Monodie

Year of composition
1998/1999
Scored for
for 18 instruments
Composer
Georg Friedrich Haas
Instrumentation
1 1 2 1 – 1 1 1 0 – perc(2), hp, str(1 1 2 2 1)
Instrumentation details

flute (+picc
alto fl)
oboe
clarinet in Bb
bass clarinet in Bb (+cl(Eb))
bassoon
horn in F
trumpet in C
trombone
harp
1st percussion
2nd percussion
1st violin
2nd violin
1st viola
2nd viola
1st violoncello
2nd violoncello
contrabass

Commissioned by

Auftragswerk der Musik-Biennale Berlin 1999

Duration
15′
Dedication
für Peter Rundel

World Premiere

Location: Philharmonie Berlin / Germany
Date: 17.03.1999
Orchestra: Ensemble Modern
Conductor: Peter Rundel
Remarks
Auftrag: Berliner Festwochen

Work introduction

‘Single song’ is the literal translation of the Greek loanword ‘monody’. The composition entitled in this way by Georg Friedrich Haas does not admittedly restore what the Greeks sang to the lyre or what the Florentines sang with continuo; nor does it place a solo instrument over a more or less defined accompaniment. Here the monody is a much more subtle red thread which is spun through the fabric of a virtuosic and focussed ensemble sound.

This red thread emerges above all from the successive layering of dynamic accents: in the continuum of the ensemble, the undulations of the instruments are displaced one under the next so that the chordal structure and the horiztonal line work themselves out equally from one another – in the resultant ‘harmony’, a (melodic) narrative is outlined in a complex ‘klangfarben’-monody. The individual instruments are at the same time in the background and then ‘heroes for a second’ when they are found, for one brief moment, on the outside of each sound-event and, in this way, are integrated within a monodic song – “not with a dramatic entry, not with an expressive opening gesture, but rather as a dying away: as if it were observed through a magnifying glass in time …” (Georg Friedrich Haas). Upward reaching partial scales with dominant tritones are despatched and wander through the orchestra, but also imitate individual parts.

Another way in which the orchestra plays as a virtual solo instrument is carried out by Haas in the second section. Every instrument plays the same note so that the dynamic accents do not now constitute a melody, rather a rhythmic texture which is immediately enriched intervallically to find itself then brought together again in a renewed unison. Glissandi which ultimately liquefy the prevailing microtonality are structured along similar lines, and plain tonal harmony is brought through an incredible, quivering, filigree, multifarious, pulsing structure. The concluding upward scale and afterglow of the string-epilog’s farewell is admittedly both excessive and an apotheosis.

© Horst A. Scholz
From: Programmheft zur 17. Musikbiennale
Translated by David Sharpe

Ensembles that have played this work

Ensemble Intercontemporain
Klangforum Wien
Ensemble Modern
London Sinfonietta
Deutsches SO Berlin

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