Daphnis et Chloé is a ballet with music by Maurice Ravel. Ravel described it as a “symphonie choréographique” (choreographic symphony). The scenario was adapted by Michel Fokine from an eponymous romance by the Greek writer Longus thought to date from around the 2nd century AD. Scott Goddard published a contemporary commentary that discussed the changes to the story that Fokine made to prepare a workable ballet scenario. The story concerns the love between the goatherd Daphnis and the shepherdess Chloé. The ballet is in one act and three scenes. Ravel began work on the score in 1909 after a commission from Sergei Diaghilev. It was premiered at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris by his Ballets Russes on June 8, 1912. The orchestra was conducted by Pierre Monteux, the choreography was by Michel Fokine, and Vaslav Nijinsky and Tamara Karsavina danced the parts of Daphnis and Chloe. Léon Bakst designed the original sets.
Telemusik is an electronic composition by Karlheinz Stockhausen, and is number 20 in his catalog of works. Through his composition student, Makoto Shinohara, Stockhausen was invited by the Japan Broadcasting Corporation NHK to visit Tokyo, and to carry out two commissions in their electronic music studio, in connection with the 50th anniversary of the founding of NHK in 1965. Because of other commitments, Stockhausen was unable to meet this schedule but finally, under pressure from Tokyo, he flew to Japan on 19 January 1966. According to a note in the score, Telemusik was realized between January 23 and March 2, 1966 in the Studio for Electronic Music of the Japanese broadcasting system Nippon Hoso Kyokai (NHK), in collaboration with the director of the studio, Wataru Uenami and the studio technicians Hiroshi Shiotani, Shigeru Satô and Akira Honma. The score is dedicated to the Japanese People. The first public performance took place at the NHK studios in Tokyo on 25 April 1966, in a program which also featured the first and second performances (in versions for trombone and for flute) of Stockhausen’s other NHK commission, Solo.
This work describes a man and a woman walking through a dark forest on a moonlit night, wherein the woman shares a dark secret with her new lover: she bears the child of another man.
Schoenberg conducts Verklärte Nacht (fragment) recorded in Berlin 1928. Verklärte Nacht (or Transfigured Night), Op. 4, is a string sextet in one movement composed by Arnold Schoenberg in 1899 and his earliest important work. Composed in just three weeks, the work was inspired by Richard Dehmel’s poem of the same name, along with Schoenberg’s strong feelings upon meeting Mathilde von Zemlinsky (the sister of his teacher Alexander von Zemlinsky), whom he would later marry. Schoenberg, the 20th-century revolutionary and later inventor of the twelve tone technique, is perhaps best known among lay audiences for this early tonal work. The piece derives its stylistic lineage from German late-Romanticism. Like his teacher Zemlinsky, Schoenberg was influenced by both Johannes Brahms and Richard Wagner and sought to combine the former’s structural logic with the latter’s harmonic language, evidenced in the work’s rich chromaticism (deriving from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde) and frequent use of musical phrases which serve to undermine the metrical boundaries. The work comprises five sections which correspond to the structure of the poem on which it is based, with themes in each section being direct musical metaphors for the narrative and discourse found in the poem. As such, the piece is one of the earliest examples of program music written for a chamber ensemble. The original score calls for two violins, two violas and two cellos. In 1917, Schoenberg produced an arrangement for string orchestra (a common practice at the time), and revised this version in 1943. There is also a version for piano trio by Eduard Steuermann. The string orchestra version is the one most often recorded and performed. The work has also served as the basis for several ballets. Verklärte Nacht was controversial when it was premiered in 1902. This was due to the highly advanced harmonic idiom as well as, perhaps, Dehmel’s explicit references to sexual themes in the poem. The work does indeed employ a richly chromatic language and often ventures far from the home key, though the work is clearly rooted in D minor. A particular point of controversy was the use of a single ‘nonexistent’ (that is, uncategorized and therefore unpermitted) inverted ninth chord, which resulted in its rejection by the Vienna Music Society. Schoenberg remarked “and thus (the work) cannot be performed since one cannot perform that which does not exist”. The work was premiered on March 18, 1902 in the Vienna Musikverein by the Rosé Quartet, Franz Jelinek and Franz Schmidt. Arnold Rosé and Albert Bachrich played the violin, Anton Ruzitska and Franz Jelinek the viola, and Friedrich Buxbaum and Franz Schmidt the cello.
