Friedrich Cerha

Les Adieux (Elegie)

Les Adieux (Elegie)
for ensemble
Ensemble/Chamber Orchestra
Number of performers
1 · pic. · 1 · 1 · bcl. · 1 · bcn. - 2 · 1 · 2 · 0 - cel. · pf. - perc. (2 performers) - str. (1 · 1 · 1 · 1 (5-string))
Composition year(s)
World premiere
Vienna, Konzerthaus · Venice, Biennale: Tese delle Vergine · Klangforum Wien · Stefan Asbury, conductor
Extra title
dedicatee: Klangforum Wien
Comment of the composer on the work

The origin of my 2005 ensemble piece Les Adieux was a piano work, Elegie, dating from 1963. This is a work of contemplative character, whose essential principle is the opposition between spacious sounds – mostly played pianissimo – and rather short attacks. At the time the piece was intended as a rebellion against certain taboos of ‘new music’, such as the avoidance of consonant intervals and triads, as well as against the prevailing nervous hyperactivity. Les Adieux demands attentive listening to sustained notes and resonance chords of varying timbre, such as those produced by the piano’s ‘artificial pedal’ when keys are silently depressed before notes are sounded in another register.

The title Les Adieux refers on the one hand to the work’s meditative character and, on the other, to the fact that here I bid farewell – not without a certain wistful nostalgia – to certain conceptual formulae that have haunted me in recent years. These include: a combination of a fast melodic line containing brief repetitions of notes with a trill, which can be traced (admittedly far-fetched) back to the last two bars of the second of Webern’s Op. 14 Lieder, and which I had varied in a multitude of different ways; the pulsating reiteration of short spiccato notes for strings, such as appear characteristically in my recent Momenten for orchestra; or my delight in little figures consisting of notes of equal duration played in isolation. From all these I have taken my leave. In other respects, Les Adieux performs a function in my creative work similar to that which the piano piece Elegie did in its own time. It shares with the earlier work the alternation already described: between pianissimo sounds, during which one loses the sense of temporal succession, and short, weighty attacks whose suggestion of pulse reaffirms the experience of time’s passing – whereby the static element emerges as the work’s prevalent characteristic.

Friedrich Cerha