12 HOMMAGES À PAUL SACHER
by Jeremy Cook
An examination of the 12 Hommages à Paul Sacher, looking at how they
material derived from the name Paul Sacher, their forms, and their degree
of success from a players perspective.
The Swiss conductor and educator Paul Sacher has been perhaps one
of the most influential figures in twentieth century music. Born in 1906
Paul Sacher has been friends with many of this century's greatest
composers, resulting in his commissioning of many pieces, including works
by Bartok, Strauss, Britten and Stravinsky. In the latter part of this
century, Sacher has championed the works of many composers, including those
of Pierre Boulez, Luciano Berio, Hans Werner Henze, Heinz Holliger and
The occasion of Sacher's seventieth birthday in 1976 prompted many
celebrations in his native Switzerland, not least a concert on May 2nd.
The entire second half of this concert was devoted to Mstislav
Rostropovich's presentation of part of the 12 HOMMAGES À PAUL SACHER
that time the set was not completed). Rostropovich and Sacher had
performed together before and had given the first performance of Henri
Dutilleux's cello concerto TOUT UN MONDE LOINTAIN. For Sacher's seventieth
birthday Rostropovich had the idea of commissioning 12 leading composers,
all of whom were connected to Sacher, to compose a set of theme and
variations for solo 'cello based on a cryptogram of the name Sacher. This
produced a six note motif of E flat (es in German, from S), A, C, B (H is
natural in German), E, and D (re in Italian) (Ex 1). The original plan
for Benjamin Britten to compose the theme and for each composer to submit
one variation. However, all of the composers involved seem to have been
inspired by the commission that all of them produced works that are more
substantial than a simple variation. Some of the pieces are cast in one
movement, such as Klaus Huber's TRANPOSITIO AD INFINITUM and Heinz
Holliger's CHACONNE, but many of the pieces are multi movement, such as
Alberto Ginastera's PUNEÑA NO. 2 and Henri Dutilleux's TROIS STROPHES
LE NOM DE SACHER. Pierre Boulez broke the bounds of the commission even
more by composing his MESSAGESQUISSE for 'cello solo and six 'cellos
accompaniment. The overall result of this is that instead of a theme and
variations that would have been little more than a musical novelty, we have
a set of works that constitute a summary of writing for the 'cello at the
end of the twentieth century, as well as demonstrating many of the
compositional trends of our times.
In this paper I will be examining the 12 HOMMAGES À PAUL SACHER
from three different angles. (see footnote #1) The first section will
discuss the use of
material derived from Paul Sacher's name in these pieces and how it is
developed. This section will present the ways the material is used and
varied before discussing the use of material in individual works. As will
be seen, this will link with the second section which will be a discussion
of the use of the name Paul Sacher in the forms of these works. The third
section will deal with the pieces from a 'cellistic point of view, looking
at the types of techniques demanded of the performer and how successful
these pieces are from a players viewpoint.
USE OF MATERIAL DERIVED FROM PAUL SACHER'S NAME
In the initial commission for the 12 HOMMAGES À PAUL SACHER
Rostropovich suggested that each of the composers use the motif derived
from Paul Sacher's name. This motif has a strangely complete and
satisfying quality. This is provided by the implied resolution of the
augmented fourth on the final note of the sequence (D natural), as well
the falling step-wise motion of the last four notes. The Sacher motif also
has the feature of being a hexachord, presenting half of a possible twelve
tone row, and this led to the treatment and development of the motive in
many of the same ways that a twelve tone row is treated, namely
transposition, inversion, retrograde, and retrograde inversion. As will
demonstrated later, all of these devices are used by the composers of this
set in their treatment of the Sacher motif. Another way that the material
of this motif is developed is by using the interval structure of the motif.
Example two shows the Sacher motif with the intervals between the notes
labeled and with these intervals' inversions in brackets. By taking these
intervals and inverting them, altering their order or transposing them onto
different starting notes it is possible to create new sounding material
linked to the Sacher motif. These characteristics of the Sacher motif
perhaps help explain the enthusiasm shown for this project by the composers
involved and the expansion of the project from a simple birthday theme and
A special case in the treatment of the Sacher motif is Pierre
Boulez's MESSAGESQUISSE. Boulez's use of a solo 'cellist and an
accompanying ensemble of six 'cellos opens up possibilities available to
none of the other composers. In MESSAGESQUISSE Boulez can explore the
harmonic possibilities of the Sacher motif by presenting different notes
each voice. Boulez creates material by taking the interval series of the
Sacher motif and by altering the order of the intervals creates six cells
of six notes (Ex. 3). These always start on E flat, but with each cell
interval series is displaced by one step. Through the use of an ensemble
Boulez is able to use more than one cell at the same time, creating a more
thorough harmonic exploration of the Sacher motif than in any other piece.
