Bernd Alois Zimmermann – Die Soldaten

Bernd Alois Zimmermann – Die Soldaten

Bernd Alois Zimmermann - Die Soldaten
Bernd Alois Zimmermann – Die Soldaten

listeenThis is to frighten my hypothetical music lover of goodwill wanting to discover contemporary music. Maybe he succeeded in listening to Wozzeck, even Moïse and Aaron, and here we propose to him to discover a work with a booklet even more morbid than that of Wozzeck, and a music even more complicated, mixing serial language, jazz, concrete and electronic music. Moreover, it is quite simple, Sawallisch and Wand declared this music unplayable…Some arguments are presented here to encourage the listening, taken from the recording of creation by the forces of Cologne under Michael Gielen in 1965.First of all the prelude, superb, hammered, stressed in a flood of dazzling figure to brass, garlands to the strings, a sound magma which finishes on a kind of suspension, the whole does not let forecast a merry end…

As for Wozzeck, many scenes are based on old figures: Chaconne, Toccata, Ricercare… and we are astonished each time by their dramatic impact; a good example is Toccata 1 between various soldiers, a truth turn of force.

The interest drawn from beginning to end constant by a mixture of Sprechgesang and very alive singing, very clear, and an orchestral expansion as sophisticated as varied and very lively too. In spite of light or intimate scenes, the general “tonality” suggests a fascinating anguish.

Act II also presents a “military” Toccata superb of virtuosity, with jazz band on scene and an ensemble of percussions behind the scene. Listening to the Intermezzo of act II (quotations of Bach, permanent ciation of the Dies irae) can be noticed the frequent presence of the organ.

Owe can also note the many reminiscences of Bach which make think of the Viloin concerto by Berg.

In short, it is even more fascinating than Berg, do not hesitate!


Act 1
Scene 1 (Strophe): Marie has moved from Armentières to Lille with her father Wesener, a fancy goods merchant. She writes a letter to the mother of her fiancé, Stolzius, a young draper in Armentières, while her sister Charlotte does needlework. Charlotte’s aria: Herz, kleines Ding, uns zu quälen. An argument breaks out between the sisters, Charlotte being scornful of Marie's love for Stolzius.
 Scene 2 (Ciacona I): Stolzius has been lovesick since Marie's departure for Lille, but he is encouraged when his mother brings him a letter.
 Scene 3 (Ricercari I): Desportes is a French-serving nobleman from Hainaut, and one of Wesener's customers. He courts the commoner Marie and wins her affection. Her father, however, forbids her to go with him to the theatre: for a commoner to accompany an officer in public would damage the family name.
Scene 4 (Toccata I): At the trenches in Armentières, officers discuss with Padre Eisenhardt the relative merits of comedy. Captain Haudy, one of the officers, holds the view that it has more value than a sermon. Eisenhardt maintains that comedy undermines the soldiers' sense of what is right – their loose morals have already brought misery to countless young women. Haudy counters with the argument, "once a whore, always a whore". No, replies Eisenhardt, a whore would never be a whore if she were not forced to become one.
Scene 5 (Nocturno I): Wesener advises his daughter to be cautious in her dealings with Desportes, although he secretly harbours the hope that she may marry the young aristocrat. In the meantime, he says, it would not be wise to give up Stolzius altogether. As storm clouds gather, Marie grows anxious at what lies ahead and the dilemma builds in her heart.
Act 2
Scene 1 (Toccata II): The officers discuss politics and Stolzius, and philosophize, at the Armentières café, owned by Madame Roux. When the Colonel and Eisenhardt leave, a jazzy dance begins (Rondeau à la marche), led by the Andalusian waitress: O Angst! Tausendfach Leben ... Götter wir sind! After five couplets, this screeches to a halt upon the return of the Colonel and Eisenhardt with Haudy. Stolzius arrives, and the officers make insinuating remarks about Marie's relationship with Desportes. Tumult.
Scene 2 (Capriccio, Corale e Ciacona II): Marie has received a reproachful letter from Stolzius. She is reading it in tears when Desportes enters. He scornfully dictates to her a brusque reply. His flattery finally has the desired effect: his spot with Marie is won. In the room next door, Wesener's aged mother sings the folk song Rösel aus Hennegay with its prophetic line, some day your cross will come to you. On a partitioned stage appear, on one side, Marie and Desportes as a couple engrossed in love play, and on the other, Stolzius and his mother, who is trying to convince her son that having broken off his engagement, the "soldier's whore" Marie was not worthy of him. But Stolzius defends her and swears revenge on Desportes.
Act 3
Scene 1 (Rondino): A conversation between Eisenhardt and Captain Pirzel, whose odd behaviour is portrayed as the result of the monotony of military service, reveals that Captain Mary, a friend of Desportes, is to be transferred from Armentières to Lille.
Scene 2 (Rappresentazione): In order to move closer to Marie, Stolzius offers Captain Mary his services as a batman.
Scene 3 (Ricercari II): Desportes has left Marie. When she starts accepting gifts from Captain Mary, her sister Charlotte labels her a "soldier's girl". Marie claims she only behaved in this way in order to get news of Desportes. Captain Mary invites Marie and Charlotte for a drive; neither of them recognizes the identity of his batman Stolzius.
 Romanza (Act 3 Zwischenspiel)
 Scene 4 (Nocturno II): Gräfin de la Roche reproaches her son, the Young Count, for his behavior toward Marie. She advises him to leave town and, in order to protect Marie from the advances of other officers, she declares herself willing to take the girl into her own house as a companion.
 Scene 5 (Tropi): The Gräfin goes to find Marie at Wesener's house. In Charlotte's presence, she makes her offer, persuading Marie it is the only way she can now save her honor. Trio: Ach, ihr Wünsche junger Jahre.
Act 4
Scene 1 (Toccata III): What the future holds in store for Marie is a living nightmare. Films I, II and III. Having turned down the Gräfin's offer in order to try to renew her contact with Desportes, she is now subjected by Desportes to the attentions of his young gamekeeper, who makes a brutal sexual assault. Dishonored and discredited, Marie wanders aimlessly while the Gräfin, the Young Count, Wesener, Charlotte, Pirzel, and Eisenhardt all search for her.
Scene 2 (Ciacona III): Captain Mary and Desportes are eating their evening meal. Stolzius, who is serving them, overhears their conversation and learns of Marie's fate. He hands Desportes a bowl of poisoned soup and, before drinking some of the soup himself, triumphantly reveals his identity to the dying Desportes. Stolzius dies.
 Scene 3 (Nocturno III): As Eisenhardt sings the Pater noster, Marie, now sunk to the level of a street beggar, encounters her father and asks him for alms. Wesener does not recognize her, but, out of concern for his daughter, gives her money. He then joins an endless procession of enslaved and fallen soldiers, in which the drunken officers also take part. The procession builds to a vision of Hell: one human is raped by another, the individual by the collective conscience and, in this instance, by the power of the army.

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