Requiem for an epoch

Kenny Mathieson looks at the tragic genesis of Zimmermann’s epic historical collage.

The one thing that can be said with complete confidence about the Edinburgh Festival presentation of Bernd Alois Zimmermann's Requiem For A Young Poet is that there will be nothing else like it in the programme. anywhere. He was that great rarity. a genuine one-off. and we must agree with composer and conductor Michael Gielen that it may be just as well that there is no school of Zimmermann.

He was born in Cologne in l9 1 8. and took his own life at his home near that cityjust over 25 years ago. on l0 August 1970. He was. in the words of Gielen. a friend and loyal champion of his work. a desperate manic depressive. outrageously up while composing his major works. and plunged into black despair in between.

Despite his suicide. Zimmermann remained within the Catholic faith throughout his life. and. whatever comfort he may have extracted from it. Gielen believes that his religious beliefs were a constant source of unresolvable

Michael Gielen: friend and champion dilemmas for him. His fragmentary collage techniques surely reflect the impossibility of reconciling the world in which he lived with any more idealistic vision. and that gap seemed only to widen as his life moved on.

Gielen has described the ‘the ambiguity of meaning‘ as being the central theme of the monumental Requiem For A Young l’oet. a work which uses such collage methods (in both text and music) to reflect the tempestuous middle of the present century. with all its horrors and conflicts laid bare. Taped and narrated fragments of spoken language he called this collage of quotations a ‘Lingual‘ interweave with music and singing. while the distribution of'the

performers in the hall explores the spatial as well as the sonic relationships of its parts.

At the time of its original performance. Zimmermann wrote that ‘the Requiem For A Young Poet does not refer to a particular person (although three poets. Mayakovsky. Esenin and Bayer are especially prominent in the work). but to the young poet in a general sense as we can imagine him for the period ofthe last 50 years. in the various relationships contained in his spiritual. cultural. historical and linguistic situation which is also our own. the European situation from l920—l970.‘

He composed with an increasingly fraught sense of urgency combined with existential desperation which is evident in his final letter to Gielen. in which he said: ‘There are performances which simply must take place. even under the most difficult conditions. because the timing of the performance is ofelemental importance for the sanity of the composer. That is the case here.’

By the time of the first performance. in Dusseldorf on i 1 December 1969. however. he was sunk in a deep depression. and did not attend. Eight months later. like the three poets which provided the central spine of his texts. he was dead by his own hand. swallowing an overdose of sleeping pills after sending his family away on holiday.

I Requiem For A Young Poet (Festival) Usher Hall (225 5756). 29 Aug. 8pm. £5—£25.

exam:— Jack Bruce

Jack Bruce already has a dual reputation as a master bass player and one of the great jazz-rock singers of his generation, but his piano playing is a less celebrated aspect of his work. ills new album, Monk/act: (6MP), recorded with Hammond organist Bernie Worrell, is designed to focus some attention on that neglected talent.

‘Yeah, I imagine most people won’t even know I play piano, unless they happen to have seen me do it live. I thought initially about lost a solo piano and voice album, but We

worked quite a bit with Bernie, and we

decided to bring him in and give us that classic piano and Hammond organ sound)

Since the disintegration of Cream, Bruce has enioyed the creative (if not always financial) freedom of flitting around the genres, moving from crunching heavy rock trlos like Bruce, West and Laing to out-and-out lazz

Jack Bruce: quite unusual

projects with Carla Bley, Mike Gibbs and Michael Mantler, or some of his own solo and bands projects.

Monkjack lays considerable emphasis on that jazz side oi his work, and he is looking forward to presenting it with Worrell in the illustrious setting oi the Town Hall in New York after his British dates, where he will follow in the footsteps oi Thelonious Monk and Charles Mingus.

‘Yeah, that should be great - I’m looking forward to all our gigs, starting in Edinburgh. Basically, what I wanted with this project was to let the songs themselves really come through - sometimes with a band that doesn’t happen. I’ve re-recorded a couple oi things from my earliest solo albums for that reason, along with a bunch oi new songs We written specifically for this one, and I wanted them to have a nice, spontaneous feel and really stand out as songs, because some of them are quite unusual, I think.” (Joe Alexander)

Jack Bruce (Round Midnight) Queen’s

Ital! ( Venue 72) 668 2019, 2 Sept, 9pm. £12.50, £8.50 (2‘6).

There’s only one week left, so book your seats for the best of the rest of the Fest.

I The llebridean Rock, Blues ’n’ Acoustic Club Folk-rock singer. men‘s movement guru and whisky distiller Jackie Leven creates a rootsy and robust ambience with the help of occasional guests. which may include Waterboy Mike Scott.

The Hebridean Rock. Blues 'n' Acoustic Club (Fringe) Jackie Leven and friends. Cafe Royal ( Venue 4 7) 556 2549. until 26 Aug. midnight. £6.50. I Carol Kidd and Annie Ross The Round Midnight Jazz Festival brings together these two popular singers for the first time.

Carol Kidd and Annie Ross (Round Midnight) Queen '3‘ Hall (Venue 72) 668 2019. 29—30 Aug, 8pm. {20—17250 ([6).

I Jack Bruce A a rare piano-only outing for the master bassman. with organist Bernie Worrell for company. Jack Bruce (Round Midnight) Queen '3 Hall (Venue 72) 668 20/9. 2 Sept, 9pm. £12.50—f8.50 (£6).

I Requiem For A Young Poet A truly extraordinary work. rarely performed. calling on the services of a symphony orchestra. massed choruses. ajazz group and pre-recorded tape. Composed by Bernd Alois Zimmerman. it's one of the most intriguing concerts of the Festival. Requiem For A Young Poet (festival)

S WF Symphony Orchestra Baden-

Baden, Usher Hall. 225 5756. 29Aug.

r 8pm, £5—£25.

I Yggdrasil Quartet of Aberdeen Acclaimed North-East quartet play

world premieres of BBC commissions

from Scots composers Judith Weir. Robert Crawford and Magnus Robb. Y ggdrasil Quartet of Aberdeen (Festival) BBC Britta/tasting House. 225 5 756. 27 Aug. admissimi free. by

' ticket available front Festival Box I Ofice.


The List 25 Aug-7 Sept 1995 59