Klangrelief I


curriculum vitae

Rudolf Kelterborn

Klangrelief I

für Flöte, Violine, Violoncello, Klavier und Schlagzeug, 2001


Das Werk entstand 2000/2001 auf Anregung des Janus-Ensembles Karlsruhe.
Der Titel bezieht sich auf die räumliche Gestaltung von (Klang-) Hintergrund und (oft gestalthaftem musikalischem) Vordergrund, wobei zwischen den beiden Ebenen wechselseitige Beeinflussungen stattfinden, Reaktionen ausgelöst und Elemente ausgetauscht werden.
Zum emotionalen Gehalt des Stücks, zu Aspekten des Spannungsverlaufs, zur "Aussage" der Komposition kann und will ich mich nicht äussern - das Muss die Musik selber leisten,

Rudolf Kelterborn

Rudolf Kelterborn




`I wake and I think, and 1 glow'
The work begins rapturously, heavily, 'violente', 'noisily' in the low strings; the violins and high woodwind begin 'ecstatically'; the percussion follows 'breathlessly, hectically'. In this manner, the music runs its course until, finally, after a short general pause, it climaxes in a wall of electronic sounds that seems like concrete, but inside is teeming with life. The vehemence of this beginning is extreme, far from all fussiness, excessively loaded, even explosive.

The work Nameless of 1995?6 which begins thus, has a special place in Rudolf Kelterborn's oeuvre, for he here uses electronics for the first time in a long while.
In fact, he has otherwise used electronics only in Espansioni of 1974?5 (which uses tape) and in the later Reminiscences of Shakespeare for singer, percussion and live electronics. Kelterborn devised the electronics of Nameless together with the car designer and composer Wolfgang Heiniger of the Electronic Studio of the Basle Music Academy. The electronics seem at first only to form a counterpart to the orchestra, especially when one considers the work's opening as described above. However, in fact, they instead extend the orchestral sound, prolonging it into the acoustic space ? and this happens an several levels. On the one hand, there are the live electronics in part III: the sound of the percussion is altered by pitch?shifting and ring modulators. But the recordings produced in advance that are used in the other parts are based an instrumental sounds that have been reworked and distorted by the computer. With the contrabass clarinet, the trombone, cello and piano, each orchestral section is represented by a deep instrument that is particularly rich in overtones and that was particularly suitable for the most varied treatment. Thus, real and electronic sounds intermingle, and at times, it becomes unclear as to what is sounding live or out of the computer. On the other hand, Kelterborn has composed the electronic part using musical gestures similar to those one would employ when writing for a normal instrument. The descriptions that he has added in the score regarding the electronics could even apply to a standard orchestral part: 'A high "whistling" sound'; '(deep) rattling in the bass'; 'only high sounds (rapid, with overtones)' ? these, for example, are taken from part VI. All that is missing is the direction 'espressivo' ? but this, of course, could only apply to a human musician, not a computer. But otherwise, the electronics are just as emotional in import as the rest of the score.

Thus, one cannot assign a firm 'rôle' to either the orchestral or the electronic level. More important are the cross?references in the sound material itself, e.g. the opposition of excited and static elements. The rapid movements that run into the sound wall in the first movement reappear in the second movement; but softly,
in a disparate manner, without electronics, superimposed upon one another in the dual form of vague, scurrying shapes and long, held notes. In the third movement, a band of sound around the note F sharp is dissolved into individual, moving lines; this is brought about an the one hand by nervous groups of notes in the centre of the orchestral texture, and an the other, through the live electronics. It is almost impossible to discern here what comes from where. After this relatively unified composition, the fourth movement again seems to want to break out of the dark, nocturnal areas of sound. This impression is enhanced in the extremely heterogenous fifth part. The rapid movement of individual instruments is reminiscent of the opening, but it soon becomes clear that the music is moving in another direction. A restful layer of different lines at first acquires importance; but gradually, the pulse quickens, until the movement ends, with harsh accents, in a completely different place.

The sixth movement turns the first an its head: a multi?facetted, rapidly?moving electronic part climaxes in a pianissimo wall of orchestral sound. Here, we meet once again the marimba tremolos of the fourth movement and the scurrying bass clarinet phrases of the second. Then the work seems about to close 'al niente'. But no matter how closed and symmetrical all these inner connections might make the work appear, it nevertheless opens up once more. A new element appears, so that, in fact, a new work could begin. The baritone, who has sat for so long in the midst of the orchestra, inactive, now sings 'molto tranquillo' and 'sotto voce' from Petrarch's Canzoniere 164:

Or che'I ciel e la terra e'I vento tace
E le fere e gli augelli sonno affrena,
Notte il carro stellato in giro mena,
E nel suo letto il mar senz'onda giace;

Vegghio, penso, ardo...

