Helmut Lachenmann (*1935) Marche fatale
[pno] 2016/17 Duration: 8'
World premiere of the piano version: Mito, June 17, 2017
World premiere of the orchestral version: Stuttgart, January 1, 2018
World premiere of the ensemble version: Frankfurt am Main, December 9, 2020
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Marche fatale is an incautiously daring escapade that may annoy the fans of my compositions more than my earlier works, many of which have prevailed only after scandals at their world premieres. My Marche fatale has, though, little stylistically to do with my previous compositional path; it presents itself without restraint, if not as a regression, then still as a recourse to those empty phrases to which modern civilization still clings in its daily “utility” music, whereas music in the 20th and 21st centuries has long since advanced to new, unfamiliar soundscapes and expressive possibilities.
The key term is “banality.” As creators we despise it, we try to avoid it – though we are not safe from the cheap banal even within new aesthetic achievements.
Many composers have incidentally accepted the banal. Mozart wrote “Ein musikalischer Spaß” [A Musical Jape], a deliberately “amateurishly miscarried” sextet. Beethoven’s “Bagatellen” op. 119 were rejected by the publisher on the grounds that “few will believe that this minor work is by the famous Beethoven.” Mauricio Kagel wrote, tongue in cheek, so to speak, “Märsche, um den Sieg zu verfehlen” [Marches for being Unvictorious], Ligeti wrote “Hungarian Rock;” in his “Circus Polka” Stravinsky quoted and distorted the famous, all too popular Schubert military march, composed at the time for piano duet.
I myself do not know, though, whether I ought to rank my Marche fatale alongside these examples: I accept the humor in daily life, the more so as this daily life for some of us is not otherwise to be borne. In music, I mistrust it, considering myself all the closer to the profounder idea of cheerfulness having little to do with humor.
However: Isn’t a march with its compelling claim to a collectively martial or festive mood absurd, a priori? Is it even “music” at all? Can one march and at the same time listen?
Eventually, I resolved to take the “absurd” seriously – perhaps bitterly seriously – as a debunking emblem of our civilization that is standing on the brink. The way – seemingly unstoppable – into the black hole of all debilitating demons: “that can become serene.” My old request of myself and my music-creating surroundings is to write a “non-music,” whence the familiar concept of music is repeatedly re-defined anew and differently, so that “derailed” here – perhaps? – in a treacherous way, the concert hall becomes the place of mind-opening adventures instead of a refuge in illusory security. How could that happen? The rest is – thinking.
(Helmut Lachenmann, 2017)
CD (Version for Piano):
CD Wergo WER 7393 2
Ich bin nicht „pietistisch verformt“. Ein Gespräch [von Jan Brachmann] mit dem Komponisten Helmut Lachenmann, in: FAZ vom 7. Juni 2018, p. 15.