In his most recent concerto for violin and contraforte, Georg Friedrich Haas deals with Beethoven’s tinnitus as the symbol of an apocalyptic threat. Commissioned by the Beethovenfest Bonn, the Menuhin Festival Gstaad, the Kammerorchester Basel, and the Konzerthaus Berlin to celebrate the composer’s birthday, Haas’s piece Was mir Beethoven erzählt
now sees its premiere – one year late due to the pandemic – with Carolin Widmann and Lorelei Dowling, as well as the Kammerorchester Basel and Sylvain Cambreling.
konzertante symphonische Dichtung für Violine, Kontraforte und Orchester
vl.contraforte - 18.104.22.168 - 22.214.171.124 - timp.2perc - acc - 126.96.36.199.3
WP: 09.09.2021, Bonn
(violin), Lorelei Dowling
(contraforte), Kammerorchester Basel
, Sylvain Cambreling
(cond.), Beethovenfest Bonn
Further performances planned at Menuhin Festival Gstaad and Konzerthaus Berlin
Beethoven’s “deafness” was not silent. Quite the opposite; he was constantly tortured by loud sounds produced by his auditory system. We can find some of it in his compositions, in the chains of trills in the Waldstein Sonata for example. That he was able to create his art in light of this is unbelievably great…
I understand this tinnitus of a symbol of what is happening in the world right now: The gruesome, growing strength of European fascism, the growing inhumanity, the helplessness in the face of change, of the redistribution of wealth from bottom to top, the deliberate dumbing-down of the masses, the mockery of reason, and the killing of solidarity.
It is not just the chains of high-frequency trills, but throbs, knocks, and drones – everything will try to fill up Beethoven’s fragile art. But Beethoven’s work survived his illness, and humanity too, will survive the malaise of our day.
Two solo instruments are set against the orchestra: The violin – one of the oldest orchestral instruments – and the contraforte, perhaps one of the youngest, first presented in 2004 as a substantial improvement to the contrabassoon. The two instruments have only a few notes in common – not even an octave. They could not be more opposite.
Ultimately, I am concerned not with darkness and despair, but with hope and light.
—Georg Friedrich Haas
Photos: Lennard Rühle, Lukas Beck