January 2015, Gewandhaus Leipzig


Kristjan Järvi


MDR Symphony Orchestra



Orchestral pieces commissioned by mdr, Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk written and composed by Hauschka as Composer in Residence with Kristjan Järvi and the MDR Symphony Orchestra in Leipzig.

Music publicist Ilja Stephan on Hauschka’s orchestral works:

He's a "sound searcher", says pianist and composer Volker Bertelmann, alias Hauschka, about himself. This search began for Hauschka inside his piano, preparing it with drawing pins, table tennis balls, rubber erasers, any material imaginable, and so transforming it into an analog, mechanical synthesiser. Improvisation on a piano that can sound like a drum, then like an electronic effects device, like a tin or a gamelan orchestra – while all the time reminders of a romantic nocturne float by –, is still the basis of Hauschka's music today. But since his 2005 album "The Prepared Piano", the sound searcher has steadily extended his musical space; "Room To Expand", the title of his fourth album, speaks for itself. And so it was really only a matter of time before his sound searching led Hauschka to that most sophisticated of all sound bodies, the big symphony orchestra.


The orchestral works, just published by Bosworth, trace a part of the road Hauschka travelled from the 10 finger orchestra of the prepared piano and the album format, to the heavy gear and the extended form. "Madeira" and "Children" had already been arranged for a chamber ensemble on Hauschka's album "Foreign Landscapes" (2010); "Penn Station" arose from the orchestration of an unpublished piece for a string quintet. "Puppen" in contrast exceeded the constraints of the 5 minute track right from the start, the piece was composed as an overture for Kevin Rittberger's play of the same name. With his latest composition "Cascades", Hauschka has finally produced a work conceived as a large triptych for orchestra and choir.

Long-standing fans of Hauschka's poetically fragile prepared piano sounds have always had something to learn with each new album; "Abandoned City" from 2014, for example, sounds a lot gloomier and weightier than anything known from this artist up to then. With the orchestral works, another a new facet of Hauschka's music has now been added: the monumental. In "Penn Station", for example, a typical Hauschka melody achieves almost Bruckneresque sound dimensions with the four horns in unison.


But even though the sound of Hauschka's music changes from project to project, a certain view of the world, which manifests itself in tones, remains the same. Hauschka summarised these constants of his sensitivity in four words: "beauty, ephemerality, melancholy and absurdity." His domain is the densely atmospheric mood landscape; many of his pieces resonate with a romantic yearning – and not just because their composer seems to have a liking for minor keys. Hauschka's music is for the most part restlessly in motion, but it never arrives anywhere, or – to be more accurate –, it's always already there. The music revolves in circles; repetition is its building block. From short, memorable phrases, constantly repeated, Hauschka puts together a rhythmic mosaic of small pieces. In detail, his music is finely chiselled and on the move; as a whole it seems almost static. […] There, where the composer builds up imposing crescendos again and again, like in "Puppen", everything flows to an end in a simple, soft cadence of unmatchable brevity.


The fundamental, melancholic feeling of being in a state of floating, somewhere indefinable between loss and departure, was the subject of Hauschka's to date most comprehensive orchestra work "Cascades". Significantly, this triptych starts with the end. Loss, death, stand here at the beginning. The words "Nothing left. I lost everything." are spread by the choir in countless repetitions in a wide layer. For the middle part "From Ashes", the sound searcher Hauschka found an icily cold, crystal-clear string sound. The final movement "Perspective" for orchestra and choir is then anything but a celebratory symphonic finale. The music puts a question mark at the end of the optimistic words the text "Now, now future’s coming", the choir gets lost in unarticulated murmuring. "In this way 'perspective' is at the same time the start of loss", writes the composer. Beginning and end come together, another circle closes.


Translation: Phil Cooksey


2014, orchestral work in 3 movements, approx. 30 minutes

World Premiere: 20 January 2015, Gewandhaus Leipzig.


1. Loss (for large mixed choir, 10 minutes)

2. From Ashes (for large orchestra, 11 minutes)

3. Perspective (for large orchestra and mixed choir, 9 minutes)

Hauschka: piano

MDR Radio Choir

MDR Symphony Orchestra

Conductor: Kristjan Järvi