enormously rich by using the the stolen factory secrets. But Bill can’t get enough: he wants to own the factory in which his crime took place and close it down. Machinist Hopkins recognises the consequences of the plan, which would leave countless workers without income, but he is sacked by Bill soon after his rise to power. Nell falls in love with Hopkins during a brief encounter. Bill, who always gives in to wishes of his temperamental wife, even allows her to go into theatre and to develop a career.

Second act: In the machine room Bill, the new director of the factory, is recognised by some of the workers as Jim’s murderer. Hopkins, who is there at the time, vows to kill Bill, in order to save the factory and the workers. He appears in Nell’s dressing room at the theatre, forces her to make a confession and is able to make such an impression on her that she is willing to help expose Bill.

The third act takes place some time later. Bill is hiding behind the anonymity of a worker, while Nell is completely taken with Hopkins. He, however, rejects her, as she has already done what he needed her to do. Nell becomes a prostitute. By chance, Bill hears of her new profession in a bar, and charges to Nell’s apartment, where he finds her with a customer. Completely enraged, he kills Nell. The final scene takes place back in the machine room. Bill, in a frenzied state by now, tries to set off an explosion but is hindered by Hopkins, who suddenly appears, shoving him under the flywheel, so that he dies the same death as the murdered Jim. The work, meanwhile, carries on.

Leoš Janáček: From the House of the Dead | 1927-1928

WP 8.9.2017 : Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff (GB)

new critical edition (2017) edited by John Tyrrell, with performance suggestions by Sir Charles Mackerras

Janá?ek did not live to see his final opera Z mrtvého domu [From the House of the Dead] performed. The work was so different from his previous operas in its often chamber-like orchestration and its lack of an apotheosis ending that his pupils took it upon themselves to ‘revise’ it for its première in Brno in 1930, reorchestrating it and, most notoriously, rewriting the ending. Ever since the shortcomings of the original published edition became apparent there have been attempts to return to what Janá?ek left at his death. The new critical edition by John Tyrrell supplants the Mackerras-Tyrrell ‘provisional edition’ (1990) with a thorough-going revision based on the score made by Janá?ek’s copyists under his direct supervision and corrected by him. In his previous operas Janá?ek had the opportunity of making minor corrections to the score during rehearsals. Because of his death extensive tidying up of many inconsistencies has been necessary here. All such editorial interventions are shown as such and are described in the Critical Report.

Janá?ek wrote his own libretto translating from the original Russian into Czech as he went along and left in many untranslated words and phrases. Previous editions replaced these with a revised text in standard Czech. With the possibility today of surtitles (which can provide the sense of what is sung on stage) the new edition prints Janá?ek’s original text, whose departures from standard Czech constitute an important part of the sound image of the opera. All non-standard words or phrases (whether Russian, Ukrainian, Moravian dialect, etc.) are explained in the Critical Report, usually with reference to Dostoevsky’s original Russian, in an extensive appendix printed at the back of the score.

Gioachino Rossini: Il barbiere di Siviglia | 1816

WP 12.10.2017 : Teatro alla Scala, Mailand (IT)

for solos and chamber orchestra75’version for children

The Barber of Seville for children is a version of the work in one act, for 7 soloists and an actor. It lasts for about 75 minutes.

The scaled-down orchestral instrumentation follows the original score in every detail and delivers a rounded and harmonious sound in a new arrangement. Shortenings and strokes are inconspicuous, and all supporting melodies are preserved.

Othmar Schoeck: Das Schloss Dürande | 1937/1941

WP 31.4.2018 : Konzert Theater Bern, Bern (CH)


It goes without saying that this opera - stigmatized by the [...] circumstances of its genesis and performance history - cannot be performed again in its original form. I made an initial, somewhat half-hearted attempt at radically excising Burte's makeshift rhymes and dramaturgically trite text from the score, leaving just the music behind. And it was only then that I recognised the impact of the music, its power and immediate sincerity. I also grasped that Schoeck had obviously composed his music over long stretches before even getting the text from his librettist. Without the text, without any words, the music itself tells the story of Eichendorff's novella in a compelling, unambiguous manner. I also recognized those passages where the composer had been compelled to extend his phrases and patch together bars in order to accommodate Burte's laborious verses more or less creditably. These joints have remained so visible that we can open them up again without damage to the musical substance, and then with a certain amount of skill, we can simply let the new verses flow into the music - without Burte's excrescences.

