In Memoriam for contralto, baritone, mixed choir & small orchestra
Reznicek, Emil Nikolaus von
Emil Nikolaus von Rezniçek
(b. Vienna, 4. May 1860 – d. Berlin, 2. August 1945)
The reprint of Reznicek’s In Memoriam introduces us to the creative context of an Austrian musician who had established hinself in Berlin in the first decade of the 20th century and shared the intense artistic life of the German capital. During this period the composer was involved in multifaceted musical activties. While working as a noted conductor he simultanously composed In Memoriam, maintaining a musical aesthetic close to tonality. In his works, he promoted a conservative musical idiom and avoided any atonal influence.
Composed in 1915 and premiered on July 2nd, 1916 in Schwerin, In Memoriam illustrates a musical stage that is characterized by two events in Reznicek’s life: his move to Berlin in 1909 and the illness and death of his second wife Bertha Reznicek in 1911. His Berlin years were one of the most fruitful and versatile periods in the composer’s life. After accepting the position of the principal conductor of the Komische Oper in Berlin in 1909, Reznicek’s musical recognition was so widespread that he was nominated supernumerary academic member of the Academy of Arts and, a year later, was appointed as Full professor at the Berlin Hoschschule. As a consequence of this musical activity, Reznicek at the same time strengthened his bonds of friendship with Richard Strauss and participated 1932 in the creation of the Ständiger Rat für Internationale Zusammenarbait der Komponisten with the intention to preserve the tonal aesthetics of contemporary music
Despite the musical consolidation of Reznicek’s career in Berlin, the death of Bertha Reznicek in 1911 changed the musical style of the composer and moved his language towards a funeral symbolism. The narrative development of symphonic poems such as Der Sieger (1913) or Frieden (1914) exemplifies this aesthetic approach and specifies the reference to death as a constitutive element of the musical process. Thus, Reznicek associated human loss with a secular intention and dealt with his own pain in a musical production that is conditioned by the historical context of the First World War.
The analysis of Der Sieger (1913) or Frieden (1914) illustrates this type of funeral symbolism. Specifically, in Der Sieger Reznicek entitled his third movement Death (Der Tod) and articulated it in a set of five sections that are derived from the different stages of a funeral. Entitled Horror (Das Grauen), Death (Der Tod), Procession of Death (Der Zug des Todes), The Death Dances (Der Tod Tanzt), and Cradle Song (Wiegenlied). The development of the third movement in Der Sieger offers a secular interpretation of human loss and promotes a sarcastic tone as a theatrical effect. At the same time and opposed to the irony of Der Sieger, Reznicek uses dreamlike reflections for the composition of Frieden and creates a symphonic poem that is based on death as a vision. In a quotation by Reznicek that was published in Der Merker in 1919, Frieden places the death in a war context, the final stage of which is peace. The idea of the soldier in the battle contextualizes this work and presages In Memoriam as an aestetic model permeatd by the consequences of death in the First World War: “It occurred on December 20, 1913 – I remember the exact day, because I noted it in the score. I dreamt the following – I was a soldier. After a bloody battle! I lay mortally wounded upon the battlefield among thousands of fellow sufferers. The groans and cries of those calling for help and water penetrated horribly throughout the night, out of the distance sounded signals, drum rolls and the thunder of the guns of the pursuit. Watch fires flared up, the despoilers (hyenas) of the slaughter field pounced upon us defenseless sacrifices. A gigantic figure, death, on horseback, rode slowly across the corpses. I writhed in a feverish delirium. Suddenly, as though by magic, it grew light around me. I am at home with my family, peace has been declared, the people rush jubilantly together in order to celebrate the happy event, bells sound their bronze tones, the solemn song of the faithful flows from the churches, everything unites in a tumultuous crescendo of happiness. Suddenly it becomes clear to me that all of this is a vision, a deception, a birth of my sick, overheated imagination. It becomes dark again around me, the jubilation has died away; I lie upon the battlefield and – die! At this moment I awake. On the next day I began the outline of my symphonic creation “Frieden” which then unfortunately became reality through the political events of the years 1914-1918. (Reznicek, Emil Nikolaus von. “Frieden eine Vision,” in “Werkeinführung durch den Komponisten.” Der Merker: Österreichischer Zeitschrift für Musik und Theater 11 (December 1919), p. 636.) …
Read full preface > HERE