'Now that heaven, earth and wind are silent / now that sleep calms bird and beast, / the night sends its starry plough an its circular path / and the sea rests an its bed, unmoved by the waves; / I wake, and I think, and I glow...'
These last words, writes the musicologist Anton Haefeli, become 'a cryptic, but all?encompassing self?portrait of the composer'

Nameless, the title of these 'Six compositions', points to a certain conflict. Rudolf Kelterborn, for whom time and again poetry has been a major concern, and who is one of the most important Swiss opera composers, in fact mistrusts speaking about music. This is the reason for the work's title. 'Every listener can thus let his own imagination unfold unfettered. As a result of this, I also refrained from giving character descriptions to the individual movements. And I most certainly won't let myself be led into describing or explaining my new work ? neither its content, its atmosphere nor its formal structures.' And, above all, 'I find it almost incomprehensible that one is consistently asked what a piece of music actually means, and what one wanted to say with it. Dragging in extra?musical background often seems to me to be an escape from the high demands that complex music makes an the listener'

Thus the title 'Concerto' above the other two works an this CD could be interpreted as a neutral term, were there not a whole tradition behind it. But here, one should not draw any comparisons with other works from music history. Kelterborn neither lets himself be led by the usual concerto form, nor did he compose a dialogue between solo and orchestra. In the Concerto for Cello and Orchestra in one movement (1998?9), the old notion of 'concertare' ? the opposition between an individual and the collective ? is broken up and layered. To be sure, the solo instrument dominates, especially in a highly expressive interpretation such as that of the work's dedicatee Ivan Monighetti. But time and again it forms chamber?like constellations with other instruments, while at other moments, it sets oft orchestral thrusts. There are few purely orchestral passages.

At the beginning, the cello rises up from out of the deep sounds of tamtam and harp and unfolds a monologue in which it is then joined by certain other instruments. We will come across this manner of layering sound again, later in the work. The solo then seems occasionally to emerge again from these depths, charged with renewed energy. At the close, the high melody of the solo instrument is punctuated once more by such deep, individual notes an tamtam, percussion and harp. It is a vague reminiscence of the work's opening, while the cello itself ? using the same pitches as at the beginning ? has reached a different place. These references can also serve to demonstrate how interlinked this music is in its inner structures, through the use of motives such as that with which the cello enters, but also through the use of leading motives and sound fields. In the course of the music, however, we reach stations that are quite different from each other, and which evoke emotions in surprising, contrasting ways. One can barely focus the impression that the work creates but that is presumably how it is supposed to be.

Structural relationships and contrasts are even clearer in the Chamber Concerto for Clarinet (bass clarinet) and fourteen instruments from 1999, with its two movements that are, an the surface, of opposing character. Their 'equivalency', however, only becomes clear upon listening to the work several times over. The two movements are completely different in the way they begin ? and yet, as the composer has written, they both 'have a clear, more or less regular pulse' ? in the Agitato, this is hurried, high, staccato, dry and loud; while in the second movement ? Grave ? it is dark, broad, slow, sonorous yet quiet. The clarinet is here exchanged for the bass clarinet. Thus, contrasting elements are bound to each other.

Despite its superficially clear structure, this chamber concerto, so rich in variety, defies straighttorward verbal description. If one thinks that in the Agitato, after the legatissimo melody of the clarinet (only occasionally interrupted), the music would remain tranquillo, then one would be disappointed. It breaks out again, even though it seemed before to have come to rest, and it ends in disparity. The opening of the Grave movement thus seems all the more mysterious, and the music gradually brightens up. Neither movement seems to want to appear self?contained, but rather to travel from A to B, leading us to a quite different place.

Rudolf Kelterborn's music is verbal in character and dramatic, but contains so many contradictions that we cannot filter out from it a literary content or a simple story. It is clearly structured, is full of interconnections and yet is constantly in a state of transition and impossible to anticipate. One of its basic concerns is a multiplicity of emotional content in the context of structural self?containment. Its endings ? often an important indication of content ? display openness. This was already demonstrated in the case of Nameless. In the two concerti, the solo part takes the principal role in the end, but it is'contradicted' in differentways: in the Chamber Concerto, this occurs with heavy blows that seem to smother the dolce of the solo; in the Cello Concerto, this is achieved through the indistinct deep voices that contrast with the almost angelic cello part. Beauty and repose are not taken as given. There is no rest for the
just. I wake, and I think, and I glow

Thomas Meyer