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Bernd Alois Zimmermann (1918-1970)



Musique pour les soupers du Roi Ubu (1968)

From Bestellnummer DMR 1013-15 (Zeitgenössische Music in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland 5):

Bernd Alois Zimmermann (1918-1970), Musique pour les soupers du Roi Ubu (1966), Ballet noir en sept parties et une entrée

Rundfunks-Sinfonie-Orchester Köln, conducted by Michael Gielen. A recording of the Westdeutschen Rundfunks, 1972.


Tempus Loquendi (10:48)

From 141 - Baur, Becker, Zimmermann – Deutsche Musik der Gegenwart Serie I, Nr VI - 1970 - VDMK 6/654 066


Requiem für einen jungen Dichter, Side A (29:10)
- Prolog
- Requiem I
- Requiem II


Requiem für einen jungen Dichter, Side B
(35:02) - Ricercar
- Rappresentazione
- Elegia
- Tratto
- Lamento
- Dona Nobis Pacem


Requiem für einen jungen Dichter, composed 1969.

Lingual für Sprecher, Sopran- und Baritonsolo, drei Chöre, Orchester, Jazz-Combo und elektronische Klänge nach Worten verschiedener Dichter, Berichte und Reportagen.
(Lingual for speaker, soprano- and baritone-solo, three choirs, orchestra, jazz-combo, organ and electronic sounds, with texts from various writers, narrations and reports.)
Ad Honorem St.Hermani-Josephi

Dorothy Dorow, soprano
Günther Reich, baritone
Theo Loevendie Quartet
Manfred Schoof, trumpet
Matthias Fuchs, speaker
Hans Franzen, speaker
RIAS Chamber Choir, Erich Brockhaus, leader
Austrian Broadcast Choir, Prof. Gottfried Preinfalk, leader
The Radio Philharmonic Orchestra and the Great Broadcast Choir of the N.O.S. Hilversum
Michaell Gielen, director

Recorded by the Nederlandse Omroep Stichting Hilversum at the Holland-Festival in 1971.

Published by the Kulturkreis im Bundesverband der Deutschen Industrie - Stereo 2891 182 (LP)

Note: (Words are by Wladimir Majakowski, Sergej Jessenin, Conrad Beyer, Ezra Pound, H.H.Jahnn, Mao, Dubcek, Goebbels, Joyce, Camus, Weöres, Augustine, Hitler, Imre Nagy, Papandreou, Chamberlain, Aeschylus, Wittgenstein, Beatles [Hey Jude] and others...)
(languages - greek, russian, english, french, hungarian, czech, latin, german...)



BERND ALOIS 2IMMERMANN Bernd Alois Zimmermann was born on the 20th March 1918 in Bliesheim near Cologne. He completed his studies at the Schools of Music in Cologne and Berlin with the teachers H. Lemacher and Ph. Jarnach. He received a scholarship in 1957 to visit the Villa Massimo. From 1958 onwards he taught composition and held a seminary for film and radio music at the Cologne Musikhochschule. He was awarded the Forderungspreis (for music) by the State of Nordrhein-Westfalen. Zimmermann died on the 10 August 1970 in Lovenich near Cologne.

"I am presumably a mixture, typical of the Rheinland, of monk and Dionysus" - "... as the oldest of these young composers" : two self-revelatory sayings of Bernd Alois Zimmermann. In both of them there is not only a concentrated charge of psychological problems, of pessimistic estimation, of clear vision; two famous quotations of the composer who was regarded as being "difficult" in his lifetime, to whom success was denied - apart from his opera "The Soldiers" - who could be so ecstatically joyful and profoundly dejected; an all-round mind and, as many have put it, the last composer who was a master in every field. Perhaps Zimmermann is so popular with younger composers, because they find in his works concrete material, comprehensible compositions, first-rate craftsmanship and well-formed material; a composer who, in spite of his basic philosophic tenet, never suppressed "inspiration" or a "flash of insight" but encouraged spontaneity. Although precision of the microscopic and microcosmic detail formed the groundwork of his composition, he combined the "pedantic precision and almost scientific thoroughness" in the processing of the material with the spontaneous musical thought and used the material in the sense of the inspiration, not of the construction.