When I listen to the performance documented on this CD, I experience just what I had hoped for: the almost addictive rapture of the great Othmar Schoeck, with his visionary voice. This work is undoubtedly one of the most extraordinary to have ever come from his pen. In fact, it's really his unspoken magnum opus. As in his other works from the war years, he continues to employ a musical vocabulary here that was already long out of date, if not in fact obsolete. We find much that is tonal and familiar, but passionate and cleverly packaged that it doesn't just come across as utterly authentic and appropriate, but also as exciting, new and deeply modern. Either way, it's unique! This CD is essentially the second step of an unparalleled project that was initiated by the Bern University of the Arts. In his book Zurück zu Eichendorff! - Zur Neufassung Othmar Schoecks historisch belasteter Oper "Das Schloss Dürande", Thomas Gartmann offers a meticulous documentation of the whole process of restoration, so that everyone can judge for themselves if it has been a success - ethically, morally and artistically. Because in this second step our concern is solely the musicthat everyone can now assess in its new context. It was our aspiration to present this ecstatic, rightly colourful score on this CD as closely as possible to how it sounded at its recent world première. So we had made hardly any edits, and engaged in no recording "tricks" at all. The singers mastered their task magnificently, and any little irregularities in their diction have been left untouched here. It is the listeners who will ultimately have to decide whether the implicit final step of our experiment can be undertaken: which is no less than the reintegration of Das Schloss Dürande into the operatic repertoire.

(Mario Venzago)

Richard Wagner: Das Rheingold | 1854/2018

for medium-sized orchestra140’

This transcription is geared to the forces available in a mid-size orchestra. In the course of arranging the work, the Klangfarben of the orchestra were expanded and “modernised” by greater differentiation within the historically given spectrum and by introducing new instruments. I strove both to expand and condense the sound, especially since I of course kept the instruments typical of the Ring (Wagner tuba, bass trumpet, contrabass trombone, etc.); the newly introduced ones (alto flute, heckelphone, contrabass clarinet, contrabassoon and cimbasso, the latter as a link between tubas and trombones) become especially significant as additional dramatic-psychological sonic elements.

A remark on the orthography: the notation of some transposing instruments in Wagner’s Rheingold – horns, Wagner tubas, trumpets and bass trumpet – is evidently still in the experimental stage. Wagner notated these instruments inconsistently, using regular key signatures in some sections and omitting them in others, placing accidentals before individual notes as required. The full score of this transcription retains that idiosyncrasy, since the possibility that that notation also has a certain symbolic character cannot be ruled out.

For example, Wagner uses key signatures in the context of Valhalla, as if, perhaps, the “innocence” of the natural instruments had been lost through Alberich’s curse; the instruments are “grounded” by the key signatures. In the final tableau of Scene 4, all the instruments take the protective cover, as it were, of the apotheosis in E-flat major (with key signatures). However, they are dispensed with in the introduction (primeval Nature scene), in which the transposing instruments, in their original form, symbolise the “sound of Nature.”

The cast of Rheingold

Specifying the Fach of the voices was dispensed with since this arrangement of the work can also be performed by lighter voices, not only the traditional high-dramatic ones:

Woglinde (Freia)*: soprano
Wellgunde: soprano
Flosshilde: mezzo-soprano
Fricka: mezzo-soprano
Freia (Woglinde)*: soprano
Erda: mezzo-soprano
Loge: tenor
Froh (Mime)*: tenor
Wotan: baritone
Donner (Fasolt)*: baritone
Mime (Froh)*: tenor
Alberich: baritone
Fasolt (Donner)*: baritone
Fafner: bass

* These roles can be played by one performer, if necessary.

The onstage music (audio) for Wagner’s Rheingold is available on hire from the publisher.

Orchestra: 54 players

Eberhard Kloke

Translation by Grant Chorley