David Philip Hefti [1975 *]

Wunderhorn-Musik

7 sound pictures for violin and ensemble


Wunderhorn Music was composed in 2008 to a commission from the Ensemble of the Theater am Gleis in Winterthur (TaG) and the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia, and is dedicated to the violinist Rahel Cunz, the TaG Ensemble and the conductor Jac van Steen.

The Wunderhorn Music was inspired by the folksong collection Des Knaben Wunderhorn ('The Boy's Magic Horn'), which was published by Clemens Brentano and Achim von Arnim in 1806. Its subtitle '7 Sound Pictures for Violin and Ensemble' refers to the fact that the texts on which the work is founded were used in neither a pictorial nor an onomatopoeic fashion during the process of composition. Rather is this work a setting of impressions that were evoked while reading the seven texts in question. Since even the titles alone of the individual movements inspire one's imagination, it is not essential to know the texts themselves in order to understand the music. The homogeneous grouping of the instruments at the beginning of the work (e.g. their grouping according to their registers) is gradually dissolved. One result of this is that the violin is constantly having to decide between its soloistic function and its status as an equal amongst fellow chamber musicians. The palette of colours ranges from fragile, subtly shaded tones to unwieldy, contrary blocks of sound. The structural and tempo relations, and the relationships between the motives all unite the seven movements into a single, many-facetted picture. The titles of the seven individual sections are:

1. Das Wunderhorn (The Magic Horn)
2. Der Ritter und die Magd (The knight and the maiden)
3. Die Wahrheit (The truth)
4. Abendstern (Evening star)
5. An einen Boten (To a messenger)
6. Die Greuelhochzeit (The horror wedding)
7. Des Hirten Einsamkeit (The shepherd's loneliness)

D. P. H.


(Not) Mahler: David Philip Hefti's Wunderhorn

'Wunderhorn' - what do we associate this with? The literary-minded will think of the folksong collection Des Knaben Wunderhorn, edited by Clemens Brentano and Achim von Arnim. The music-lover will think of the settings of its texts by Gustav Mahler. The Zurich composer David Philip Hefti plays with both of these, if in a veiled manner. For in his Wunderhorn Music for violin and ensemble, he let himself be inspired by the aforementioned collection of texts, and this is reflected in the titles of his seven 'sound pictures'. Last Sunday, Hefti's composition was given its world première in the Theater am Gleis in Winterthur by the violinist Rahel Cunz and the TaG Ensemble under Jac van Steen.

We heard a music that displays its own character in each of its movements. This is a music that does not ingratiate itself, and yet is still able to arrest one's attention at a first hearing. These positive impressions of the work went hand in hand with the high quality of its performance. The solo part played by Rahel Cunz fills the whole spectrum between soloistic prominence and the integration demanded in chamber music, and she utilized to the full the rich technical and expressive possibilities that it offered her. And what about Mahler? The first three sound pictures seemed to have nothing to do with him. But in the middle, in 'Abendstern' ('Evening star'), we heard an adagio pregnant with song, and then the horn threw open the door to sounds of nostalgia that indeed seemed reminiscent of Mahler. A very different world was reached in 'Greuelhochzeit' ('The horror wedding'), which took on a ghostly air that at the close even became quite threatening.

(Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Thomas Schacher)