The antithesis goes further: side by side with those strictly organized scores - admired still today for their magic - with immense orchestral resources, there are always - and almost designedly - works for solo instruments or at least small ensembles; Zimmermann constantly set himself the task of reducing the unlimited diversity, the plurality of means and possibilities to a minimum. His method was to experiment, thereby not getting out of his depth, to work hard with the material, to discover its manifold features and to probe every possible sound that an instrument could produce. From the earliest stages of his career as a composer Zimmermann often used the same basic material for these contrasting dimensions as, for example, the same twelve-note row or serial framework (the row in "Die Soldaten" is used with a minimum of modification in "Dialoge" for two pianos and large orchestra, in the solo version "Monologe" and in the piano trio "Présance"; the same row is used for the piano pieces from "Enchiridion II", the "Metamorphosen/Konfigurationen", the orchestral work "Kontraste" and others). Zimmermann goes even further and takes whole structures as quotations and thus provides the same material with quite different contexts. This reveals how important to him a basic idea was once he had found it and how many possibilities he was able to wrest from it. And this in the most undoctrinaire manner as, for instance, in his treatment of the twelve-tone technique. The "organisation" of sound was for him the most "sacred" and to this end every technical means had to submit. This entailed demands on the performers which at the time seemed impossible to fulfil. (The Sonata for Cello solo, 1959/60 for instance, was classified as being unplayable; the original version - unfortunately destroyed - of the opera "Die Soldaten" contained insoluble problems for both the interpreters and the stage technicians; the exorbitant demands as regards the seating disposition could not be satisfied [the original version of ,,Dialoge"].) Further factors came to light: the use of the simplest and most obvious means with corresponding effect. Contrasting elements - ab initio. Also in the titles of his works, between the works. "Musique pour les soupers du Roi Ubu" (1968) is followed by the abstract work "Stille und Umkehr" (1970); in the opera "Soldaten" Sturm und Drang expressiveness forms a contrast to the profoundly depressing contempt of mankind; the early, elegant Ballet Suite "Alagona" (1940/45) to the "Sinfonie in einem Satz" (1947/ 1952) which is full of self-doubts and the desire to overcome the past. Elements of tension can also be seen in Zimmermann's classical education; its development was characterized by an incredible thirst for knowledge, a knowledge of the highest order, an education in the best sense which he received over a long period as a boarder at Steinfeld (Eifel) and at the (catholic) Apostelgymnasium in Cologne where the foundations were laid for his great interest in the classics, in philosophy, German philology and musicology. His interest in the kindred arts, above all the fine arts and the theatre, his inclination for philosophic reflexion and deduction, the comprehension and the adaption [sic] of the musical past, can be seen repeatedly.

