In Dark Hours, Karl Amadeus Hartmann

Whatever happens this November 8th, we are in for disturbing times. In Britain, we should be remembering The People’s Court where judges dutifully carried out The Will of the People. Democracy is not the Triumph of the Will, nor the Rule of the Mob.  Farage is calling for mass marches on Parliament and/or the Courts of Law. Pitchforks and firebrands may not be so far away.  I could post pics of the Nazi People’s Court, but I’m just so sick of fascist aggro that I won’t. 

At times like these, we should draw faith from those whose lone voices withstood the tide, no matter how isolated they were. As always, Karl Amadeus Hartmann to the fore.  I’ve written extensively about him in the past. In Gesangsszene, he writes about the collapse of capitalism and civilized society. Read more here.   In Simplicius Simplicissimuss, he uses medievalism as cover for a savage indictment of war and false fuhrers.  Read more here and here.  And thus to Hartmann’s Symphonische Hymnen written in 1943, when things must have seemed very dark indeed.  It is part of a triptych, the Sinfoniae drammaticae which was published in 1975, having been hidden among Hartmann’s effects during his lifetime.  Symphonische Hymnen begins in turbulence, with sharp angular chords, like shards of glass in an explosion.  Fleet-footed figures swirl, as if tossed in a maelstrom. Violent pounding ostinato: but from which a delicate theme arises.  The line wavers : at the lower registers, it’s firmly assertive rising again from a brief, violent interruption.  Gradually the solo line is reinforced by strings. As the piece progresses the angular chords return, this time dissipating into low, growling rumbles, brass accentuated by timpani.  A slow, quiet passage. Are we in the heart of the beast ?  The winds lead us slowly forward. A crash of cymbals and more low rumbling. The orchestra explodes again, but this time with frantic energy, ellipses on brass, whipping figures in the strings and a kind of staccato dance, which gives way to surprisingly beautiful moments of quasi-melody.  Do we hear metallic bells  what are these flurries of circular sound. The “dance” returns, wilder and more exuberant.  Sudden ominous silence, from which marching ostinato figures emerge. Whatever these may mean, the piece ends with manic flourish. 

Original Source: In Dark Hours, Karl Amadeus Hartmann

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