Programme Notes – Weimar (2000)

The Weimar Republic covered the brief and chaotic years in Germany’s history from the end of the First World War to the rise of Hitler in 1933. These years were characterised politically and socially by extreme instability and turbulence, and artistically by a unique boldness and a new awareness of the political climate. For many, including myself the Weimar Republic is associated with the Berlin of Marlene Dietrich, Fritz Lang, Brecht/Weill, the cigar smoking, gin swilling Sally Bowles… A glorious, frenetic and dangerously illegal final late-night celebration in the face of utter catastrophe.

In this work my musical mentors have been Alban Berg, Paul Hindemith, Kurt Weill and perhaps most importantly Duke Ellington who, I’m sure would have gone down fantastically well at the time, and who provided me with the melody that was the initial inspiration for this piece: ‘Creole Love Call’. ‘ Weimar ‘ is in one movement of about sixteen minutes’ duration. There are four sections: the opening part is very fast and frantic, like a speeded up silent film. There follows a tender and illicit love scene between the oboe and the tenor saxophone, which is crudely cut short by a depiction of the sickening banality of the National Socialists and their grotesque leader. The final section starts with a piercing and despairing melody that sinks into jazz inflected ‘scat’ singing for two wordless sopranos. The mood of the end of the piece is defiant, sensual and sleazy – the party will always continue however dark the forces of evil.

‘Weimar’ was commissioned by the Purcell School with funds provided by the RVW trust. It was given its first performed at the Adrian Boult hall in Birmingham in 2000, by the Purcell School Contemporary Music Ensemble conducted by Edward Longstaff.