His mind and his entire oeuvre were furthermore moulded by a profound sense of religion and Catholicism. One indication of this are the letters, to be found at the end of almost every score, O.A.M.D.G. (Omnia ad maioram Dei gloria). A symbol, a sort of dedication or gratitude, a confession or declaration which constantly gives expression to the close association with Zimmermann's faith. How often do quotations not appear from "Liber Ecclesiastis" (the preacher) ("Antiphonen", "Omnia tempus habent", "Ekklesiastische Aktion" etc.) the manifold musical quotations are expressive of great intellectual and spiritual movements and associations. Tension in relation to his contemporaries, his colleagues who like him started out from zero after the second world war, and who had to catch up with the times and took in everything new like sponges. Tension on account of his deep, spiritual, musical conscience and the experiences which he himself had had as "the oldest of these young composers". He was ten years younger than, for instance, Wolfgang Fortner and Olivier Messiaen, on the other side ten years elder than Luigi Nono, Giselher Klebe and Karlheinz Stockhausen. In spite of all unfavourable and political circumstances, Zimmermann was forced to make up - in quick time - for that which his younger colleagues had already assimilated or which did not burden them through direct experience. This meant: to study and adapt Hindemith, Strawinsky at the same time as Schoenberg and, above all, Webern. It was to Zimmermann's advantage that his immense spiritual strength was always turned towards the future and that he therefore felt himself to belong to the younger generation. But, being older than they, he was ahead of them in experience, knowledge, and ideas so that the awareness of his generation's handicap remained. The mixture of monk and Dionysus is an antinomy, an antithesis which is expressed in all of Zimmermann's works and was present in himself. Bacchic features of a highly expressive, rhythmically emphasized language alternate with musical figurations and metamorphoses of the most refined tenderness and intensity. The contrasts and tensions can be freely extended to those of the ascetic and the magician, the polemic, satirist and analyst, the student and the teacher. Zimmermann was a lone fighter and individualist. His musical education with Heinrich Lemacher and Philipp Jarnach immediately after the war was traditional, discursive and very thorough. Up to about 1950 Zimmermann's composition remained within traditional limits, within the bounds of tonality. The influence of Hindemith and strong neo-classical tendencies are readily detectable in his works ("Sinfonie in einem Satz"; "Violinkonzert"; "Oboenkonzert"), He experienced at first hand the beginnings and the development of the New Music. As he often wrote, even at the end of his life, he was a mediator - a guardian and champion of tradition and a strong advocate of the new. The essence and specificity of music may not be neglected on account of technical mastery." . . . for even if one knows how it is done, one is still far from being in possession of that which determines music at the very roots" (Zimmermann).

In the fifties, when Zimmermann earned his living by making countless arrangements of light music for films and radio plays, he concentrated his studies on the technique of serial music. The "Canto di speranza" as a largely organized work, the "Perspektiven" for two pianos in its infinite diversity of timbres, the sonatas for solo violin and for solo viola were works that made Zimmermann known and in which he addressed himself to the public. His sense of tone colour changed from the broad, brilliantly orchestrated expanse of sound to the single sound, the single note, the pointillist moment, the microstructure - and thus also to the transparency of his musical declamation.

This development made it possible for him to establish his idea of the "pluralistic method of composition" on the basis of the single tone illumined from all sides, an idea based on musical philosophy, a kind of superstructure in Zimmermann's world of ideas which was already in embryo in the middle of the fifties and matured, and was put into musical practice, between 1957 and 1960.

In his pluralistic method of composition the concept "time" is of prime importance. This is closely bound up with Zimmermann's general view of the world, with his spiritual background and his intellect. His pluralistic edifice evolved from the desire to overcome the phenomenon of "time" - that experience of the subconscious which is immeasurable in time. He found parallels in many variations in the kindred arts, in literature, philosophy and religion. Zimmermann even quotes sources such as St. Augustine (5th century), James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Immanuel Kant, the painters Max Ernst and Paul Klee, and, as already mentioned, often the third book of Solomon from the Old Testament: "Omnius tempus habent". It is all a question of the broad background of Western culture. Zimmermann made it his aim to make people aware of the problems of the times - of the past, present, and future - in his music, as music for him is the "art of time" par excellence. He invented the Kugelgestalt der Zeit (the spherical form of time), time as a sphere, equidistant from all times, present - nolens volens. The consciousness of the composer and the listener who are in the midst of it, makes it possible for them to experience all three times simultaneously, with the same intensity, equally near and equally far.

