Edison Denissow (1929–1996) Lazarus
Completion of Franz Schubert's Fragment D 689 [solos,mix ch,orch] 1995 duration: 55'
solos: 3S3TB – choir: SSAATTBB – 22.214.171.124. – 126.96.36.199. – timp – str
World premiere of the complete version: Stuttgart, January 21, 1996
World premiere of the concertante version: Graz, 1999
Text by August Hermann Niemeyer nach dem Johannes-Evangelium, 11, 1-45
Place and time: Garten vor einem ländlichen Haus, grüne Flur voller Grabsteine mit Palmen und Zedern umpflanzt, vor einem Wäldchen mit Lazarus Haus im Hintergrund, zu Lebzeiten Jesu
Characters: Lazarus (tenor) - Jemina (soprano) - Maria (soprano) - Martha (soprano) - Nathanael (tenor) - Simon (bass) - Ein Jüngling (tenor)
Der Handlung liegt die biblische Geschichte vom Tod des Lazarus und seiner Erweckung durch Jesus zugrunde. Von Schuberts Vertonung ist nur der Teil bis zur Grablegung des Lazarus überliefert; die Blätter mit der Fortsetzung sind wahrscheinlich verlorengegangen. Ob Schubert jedoch bei seiner Vertonung bis zur Wiedererweckung gekommen ist, bleibt ungewiß. Denissow verwendete bei seiner Vervollständigung zentrale Themen Schuberts und ging auch auf die überlieferte Orchesterbesetzung des dreiaktig und szenisch konzipierten Werks zurück.
Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart
Hänssler CD 98111
Fragment and Completion
When Helmuth Rilling approached me in October 1994 and suggested that I complete Schuberts Lazarus, I was initially filled with doubts about whether this was at all possible, and even necessary.
In his score, Schubert wrote the entire first act and nearly all of the second as well, interrupting his work in the middle of the aria of Martha (bar 595 of the second act). My task was thus to write a new third act in its entirety, which I have now done.
My first question was: how can such a work be completed? I did not want to write in Schuberts style, and I think something like that would be completely out of question. It would be utterly wrong to want to imitate Schuberts uniquely personal style without his talent. Though it is possible to make money with collages, you can really hardly expect anything good to come of this. Moreover, I would never be able to renounce to radically change my own style of writing. I thus felt it was important to erect an edifice without having to destroy anything. And so I was forced to find a solution which would develop Schuberts ideas and lead the musical and dramatic action forward.
Schuberts work is very stage-oriented, and, owing to its dramaturgical contents, the third act is perhaps the most theatrically effective of the three. The issue of the reconstruction of Lazarus is worlds apart from that of the Unfinished Symphony or of a work such as Schoenbergs Moses and Aron. In my view, these two works are fully completed: I can imagine no further movements appended to Schuberts Unfinished nor a third act to Moses and Aron. In Schoenbergs opera, all of the action is over by the end of the second act. In Lazarus, however, the music literally breaks off. Lazarus cannot exist as a work of art without its third act and here lies the major difference between these works. The resurrection forms the center of the work, its immanent climax. The dramatic events of the third act are considerably more concentrated, with the chorus now participating directly in the action. For what we have is the religious drama of the resurrection, which is unthinkable without the bodily resurrection of Lazarus. Schubert did not repeat any musical symbols in his fragment. I decided to introduce a few Schubertian motifs into the finale of the second act (Nathanaels recitative) as well as in the third act, but did so with all due precaution. The third act begins with the repetition of the introduction of the work, which is also in A major. I treated Lazarus first motif (bar 16 of the first act) as a kind of leitmotif which recurs at the moment of the resurrection. The second leitmotif it is heard several times in the third act and concludes the entire work is found in Schuberts first act after Lazarus words Jetzt ists hell um mich wie Morgenlicht (bars 250ff). This motif taken as a symbol of eternal light is interwoven with the name of God and the idea of resurrection in the third act. I let the work finish in D major, the key in which this motif is stated in Schuberts score. The key of D major has always had a special significance for me as a symbol of faith and light (LEcume des Jours [opera, 1981], Requiem).
Although it was my aim to avoid any kind of stylistic imitation, I nevertheless endeavoured to respect Schuberts formal principles of construction. I think this has become quite clear in the arias I wrote for the third act. Before undertaking my work on Lazarus, I spent several months analyzing the score in detail. It was extremely important for me to penetrate the heart of Schuberts work, to follow all the motivic cells and modulations, and to be better able to understand the formative principles underlying his music.
Of course, one of my aims was also not to disappoint the public at the end of Schuberts score. The audience should not be left with the feeling that the music suddenly turns bad and loses its charm and melodic expressiveness. I think it is considerably easier to reconstruct lost fragments within a work (as I did with Debussys Rodrigue et Chimène) than to invent an entire non-existent second section. Bearing this in mind, it became clear to me once again that I would never write better than Schubert. For this reason alone, I rejected the idea of copying his style. Instead, I wanted to let myself be guided by my own idiom, which refuses to be circumscribed by the reconstruction of a model.
In the third act, I introduced timpani which were lacking in Schuberts score. They enter in the last bar of the second act (tremolo pianissimo on G) and are treated as solo instruments several times in the third act. Their theme is the motif of the Last Judgement, which appears at Simons words Die Gräber sinken unter mir! Die Donner Schlag auf Schlag! and plays a major role in the musical development of the third act.
Franz Schubert has always been one of the composers whom I have felt the closest to (next to Mozart and Glinka). For me, the essence of eternal beauty and human justice (not to mention compositional perfection) is inherent to his music. I am not particularly fond of quotations, and I eschew collages (and that which is called polystylistic but is often all too unoriginal and primitive), yet I have quoted Schuberts music twice in my oeuvre: the Morgengruss from Die schöne Müllerin in the finale of my violin concerto, and the Impromptu in A flat major Op. 142, which constitutes the basis for the finale movement of my viola concerto and its intimately connected with its inner program.
The lied quotation in the violin concerto has a function similar to that of Bachs chorale Es ist genug in Alban Bergs violin concerto. I have envisioned these important and, to a certain extent, worshipful quotes as homages to Schubert, even if they themselves constitute only a tiny part of my tribute. I must also include here my orchestration of the Ave Maria and my instrumentation of six waltz cycles in two versions for solo ensemble or symphony orchestra. No one commissioned me to do this: I did it only for myself and some of the waltz arrangements have yet to be performed to this day. I wanted to decrypt this wonderful music once again and prostrate myself before it and its creator at the same time.
After the world premiere of my viola concerto in Berlin, many critics asked why I concluded my piece with Schuberts music Well, now I can put it this way: in my invigorating work on Lazarus, I proceeded in exactly the opposite manner and completed Schuberts piece with my own music.