Fantasia and Fugue for English Horn and Full Orchestra based on the poem by Georg Trakl (1988-89)
The composition “Occidental Song” is tracing the idea of the poem by Georg Trakl albeit without following the text in every detail. The main piece – the fugue – builds on the Concert Fugue, a type of fugue developed by Bach which is a combination of a fugued ritornello and concertante interludes. The theme of the poem is the incantation of three eras of the occident which lead to a vision of death and rebirth.
The preluding fantasia prepares the listener for the themes and characters of the subsequent fugue. Here the main theme of the fugue and its counterpoints are first introduced in the orchestra. Then three themes are presented in the solo-episodes of the English horn which – following the poem – refer to single eras of the occident:
- the archaic, pagan theme with richly ornamented melodics as one still comes upon today in oriental music;
- the Medieval theme with consecutive sixth chords and its characteristic final cadence (under-third-cadence) which emerged in the late Middle Ages;
- and the Romantic theme with its extensive melody and a harmony which also includes cadencial elements.
A development-episode which combines each new theme with the previous one follows the introduction of each theme. In the last of these developmental-episodes, all themes are coalesced. It leads to the vision of death which climaxes in a twelve-tone chord as a symbol for decline and end. As an encryption of the vision of rebirth, the melody of an old French love-song from around 1190 appears as if coming from another world.
Georg Trakl: Occidental Song
O the soul’s nocturnal stroke of wing:
Shepherds, we once passed dawning forests
And the red deer, the green flower and the gurgling well followed
Full of humbleness. O, the ancient sound of the cricket,
Blood blooming at the sacrificial stone
And the call of the lonely bird over the pond’s green stillness.
O, you crusades and glowing tortures
Of the flesh, falling of crimson fruit
In the evening garden, where in bygone times pious disciples walked,
Warriors now, awakening from wounds and starry dreams.
O, the gentle cyan-bundle of night.
O, you times of quiet and golden autumns,
When we, peaceful monks trod the crimson grape;
And hills and forest shone all around.
O, you hunts and castles, rest at eventide,
When in his chamber man contemplated the Just,
In mute prayer striving for God’s living head.
O, the bitter hour of decline,
When we gaze upon a stony countenance in black waters.
But shining lovers lift the silver eyelids:
O n e gender. Incense flows from rosy pillows
And the sweet song of the resurrected.
(from: „Sebastian im Traum“ [= Sebastian in a Dream])