commentary to opus 89a

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Concertante Music for Guitar and String Quartet, op. 89a (1989)

I. Andante beginning

II. Burlesque

III. Arioso

IV. Finale beginning


Dedication: for Michael Tröster

First performance: March 11, 1990, Schweinfurt, Rathausdiele
Pia-Maria Grees / Susan Nesbet / Anne Christ / Duncan Emck / Adrian Jones

Duration: 23 Minutes

Publisher: Vogt & Fritz VF 1060 / ISMN M 2026-1283-5
Errata: score and parts: III. Arioso, bar 32: last quarter pause omitted. IV. Finale: bar 16: guitar and violin parts must be exchanged.

THOROFON classics CTH 2212


In the first movement, Andante, a twelve-tone theme is played above a pedal-point g, initially by viola and violoncello. The guitar continues the episode in a quasi recitative style. Above a pedal-point E (bar 11), the mirror version enters; the theme is now with both violins. The guitar recitative also takes the inverted form. In bar 21, the first four tones appear in closely following entries; above the pedal-point A the twelve-tone theme joins on in the guitar, leading to a chorale-like phase (bar 31) with F-sharp major tonality at the close. The guitar enters again with the recitative idea. A repeat of the chorale episode ends with B major. A series of triads (from bar 47), drawing on all the chromatic material, signals the approaching end of the movement. The twelve-tone row (from bar 54) appears for the last time and a completely chromatic sound results from held notes in the strings.
The Burlesque (2nd movement) takes the popular street-song "O, du lieber Augustin" as its starting point. A turbulent sixteenth-note motion provides the necessary contrast to the metamorphoses of the song, tonal clichés known to guitarists everywhere appear, only to be swept away or subjected to sceptical questioning. Grandiose closing gestures end the movement.
In the 3rd movement, Arioso sections, introduced with baroque standard formulas, are separated, interrupted and closed by episodes of static sound or of quasi recitative character.
The conclusion comes as a concertante Finale with rondo character. A jazz-like theme over pulsating basses contrasts with a somewhat grotesque march episode leading to a cadenza for guitar. A kind of reprise follows with development of different ideas from the 1st movement. The peaceful coda contains a surprising close.

Bertold Hummel


f.l.: Adrian Jones, Susan Nesbet, Anne Christ, Pia-Maria Grees, Duncan Emck, Bertold Hummel
Schweinfurt, 11.03.1990

The Concertante Music by Bertold Hummel shows signs of influence from the Second Vienna School. The first movement of the work is clearly determined by twelve-tone structures. A twelve-tone row is heard four times. Right at the beginning, it is intoned in unison in viola and 'cello. After an intermediate section for guitar, which, like the following interludes, loosely uses fragments of the row, the basic row is entrusted to the high strings - in a new mode, however, in inversion. A further interlude is heard, ending with a tremolo passage in the strings. Now the guitar presents the row, transposing it initially from G to A, then in new rhythmical guise to E. A final interlude, marked by strong dynamic contrasts and closing once again with tremolo in the strings, passes before the listener; then the row is put through its fourth exposition. The individual tones of the twelve-tone melody are this time not in the charge of a single instrument but wander through the all the parts involved, a procedure already used by Anton Webern: see, for example, the final movement of his first cantata.
To the strict architecture of the introductory Andante, the second movement provides a sharp contrast, marked as it is by exuberant playing and musical humour. The burlesque expression is strengthened not inconsiderably by the quotations from the street-song "O, du lieber Augustin" and its grotesque metamorphoses. Uniting himself in song with the world of "Augustin", Hummel once again reveals his ties with the Vienna school. For Schoenberg also bowed respectfully to the song from old Vienna and its hero when he quoted it in his second string quartet.
The third movement of the Concertante Music, entitled Arioso, also takes the form of a kind of journey into the past. Spinning continuous threads of melody and with recurring touches of counterpoint, he leads the listener into the Baroque.
Concluding, the Finale has a rondo form. Dance-like passages, whose pulsating rhythms seem to be inspired by vivacious South American music, join in effervescent contest, punctuated occasionally by lyrical passages. The final word is granted to the dance-like element: after some glissandos, traversing a seventh, it reappears for the last time - in sublimated form, so to speak - in the harmonics of the guitar.

Matthias Henke

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