to taste dark water : three Schiele pictures for eleven strings
by Jack Symonds (2015)
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The Austrian Expressionist painter Egon Schiele wanted "to taste dark water, see crackling trees and wild winds" and created landscapes, portraits, self-portraits and other representations of humanity with an intensity of vision that forced the world through a highly individual gaze. I have chosen three of his extraordinary paintings as a basis for three string orchestra movements. First, Landscape with Ravens depicts a huge, decaying hill dotted with crosses of churches or graveyards while the birds circle above. A metal-muted string trio dances a scherzo and trio around an unstable mass of string sound, occasionally dissolving into and meeting the trio in spurts of activity. Schiele's great musical contemporary, Arnold Schoenberg is the subject of the second picture. Painted in 1917 when Schoenberg was working on his visionary oratorio Jacob's Ladder (destined to be unfinished), this portrait shows the father of dodecaphony in turbulent thought. I have created a sequence of seven interlinked, hard-edged miniatures perhaps suggesting Schoenberg turning over the fragments of Jacob's Ladder in his mind. Finally, The Embrace is a fatally erotic intertwining of bodies with Schiele's characteristic skin, hands and facial features poised between torment and ecstasy. Three times, an effortful melody tries to rise out of the string mass and is met with slow chords of ambiguous indifference or passion.
Instrumentation: 6 violins, 2 violas, 2 cellos, double bass.
Duration: 10 min.
Contents note: I. Rabenlandschaft [Landscape with Ravens] (3 min.) -- II. Arnold Schönberg, 1917 (3 min.) -- III. Die Umarmung [The Embrace] (4 min.).
First performance: by ACO2 — 11 Dec 15. Vasse Felix, Margaret River WA
- Inspired by: Visual arts works
Performances of this work
11 Dec 15: Vasse Felix, Margaret River WA. Featuring ACO2.
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