Zimmermann calls the corresponding "moment of experience" in the multi-layered simultaneity his "pluralism". In order to realize this he uses the serial technique. Its proportional involution of the individual notes within the 12-tone row and all-interval row serves him as a framework. All the different qualities (parameters) of the notes are thereby strictly organized; the form and individual structure, and thus also the actual course of the piece of music in question result from this organization as a basis of all the parameters and the row. The subconscious, the presence of all three times comes to the surface on account of the "open spaces" which are created in the serial concept - scraps of reminiscences in the form of extraneous musical quotions [sic] of varying duration. When several quotations are to be heard simultaneously or if several layers overlap, Zimmermann calls it collages - a notion which has long been in circulation in the arts, — a montage of pre-existing material. Things both unfamiliar and from everyday life from the surrounding world are introduced into art and produce new combinations. Collages are equally well-known in literature, whereby the arbitrarily collected materials are here seen as literary arrangements. Zimmermann's ideas of quotation and collage have more to do with the time aspect: quotations that are combined in a collage are "witnesses from the most various epochs of musical history", which "are present in the filing cabinet of our consciousness like a micro-film" (Zimmermann) and intimate the various dimensions of time.


Musique pour les soupers du Roi Ubu (1968)

While the "Monologe" are representative of the period in which Zimmermann's "pluralism" was at its most intensive - the almost unbounded multi-layered structure of an entire world of ideas, Zimmermann pushes his idea of quotation and collage ad absurdum and this culminates in the "ballet noir" "Musique pour les soupers du Roi Ubu", a piece that consists solely in quotations from others, witty, humorous and full of bitter cynicism, almost misanthropically set to music; it is a most opulent music with hair-raising impact and reality which radiates with some coarseness a desperately macabre merriment and yet which turns into bitter earnestness at the end. Without doubt one of the few pieces of music combining inspired imagination and perfect mastery of his craft. In 1966 Zimmermann became a member of the Berlin Akademie der Künste. The music for "Ubu" was written for this occasion and first performed in 1968. Zimmermann: "The piece is a 'ballet noir' which is performed at a banquet at the Court of Ubu. The Academy of the country in which the piece set is commanded to attend the banquet - and at the end in the 'Marche du decervellage' is dispatched through the trap door: symbolic of the fate of a liberal academy under the reign of a usurper. In order to show up our absolutely disproportionate intellectual and cultural situation, musical collages of the most amusing and hardest tone are used; the piece is pure collage, based on dances of the 16th and 17th centuries, interspersed with quotations from earlier and contemporary composers. A farce which is seemingly merry, fat and greedy like Ubu himself: apparently an enormous prank, but for those who are able to hear beyond this it is a warning allegory, macabre and amusing at the same time." In the 20-minute work the basic features and actions of the main character are adapted from the surrealist novel by the French author Alfred Jarry. Ubu is the incarnation of a depraved bourgeois, a tyrant and mass murderer, boorish and coarse, who has made his way by murder from being a captain of a regiment of dragoons to become the Head of State. Zimmermann's work is divided into seven parts with an Entree in which all the colleagues of the music academy are "quoted". A work that surpasses by far Zimmermann's musical pluralism and without doubt is intended to have a political function. The climax is the "Marche du decervellage": a collage of quotations from Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyrie", Stockhausen's "Klavierstuck IX" (from which a chord on the piano is repeated, not as in the original 280 times but 631 times) and Berlioz's "March to Scaffold" from the "Symphonic fantastique". Hardly ever can descriptive music have been crueller, more destructive, more implacable; biting attacks against his contemporaries, musical marking time taken to absurdity, giving rise to brutality. The orchestra consists of large wood-wind, brass and percussion groups and only 4 double basses.

The use of musical quotation and the resulting quotation collage in imitation of literary and artistic collage reached its peak in the sixties in Zimmermann's "Ubu". The practice of quotation is thus overcome. The sorting and ordering of existing musical material as composition - and in this connection the composer's self-orientation in face of tradition and history, achieves a point of culmination in the works of the last five years of Zimmermann's life which is to remain unequalled. Quotation and quotation collages are extended in his works to higher and extra-musical significance within his peculiar philosophic "pluralistic method of composition".




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