Music and Vision homepage Classical Music Programme Notes for concerts and recordings, by Malcolm Miller

 

<<  -- 4 --  Sissy von Kotzebue    PAS DE POSTHORN

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In the third movement of the third symphony, which contains the posthorn, Mahler imitates the atmosphere in the forest by using animal sounds and a bird-song motive in a kind of folk song style. He quotes from one of the Wunderhorn lieder (Ablösung -- 'Changeover') about a cuckoo falling to death that is replaced by a nightingale. Contrastingly, as a signal, the posthorn brings on a new dimension. Acoustically, it provides depth through coming from afar. It is the human influence, interrupting nature's process previously undisturbed. And the posthorn, symbol of yearning and also of transience, evokes a counter-world with a higher sense beyond life and death.

Neumeier sets this as a kind of folk dance scene. The ensemble is dressed all in red, dancing in pairs as though at a popular fête. Gestures and movements seem naïve and rustic. As the posthorn sounds, a pair of soloists in grey dresses emerges, dancing in a more 'cultivated' style. After the first Posthorn episode, this pair remains static, while the others go on dancing as before. When the posthorn is played for the second time, Neumeier does something very interesting: Like Mahler, he creates two different worlds. There are two pairs of dancers on stage, one dressed in red, one dressed in pale grey. Standing in front of the ensemble that continues with its folk dance, both pairs display a very similar pas de deux. The red pair moves more like their rustic colleagues, with big and rather angular movements. The grey pair is like a mirror abstracting the image of the red pair. Especially the lifts are elaborated, to give the impression of a world beyond our understanding.

Wonderful here Anna Polikarpova and Ivan Urban as the grey couple. Their pas de deux was optically, as technically, absolutely perfect. The two light blondes in their pale grey tricots provided such a contrast to the red ensemble that they seemed to be optical phenomena. As two of the best dancers of the Hamburg Ballet, their performance, especially the lifts, often left the impression of achieving the impossible.

The fourth movement again begins with silence. A woman in the back part of the stage moves about as though she were caught in a nightmare. Somewhere out of nothing comes a voice singing that text from Nietzsche's Zarathustra:

aus: Also sprach Zarathustra

from: Thus Spoke Zarathustra

O Mensch! Gib acht!
Was spricht die tiefe Mitternacht?
Ich schlief, ich schlief!

Aus tiefstem Traum bin ich erwacht!
Die Welt ist tief!
Und tiefer als der Tag gedacht!
Tief ist ihr Weh!
Lust -- tiefer noch als Herzeleid!
Weh spricht: Vergeh!
Doch alle Lust will Ewigkeit!
Will tiefe, tiefe Ewigkeit!
Be aware, o man!
What does deep midnight declare?
I was asleep, I was asleep.

From a deep dream I woke.
The world is deep.
Deeper than the day had thought.
Deep is its woe.
But ecstasy is deeper yet than agony.
Woe says: Be gone!
But joy aims at eternity.
At deep, deep eternity.

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Copyright © 13 July 2004 Sissy von Kotzebue, Germany

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