Morton Feldman – String Quartet (1979) performed by: the Group for contemporary music.
Benjamin Hudson – violin
Carol Zeavin – violin
Lois Martin – viola
Joshua Gordon – cello
Composed in 1979. Recorded on 11 & 12 January 1993 at the State University of New York
Released on Koch International Classics (3-7251-2h1) in 1994.
One of the most complex of Feldman’s major works for piano solo, “Piano” uses four and sometimes six separate staves for its dense contrapuntal passages. In terms of rhythmic and textural complexity this piece has more in common with the String Quartet (1979) and the other pieces of the “Berlin period” than the later piano works.
Roger Woodward, the dedicatee, performs.
Art by Mark Rothko.
Neither, opera in 1 act for soprano & orchestra (1977)
Sarah Leonard, soprano
Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra
The Rome Opera commissioned Morton Feldman to write an opera in 1977. In the same year, the composer collaborated with Irish writer Samuel Beckett, and Neither was completed and premiered. It is not an opera. There are no scene changes, no characters except for one unnamed female singer who performs only sixteen lines of text over the course of more than fifty minutes. There is neither plot nor chorus. However, with creative use of lighting, the work can be effectively staged despite the lack of operatic conventions. Many of Beckett’s late plays rely on little more than lighting to convey their visual worlds. Beckett and Feldman held each other’s work in high regard. Their first meeting was awkward, Feldman being the famously gregarious New Yorker while Beckett was a laconic, unsocial Irishman. They did not actually work together on the project. Beckett simply handed off completed text and the composer set it to music. It is a haunting work with a weird and sublime quality that does credit to both artists.
One of its most compelling qualities lies in the way Beckett and Feldman created and manipulated a text that demonstrates the variable effects of memory. Beckett began with a text that is broken up like poetry, and translated it into French. Then, retranslating one of the fragments into English, Beckett found that the line had been slightly altered from the original. He applied this operation to each fragment several times until the text was almost unrecognizable. This required him to forget what the original fragments said. Feldman’s mature music was likewise grounded in the moment, in the annulment of the listener’s memory of what has taken place beforehand; in the composer’s unique musical outlook, memory is of minor importance. What matters is sustaining the initial idea in a collection of moments until the possibilities of the initial idea have exhausted themselves. In art forms that traditionally depended so much upon memory, Beckett’s and Feldman’s approaches, and their confluence here, had revolutionary aspects.
Both the text and music are eerie in the extreme, suggesting a superficial comparison to Schoenberg’s Erwartung–which features a deranged woman singing of her confusion while the atonal soundscape suggests a Wagnerian treatment of dementia. Neither features a woman singing of something even more difficult to grasp, something unknowable, pointing toward an uncomfortable and unfamiliar world with music in which each moment erases the significance of its predecessor. Erwartung is an excellent example of expressionism, depicting the artist’s journey inward, confronting the inner torments of the subject, and Neither is a unique example of abstract expressionism, which rarely finds a voice in anything resembling an operatic format. The singer’s part conveys a feeling that does not have a name. Neither shocking nor conventional, she illustrates the character of the work. As in Erwartung, the singer in Neither is isolated, but the two states of isolation are different. Erwartung has a subject that cannot grasp the world due to a mental illness, which causes anxieties that unaffected people suffer to a lesser degree. Neither instead involves a truth: that there is no deferring death, whether one’s surroundings are familiar or unfamiliar. This is not madness, but rather a clear yet uncomfortable idea. Listeners learn nothing about the subject in Neither, and never know whether to feel sympathy or aversion toward her. The opposite is true in Erwartung; listeners experience both these emotions. Neither is a strikingly rewarding and original work that completely succeeds; indeed, it is probably almost-opera’s greatest statement. [Allmusic.com]
Art by Ouattara Watts
The first 10 minutes with visuals:
The complete opera:
Despite the explosion of Morten Feldman’s popularity and recordings of his works in recent years, his orchestral music has not received the attention it deserves. Orchestra is a walk through the orchestral landscape. Patterns come and go of their own accord as the music moves into unexplored territories. An important bridge between Feldman’s middle and late works. [Source]