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A Chimera

Music for speaker, soprano and seven instruments
Lyrics: → Adam Ważyk

dedicated to → Gustavo Becerra-Schmidt

flute, trombone, guitar, vibraphone, piano, violin, double bass
ca. 12 min.
comp. and FP 1990, rev. 1994

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The piece is dedicated to my professor Gustavo Becerra-Schmidt and was premiered at a festive concert for his 65th birthday. The short speech at this occasion goes as follows:

“Dear Gustavo,
I met you four years ago when I took my first exam, the admission test for non high-school graduates, during which I played my minor studies on a Chopin Prelude. I still did not know what exactly I wanted to do, only that I wanted to break free from my carpenter existence and that I was eager to learn! You told me that I was a composer and that at the age of 32 I should already know what I wanted to become.
That was one of the few moments in which I was not quite sure whether you were right.
Since then I have learned much from you and composing has fascinated more and more. Maybe that is why the piece you are about to hear is called 'Ein Hirngespinst' (= a chimera). Then again what is composing, or what is music if not the creation of chimeras.
But there is also another connection:
When the generals started the putsch in Chile, 1971, this meant going into exile for you since you could not return home. At the same time I, a sixteen year old apprentice, got into my first political lawsuit for participating in a Chile demonstration.
Alone due to this connection your mind fascinates me – a mind which not only analyzes but also undermines self made and inherited mythology, and which finds in conceivable distances of ideological or esoteric bonding the social situation of humans – and which unites itself there with an idea of a better live together.
I found a piece of this skeptical, doubtfully, and still utopian thinking in a text by Adam Ważyk, a Polish poet: skepticism, alienation from all the lies we are told by existing ideologies, and still or exactly because of this being able to hold on to one’s own dreams, utopias, one’s own chimeras.
My 'Hirngespinst' for you creates another connection: your first symphony, which you wrote in my year of birth, has – as you revealed in one of your seminars – an unsaid program. You pose herein the question of the own identity. Hence the twelve note-series of your first symphony determines both the arrangement of the tone pitch as well as the formal composition in my 'Hirngespinst'.“

This twelve note-series from Gustavo Beccera-Schmidt’s first symphony (1955) runs through each instrument – and the vocals are treated here as an instrument through and through – as an unisonous line in the course of the piece a single time, however it fans itself up to a point where eight different notes sound simultaneously. In the course of the piece other layers come to the foreground: A differentiation of intensity, timbre, different forms of vibrato and nuances of intonation are brought together into a shape of itself with its own energy. At the same time the music is interrupted by breaks, general pauses and new approaches. Continuity never sets in. The last note of the series sounds as a constant metre. The individual tones only vary from each other in a different octave position and in a different choice of instrument. Some of these metrically played tones have a grace note. These redisplay the series again.
As the piece moves along the music refers to the spoken text of the polish author Adam Wazyk, which is performed in a segmented manner. I reinterpreted this text by the communist and early critic of the existing communism in 1990: I believe it to be an expression of the mental state of a person, who loses the illusions of the socialism, whose dreams are shattered, whose lies are revealed, whose irrational streaks have just been proven wrong, and who has now discovered, that – despite the need for rationality – without dream, without utopias, without “Hirngespinste” the human being cannot live. Therefore, the search continues.
In 1994 I revised the piece. In doing so the tonal differentiation was clearly acuminated.


You cannot make me believe, my dear,
that a lion is a lamb.
You cannot make me believe,
that the lamb is a lion.
I do not believe in magical conjurations,
or in a sterile mind.
But I believe that the table only has four legs.
And I believe that the fifth leg is a chimera.
And when that chimeras evaporates, my dear,
the human being dies of a broken heart.

von Adam Ważyk

And here the polish original version:

Nie uwierzę, mój drogi, że lew jest jagnięciem,
Nie uwierzę, mój drogi, że jagnię jest lwem!
Nie uwierzę, mój drogi, w magiczne zaklęcie,
nie uwierzę w rozumy trzymane pod szkłem,
ale wierzę, że stół ma tylko cztery nogi,
ale wierzę, że piąta noga to chimera,
a kiedy się chimery zlatują, mój drogi,
wtedy człowiek powoli na serce umiera.


First performance:
30th November, 1990: Anniversary concert in honor of Gustavo Becerra-Schmidt's 65th birthday, Carl von Ossietzky-Universität Oldenburg; → oh ton ensemble: → Gunther Nickel - Speaker, → Ulrike Janßen - Sopr, → Burkhard Wild - Fl, → Jan-Peter Sonntag - Tbn, → Eberhard Nehlsen - Git, → Axel Fries - Vibr, → Eckart Beinke - Pno, → Barbara Martyna-Lauerwald - Vl, → Ralf Santo - Db, Friedemann Schmidt-Mechau - Cond.

further performances:
10. Dezember 2010: In Memoriam Gustavo Becerra-Schmidt, Carl von Ossietzky-Universität Oldenburg;
Ensemble: → Marlene Achtermann - Speaker, → Ulrike Janßen - Sopr, → Burkhard Wild - Fl, → Andreas Lüken - Tbn, → Eberhard Nehlsen - Git, → Axel Fries - Vibr, → Werner Barho - Pno, → Ulla Levens - Vl, → Ralf Santo - Db, Friedemann Schmidt-Mechau - Cond.


Newspaper “Nordwest-Zeitung“, Oldenburg (4th Dezember, 1990)

Three premiers were the highlight of the program
Gala concert for Gustavo Beccera-Schmidt at the university
by → Christiane Maaß

(...) “Ein Hirngespinst für Gustavo“ was both the title and dedication of a small fantasy of Friedemann Schmidt-Mechau. Based on the twelve tone-series of the first symphony of his longtime composition teacher, Schmidt-Mechau also borrows the content of this symphony: the connection between the question of identity with the question of a political reality. The audience observed the highly graphic structure of the piece with extreme suspension: the constantly refracted and segmented text, the development of a musical figure through rhythmical and contrapuntal layering of the individual voices, of which each one runs through the twelve tone-series once in the course of the piece. “And when that chimeras evaporates, the human being dies of a broken heart”. An emotional interjection at this point of the piece proved, that the audience also understood the message of the text. A successful premier – especially due to the commitment of the excellent ensemble, formed by members of the association for encouragement of up to date music in the providence. (...)