Year of composition
Scored for
for light and orchestra
Georg Friedrich Haas
3 3 3 3 – 4 3 3 2 – perc(4), 3 pno (2 retuned), t.sax, bar.sax, vln.I(14), vln.II(12), vla(10), vc(8), cb(6)
Instrumentation details

1st flute
2nd flute
3rd flute (+picc)
1st oboe
2nd oboe
3rd oboe (+c.a)
1st clarinet in Bb
2nd clarinet in Bb
3rd clarinet in Bb
tenor saxophone in Bb
baritone saxophone in Eb
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
1st trombone
2nd trombone
3rd trombone
1st tuba
2nd tuba
1st percussion
2nd percussion
3rd percussion
4th percussion
1st piano (retuned)
2nd piano (retuned)
violin I (1st desk)
violin I (2nd desk)
violin I (3rd desk)
violin I (4th desk)
violin I (5th desk)
violin I (6th desk)
violin I (7th desk)
violin II (1st desk)
violin II (2nd desk)
violin II (3rd desk)
violin II (4th desk)
violin II (5th desk)
violin II (6th desk)
viola (1st desk)
viola (2nd desk)
viola (3rd desk)
viola (4th desk)
viola (5th desk)
violoncello (1st desk)
violoncello (2nd desk)
violoncello (3rd desk)
violoncello (4th desk)
contrabass (1st desk)
contrabass (2nd desk)
contrabass (3rd desk)


World Premiere

Location: Baar-Sporthalle Donaueschingen / Germany
Date: 22.10.2006
Orchestra: SWR-SO Baden-Baden und Freiburg
Conductor: Rupert Huber
Main soloists: Lichtstimme: rosalie

Work introduction

Light is a musical instrument.

Changing colours alter the perception of sounds. Temporally organised light functions like a silent percussion part.

For many years (since my short opera Adolf Wölfli of 1981) I have been attempting to write for this musical instrument.

The basic idea of Hyperion is simple: four orchestral groups are placed around the four walls of the room. A different light source is placed in front of each of them, clearly visible to the players. The musicians react to the light, in the same way that they react to the visual signals of a conductor.
What this visual element actually looks like depends on the free decisions of the person responsible for the lighting. The score only prescribes when something has to happen. And it is necessary that these events should be clear enough for the performers to be able to perceive them.

Sudden changes provide demarcation points in the stream of sound.

Gradual intensification or dimming of the light determines specific parameters (notated in the score) of an aleatoric writing aimed at achieving a harmonic effect.

And sometimes the light is used in a quite traditional way, as a metronome.

But the light is not a conductor: it is a machine which – once set in motion – inexorably runs its scheduled course.

During composition, it was necessary to take account of this special performance situation. In aleatoric passages (which are conceived in such a manner that exactly predetermined harmonic processes will result), the freedom of individually organised time is pitted against the organisational power of the machine. And the place of the person conducting is taken by the percussion, which now has to ‘conduct’ acoustically, since the visual conducting cues have already been ‘composed away’ in the shape of the lighting part.

While composing I had repeatedly to remind myself that there was no one here who could tackle any potential uncertainties with a sure hand, no one who could spur the players on to greater power or intervene in any other corrective capacity. The people in the orchestra playing this music are alone with themselves and the light.

In the music can be heard, among other things, overtone chords and sounds of the tempered tone system. Two pianos are tuned according to the overtone system, one on the basis of the partials of a very low A (A0), the other on the basis of the partials of the E flat above it. The tension between fusion and friction – with which I work consciously in the majority of my pieces – is also one of the fundamental ideas in Hyperion.

But whatever structures are formed disintegrate again. Unison melodies jostle against one another in different time grids and antagonistically conceived tonal systems. The retuned pianos realise not only overtone chords but also sixth-tone clusters. Apparently rising (or falling) melodic movements run out of tonal space and simply tread water. What appears to be acceleration turns out to be standstill.
Hyperion is a figure from Greek mythology, father of the driver of the sun chariot, of dawn and of night.

Hyperion is a novel by Friedrich Hölderlin, whose central theme is the breakdown of revolution and of love.

Hyperion, the Concerto for Light and Orchestra, is the first concrete step in a new direction for me. Much here is still experimental, and for me there are great uncertainties (how will the people react, who play this music in such unusual circumstances? How much will the light actually alter the perceptions of the music? Will it also alter the perceptions of the payers? What does ‘counterpoint’ mean between two such diametrically opposed media as music and light – conceived here not as co-existence, nor as doubling, but as integral component of an artistic whole which transcends generic boundaries?)

It was an especial stroke of good fortune for me to be able to collaborate with rosalie. Hyperion arose in dialogue with her. In several passages I have, quite literally, reacted to her light.

© Georg Friedrich Haas
Translated by Peter Burt


One can hardly resist the tactile presence of this sculptural music (Eleonore Büning, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung)

…an integrated experience, almost beyond time, an immersion in sound (Reinhard Schulz, Neue Musikzeitung)

as a concept … Haas bright-eyed piece has visionary potential (Mirko Weber, Die Zeit)

undulating movements, dark textures and chains of pentatonic sounds correspond to undulating changes of light, longer spells of atmospheric colour and lightning effects (J. Fux, Der Standard)

bombastic, technically brilliant and impressive (Wibke Gerking, Die Welt)

a totally hypnotic experience (Mirko Weber, Stuttgarter Zeitung)

irresistibly drawn to the light – collaboration with rosalie must have been a godsend for Haas (Elisabeth Schwind, Stuttgarter Nachrichten).

1 Ensemble that has played this work:

SWR-SO Baden-Baden und Freiburg