European American Music Distributors Company is a member of the Schott Music Group

Michael Hersch

... das Rückgrat berstend

for violin/voice and violoncello

(2017)
Duration11'
CommissionCommissioned by Patricia Kopatchinskaja
PremiereOctober 9, 2017; Park Avenue Armory, New York City; Patricia Kopatchinskaja, violin/voice • Jay Campbell, violoncello
PublisherPSNY

Media

Program Note

…das Rückgrat berstend 

Program Note by Christopher Hailey

When Patricia Kopatchinskaja commissioned Michael Hersch to write a piece combining vocal and instrumental performance he selected fragments of poems by Christopher Middleton (1926-2015), a poet whose works he had often quoted in his scores but never actually set in his music. “For many years,” Hersch recalls, “I felt the impact of Middleton’s poetry was most acute in the mind’s ear and eye. This changed for me after his passing, and for the first time I felt a strong desire to bring the texts out into the air, so to speak.”  …das Rückgrat berstend is a work for both eye and ear, the interiority of thought and the communicative urgency of gesture. Its elements – words, voice, instruments – are at once independent and contingent, separate spheres that are amplified through nuanced interaction.

Middleton’s texts create a narrative structure, an evocative series of images that takes us from agitation (‘rushing,’ ‘onhurled,’ ‘grope,’ ‘probe’) into violence (‘exploding,’ ‘tear off,’ ‘howl,’ ‘tumble’) and on toward oblivion (‘emptiness,’ ‘absence,’ and ‘abyss’). At Kopatchinskaja’s request these texts were translated into German – surprisingly appropriate as Middleton was himself an acclaimed translator of German poetry. (…das Rückgrat berstend, in turn, became the basis for the opening section of Hersch's elegy, I hope we get a chance to visit soon, in which Middleton’s original texts and the German translation are sung simultaneously).

The speaker’s rhythmic declamation, often unaccompanied, is meticulously notated and replete with detailed performance instructions (‘a strong whisper,’ ‘add grit to voice,’ ‘full, assertive, a slight sense of alarm,’ ‘deliberately, stoically’) – along with an injunction against excessive dramatization. The carefully differentiated treatment of the vocal line extends in equal measure to the instrumental writing which calls for multiple extended techniques (fingernail pizzicato, col legno, varying degrees of sul ponticello, unbowed trilling, bowing sul tasto, over the bridge, and on the body of instrument), as well as a wide array of expressive effects (flautando, ‘metallic sound,’ ‘whining quality,’ and ‘scream-like’).

Hersch grants his performers a certain degree of rhythmic flexibility but insists upon scrupulous adherence to dynamics (from pppp to fff), metronome markings, and full duration given to all values. The clear intent is to impose a deliberate pace that encourages close attention both to Middleton’s imagery and to each precisely calculated musical detail. For much of the piece the violin and cello move in tandem, creating clustered sonorities with only occasional outbursts, usually in the violin and often between lines of text. These tight, grinding clusters with micro-tonal inflections sensitize the ear to the open intervals, such as the pizzicato fifths in the cello that accompany the line “Nicht viel da, um Halt zu geben/“Not much to hold on to” A striking fermata marks this as the work’s central inflection point. It is followed by the only passage that is sung (without vibrato, ‘as if not a trained singer’): “Was gibt es da zu fassen ausser Verlassenheit”/“What is there to catch but absence,” a falling line that ends with a plunge to a half-spoken conclusion (‘projected in an anguished but brutal manner’). After the evocation of loss and emptiness in the closing lines there is another haunting silence. … das Rückgrat berstend concludes with an extended instrumental coda: a varied recapitulation of the opening bars of the work, three frenzied eruptions in the violin, and a slow descent into the abyss. 

– Christopher Hailey

On the Web

Purchase

?
Types of Products

Full Score/Violin Part (Digital)

Full score and Solo Part (Digital)

Full Score/Performance Score (includes 3 copies) (Digital)

Full Score/Performance Score (2 required for performance) (Print)

Full Score/Performance Score (2 required for performance) (Digital)

Full Score (3 scores needed for performance) (Digital)

Full Score (3 scores needed for performance) (Print)

Parts (Mov. 11 only) (Print)

Full Score (4 needed for performance) (Print)

Choral Score Set - 20 copies (Print)

Chamber Ensemble Score (Print)

Piano Reduction and solo parts (Digital)

Choral Score Set - 16 copies (Print)
Includes 8 copies of the soprano/alto part and 8 copies of the tenor/bass part.

Score and part (Digital)

Score and part (Print)

Conductor Score (Print)

Full Score/Violin Part (Print)

Full Score/Performance Score (includes 3 copies) (Print)

Study Score in Two Volumes (Print)

Piano reduction and solo part (Print)

Piano/Vocal Score (Print)

Piano/Vocal Score (Digital)

Video and instructions (Digital)

Score and Parts (Digital)
Score and part PDF files are delivered via email upon receipt. Any electronic files associated with the work are included with every purchase.

Soprano/Alto Part (Print)

Full Score (Digital)
A PDF file of the full score is delivered via email upon receipt.

Full Score (Print)
A print edition of the score ships to the customer's address upon receipt.

Tenor/Bass Part (Print)

Parts (Digital)
A PDF file of the part(s) is delivered via email upon receipt.

Parts (Print)
A print edition of the part(s) ship to the customer's address upon receipt.

Solo Instrument Score (Digital)
A score PDF file is delivered via email upon receipt. Any electronic files associated with the work are included with every purchase. An email containing a link to download the electronic files is sent to the customer's email address.

Full Score/Performance Score (Digital)
The full score serves as a performance score for all players. A score PDF file is delivered via email upon receipt. Any electronic files associated with the work are included with every purchase. An email containing a link to download the electronic files is sent to the customer's email address.

Score and Parts (Print)
A print edition of the score and part(s) ship to the customer's address upon receipt. Any electronic files associated with the work are included with every purchase. The email containing a link to download the electronic files is sent to the customer.

Solo Instrument Score (Print)
A print edition of the score is shipped to the customer's address upon receipt. Any electronic files associated with the work are included with every purchase. An email containing a link to download the electronic files is sent to the customer's email address.

Full Score/Performance Score (Print)
The full score serves as a performance score for all players. Print edition(s) of the full score/performance score are shipped to the customer's address upon receipt. Multiple copies are included if the work has more than one player. Any electronic files associated with the work are included with every purchase.

Choral Score (Digital)
A PDF file of the choral score is delivered via email upon receipt. The set is priced to allow multiple copies of the PDF to be printed for performance by the purchasing organization only.

Choral Score Set- 8 copies (Print)
Minimum order quantity is 8 copies. Single copies are not available.

SATB choral score (Print)

Vocal Score (Digital)

Vocal Score (Print)

Choral Score (Print)

Full Score and Solo Part (Print)
A print edition of the score and solo part ships to the customer's address upon receipt.

Mezzo-soprano, 2 tenors, baritone score (Print)

Study Score (Print)

Study Score (Digital)

SATB choral score (Digital)

Mezzo-soprano, 2 tenors, baritone score (Digital)