Songs on solitudes
Symphony for baritone, child´s voice, narrator, children´s and mixed choirs, organ and large orchestra
to the texts of Friedrich Nietzsche, Georg Trakl, Bertold Brecht and Karel Toman
Selection of the texts and translation: Petr Kurka
1. movement: On solitudes in space and time (sample - first 2 min)
2. movement: On love and nights (sample - first 2 min)
3. movement: On creation (sample - first 2 min)
4. movement: On people and God (sample - first 2 min)
Vladimír Franz´s first symphony "Songs about Loneliness" expresses fears as well as warning rising from the author´s view towards current development of Euro-American civilization. The hero of the composition is a man who lost his faith in higher authority and who, unable to find his basis and inner order, tries to create various "substitute solutions". Within these coordinates, he gradually looses his actual attitude towards his own position in time, space, nature, society and, in the end, towards himself.
The author is of a different opinion than the one saying that a symphony is an outdated remnant nowadays. On the contrary, he considers this supreme musical form, if filled with modern content, possibly a very important tool of communication between the author and the listener. After all, since Beethoven´s times till today a lot of evidence exist: the symphony-essay, the symphony-cronicle, the symphony-novel, the symphony-drama. It seems that the last mentioned example is also the author´s starting point for constructing as well as completing the classical four-movement form of a symphony.
Vladimír Franz had to answer the question of the role and importance given to solo voices, choirs and organ, i.e. the means superfluous in the classical instrumental form of a symphony. He decided to give each of the solo voices the role of a dramatic character, the choirs the role of a commentators and dramatic signs and the organ the role of an advisor of the orchestra.
The symphony is monothematic. All thematic material is based on the opening four-tone theme and, within the whole symphony, seemingly dissimilar variations on this theme are continuously confronted.
The symphony consists of four movements, or, to be precious, of the first, second and fourth movements with the last two mentioned bound together with an intermezzo. The first movement starts with a slow opening as an intentional formal reminiscence of the slow opening of Beethoven´s 7th symphony, that was composed in Teplice. The beginning bursts - crying for help - the movement´s exposition itself, the main theme appears played by organ, and the children´s choir, singing in German (Trakl) defines the space and time. Po instrumentální gradaci zaAfter instrumental gradation the performance of this movement begins, realized on two levels. The first level is a violently aggressive warning performed by the choir with the reciter (Nietzsche); at the peak of this warning the space and time is defined again, this time in Czech (Trakl). The second level is an intimate contemplation of solo violin. The repeat opened with the reminder of the slow opening reversely reaches the initial crying for help. Thus, the first movement is a relatively brief introductionof the drama; thematic subjects try here to become real final themes but to no effect.
Before the beginning of the second movement a trivial and a sort of cartoon-like march appears unexpectadly. The axis of the movement is triple entry of the choir. The first is about love (Nietzsche), the time and space is defined by the second one (Trakl) and the third is the warning again (Nietzsche), this time slow. The second and third entries of the choir are realised in the form passacaglia, where the second theme is derived from the first one. The above mentioned choir´s entries are divided by violent pieces of daemonic scherzo as if dissolved in the whole second movement.
The third part (intermezzo) follows immediately and consists of the song for solo baritone and recitative (Brecht). It´s relation to the fourth movement can be described as the one between an opera recitative and aria.
The center of the symphony is - without doubt - the fourth movement. It begins with a child´s voice plea (Nietzsche) and after an extensive opening where all thematic subjects are summarized there starts the rondo itself - a dull march - an intentional reminiscence of the analogic course of A.Honegger´s Lithurgic symphony. During the march the baritone, previously singing about creative activity, changes into a treacherous "Pied Piper" (Trakl), luring the crowd to a false ritual. At the very peak of the march the backnaming of the whole state appears - "On the snowed-up paths... the kin of forsaken wanders", as well as the message "...the heated pub give them, O Lord... and good people´s word" (Toman). The children´s choir sings Alleluiah. This message is unexpectadly destroyed by the cartoon-like march, escalating to an apocalyptic vision. All has come to nothing. The composer identify himself with T.Adorn´s idea that a mass entertainment is nothing more than another but the same way dangerous modification of totality - erasing one´s own mind, leaving behind only dull, fed and limitedly satisfied consuming animals. The symphony is finished with a short sigh reminding - by it´s tempo - the whole opening, whose sharp ending is ambiguous. It is either the resignation resulting from people´s incorrigibility or the expression of the composer´s defiance and hope.
The texts used in the symphony are bilingual - it results from the fact of mutual interactions between Czech and German cultures and histories in the city of Teplice. The fact that problems expressed in the symphony are common in the entire civilized world also play its important role.
Vladimír Franz´s first symphony "Songs on solitudes" was performed for the first time on June 24, 2004, within the framework of Ludwig van Beethoven´s Musical Festival in the city of Teplice; it´s Prague premiere took place with the same cast in the Rudolfinum Concert Hall, October 28, 2004.
Voices and instruments:
North Bohemian philharmonic orchestra, Teplice
Ivan Kusnjer - baritone
Regina Razova - recitative
Czech Chamber Choir, chorus-master Josef Ksica
Children´s choirs Poupata and Fontana from Marsovská Teplice, chorus-masters Mgr.H.Mazzolini, Mgr.J.Ptáková, Mgr.J.Brynda and Mgr.Z.Rezkova
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