clarinet in Bb
bass clarinet in Bb (+cl(Eb))
horn in F
trumpet in C
Auftragswerk der Musik-Biennale Berlin 1999
Location: Philharmonie Berlin / Germany
Orchestra: Ensemble Modern
Conductor: Peter Rundel
‘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
Deutsches SO Berlin