Andrea Lorenzo Scartazzini in Bern
In Viaggiatori for soloists, chorus and orchestra after Hofmannsthal, Wölfli, Dante and Hölderlin, Andrea Lorenzo Scartazzini has set to music “situations of being in transit, travel stories from places which, as it were, no (longer) exist – noisy and quiet places of imagination and philosophical conjecture”.
Andrea Lorenzo Scartazzini begins Viaggiatori (“travellers”), his composition for the 100th anniversary of the Basel Bach-Chor (first performance on 18.11.2011 in Basel Cathedral), with a contemplative reflection on time. In the prologue he sets the Marschallin’s monologue from Strauss and Hofmannsthal’s Rosenkavalier (first performed in 1911, the year the choir was founded) as a many-voiced choral poem, around which the orchestra lays a fleeting, filigree-auratic stream of sound. In the following movements he has composed “three poetic sketches, three points which have become sound: earthly megalopolis, underworld twilight and enraptured gods.”
The composer writes about his 35-minute work for soloists, chorus and orchestra:
“The first movement is based on a text by the schizophrenic artist Adolf Wölfli, who spent most of his life in a psychiatric institution. There he created a gigantic work, extending to 25,000 pages in length, consisting of drawings, collages and texts, and dreamt up a new, magnificently colourful life for himself, travelled the cosmos, set up the “St. Adolf Giant Creation” and had himself enthroned as its ruler Saint Adolf II. On his journey around the world he visited many cities, which he described in minute, obsessive detail, full of stereotypes. In the setting for tenor and soprano, a multiple personality “speaks”: words and movements overlayer each other, interlock and penetrate into each other. Like the manic-inflated description itself, the music runs wild: expressionistically-garish and shot through with percussive construction noise, it flows into a Babylonian babble of voices in the chorus leading to a crashing conclusion.
The musically grotesque is followed by an elegy, an introverted mourning on words from Canto IV of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy. The poet’s journey through hell leads him, in the company of Virgil, into limbo, a place whether neither joy nor terror rules, but an eternal grey. The monologues and dialogues of the two poets are reserved for the bass, whereas the diction of the two figures is fashioned differently. The chorus has no narrative function – its vocalising is embedded in the musical flow and illustrates the emotional topography of this desolate landscape of the soul with sighing clusters and long drawn-out unison lines.
Friedrich Hölderlin’s short and enigmatic poem ‘Lebensalter’ [The Ages of Life] is a philosophical journey of the mind to sites in the ancient world which, according to the poet’s view of history, bear witness to a contented relationship between the human and the divine. Yet this antiquity no longer exists; modern man’s natural connection to the transcendent has been taken away: ‘fremd / Erscheinen and gestorben mir / Der Seligen Geister’ [‘the blessed spirits appear strange and dead to me’]. This last movement for chorus and soprano is a metamorphosis, and this reflects an essential aspect of the poem. The rich robustness of the opening is subject to the process of transformation in several cycles; the collective is replaced by the individual and the concrete-gestalt-like gradually vaporizes into those whirring, ethereal-ephemeral particles which symbolized the passage of time in the prologue.”
Andrea Lorenzo Scartazzini / Marie Luise Maintz
(Translation: Elizabeth Robinson)
from [t]akte 2/2011