4 Schiller Vierzeiler
For unaccompanied mixed choir
SATB a cappella (with divisi) & S + T soli
These pieces were commissioned by Paul J. Roßmann and Schillerchor, Berlin in 2022, premiered in April 2023. In conversations with Paul we discussed the idea of choral pieces setting texts by Schiller for use of the Schillerchor, who rehearse in Schillerkiez in Berlin.
After delving into the poetry of Friedrich Schiller, his quatrains spoke to me, both because of their interesting and varied subjects but also their conciseness. The themes of liberty and idealism (but without its more contemporary negative connotations) are scattered throughout the poems but also in general in Schiller’s works and they played a key role in the formation of the music.
Musical freedom is something I explore within 4 Schiller Vierzeiler. The first and second pieces focus the most on this, with the use of completely free form passages for the voices, where they must sing their phrases individually, but also the use of coordinated uncoupling of the individual voices within a part, allowing the sound to broaden and blur.
Beauty was also something that Schiller focussed on in his work. Freedom was a major component of this, but Schiller also argued that in order for us to judge an object beautiful, we must know about its inherent qualities, and whether it is a self-determining object – meaning whether it is free from external forces and is allowed to express its inner nature. For the third movement I wanted to explore and challenge this idea by on the one hand allowing the rhythm to fall naturally from the speech-pattern of the lyrics themselves, while on the other underlying this, creating a strict harmonic structure that was only allowed to be strayed from at two points. The movement sets a tritone between the innermost parts, with the words ‘Schönheit’ and ‘Freude’ being the only moments where freedom of chord and ‘beautiful’ harmonies are allowed to appear. The aim being to explore the beauty of dissonance within the freedom of textual expression, which for the content of the quatrain I feel is quite fitting.
The final piece has its root in an ever-rising phrase structure, painting the textual picture of the poem in music and is a resolute tribute to the poet and philosopher whose words captured the imagination of the German people.