In passages where all seven 'cellos are playing in unison the cells are
strung together to create a melodic line. This is perhaps the most
systematic and developed use of the Sacher motif anywhere in this series
MESSAGESQUISSE has one other unique use of the name Sacher in the
music. Boulez uses Morse code to create a rhythm from the letters of the
name Sacher (Ex. 4). This rhythm is at first presented only on the pitch
of E flat and as a rhythmical canon. At this point the solo 'cello
presents the cells derived from Sacher one by one, and the entries of the
morse code rhythm correspond to the beginnings of each new cell. Each new
entry of the rhythm is displaced by one letter in the name Sacher, until
finally after presenting all of the cells the solo 'cello takes up the
rhythm to the accompaniment of five 'cellos, with one further part
sustaining an E flat (Ex. 5).(3)
The dedication of these works to Paul Sacher led many composers to
base more than just the thematic material on his name. An important use
the name Paul Sacher in some of these works is as a basis for the formal
structure of the pieces. This will be dealt with in more detail in the
section dealing with form.
Another way of looking at these pieces is by examining just how far
they are based on the Sacher motif. Although Rostropovich specified this
idea as the basis for the compositions, the degree to which each piece is
based on the Sacher motif varies. At one end of the scale there are works
such as Ginastera's PUNEÑA NO. 2 and Henze's CAPRICCIO. Ginastera's
takes the Sacher motif as a starting point, but is based on purely South
American influences. This piece can almost be seen as program music, so
detailed is the description given by Ginastera in his preface to the score.
Henze's CAPRICCIO is similar in its free use of the Sacher motif and also
in that the composer gives pictorial ideas as to the interpretation of the
piece. At the other extreme there are pieces such as Boulez's
MESSAGESQUISSE, Holliger's CHACONNE and Fortner's ZUM SPIELEN FÜR DEN
GEBURTSTAG where all of the material is derived from the Sacher motif.
between these extremes fall the majority of the pieces in this set. This
variety in the use of material derived from Sacher helps makes this group
of pieces interesting to player and listener alike.
Despite the fact that the Sacher motif seems to lend itself to a
twelve tone treatment, only two of the pieces in the set even approach a
serial style. These works are Witold Lutoslawski's SACHER VARIATION and
Alberto Ginastera's PUNEÑA NO.2. Neither of these pieces are written
strict twelve tone style but the six chromatic tones not included in the
Sacher motif (F, G flat, G natural, A flat, B flat and D flat) are used
the basis of contrasting material. Lutoslawski's SACHER VARIATION works
through a juxtaposition of the Sacher motif and material drawn from the
other six notes. The piece is constructed with the two different types
material interrupting each other, the Sacher motif always resuming from
where it left off before the previous interruption. Throughout the course
of the work entries on the Sacher motif become longer and more insistent,
until this motif pushes the other material aside. The piece finishes with
two statements of the Sacher motif, one linear as a melody and the other
two chords with the character of a deceptive cadence. Throughout the piece
the sharp differentiation in the characters of the two groups of material,
as well as the use of quarter tones in the material not derived from the
Sacher motif, helps to show the listener the contrasting nature of the
Ginastera's PUNEÑA NO.2 also uses the six tones that are not part
of the Sacher motif as a contrasting subject group, but here the similarity
to the Lutoslawski ends. PUNEÑA NO.2 is inspired by the puna, a
the Andes. Ginastera writes, "The Kecuan word "Puna" refers
highlands or a plateau of 4,000 metres in the Andes. It also means bare
and arid ground as well as the feeling of anguish one can have at high
altitudes."(4) The hexachord formed from notes that are not part of
Sacher motif appears only in the first movement of PUNEÑA NO.2,
HARAWI, as a contrasting thematic group and here forms a theme that
Ginastera calls a "Metamorphosis of a pre-Columbian theme of the Cuzco."(5)
This material is then treated in alteration with material derived from the
Sacher motif. The second movement, WAYNO KARNAVALITO (carnival dance),
based only on the Sacher motif used freely with other material.
The shortest work in the set is Benjamin Britten's TEMA "SACHER",
at little over a minute long. It is also unique in the set in that it is
the only piece to use the Sacher motif in a tonal context, C minor in this
case. This is done by presenting the first four notes of the motif as part
of double or triple stopped chords (Ex. 6). These chords, and the
treatment of the Sacher motif, establish the key of C minor for the
listener. The extreme brevity of the piece can perhaps be explained with
two reasons. First, at its time of composition Britten was already
extremely ill. TEMA SACHER was to be one of his last completed works.
second reason concerns the nature of Rostropovich's original idea. As has
already been mentioned the plan was for Britten to compose a theme with
every other composer submitting a variation. Nevertheless, TEMA SACHER
a complete musical composition in its own right, despite its length.
Britten achieves this by creating two contrasting types of material from
the Sacher motif; one (the first four notes) predominately chordal,
sustained and strident in character, the other (the last two notes) is made
up of repeated quintuplets and is primarily monophonic and quiet. TEMA
SACHER is extremely simple in its construction, presenting the chord
version of the first four notes of the Sacher motif three times, at
different registers and intensities, interspersed with two uses of the
quintuplet material. What makes it a successful piece is Britten's
masterly use of register, rhythm and harmonic rhythm to bring the piece
towards its conclusion.
Several of the pieces in the set use only material derived from the
Sacher motif in the ways described above. These include the works by Heinz
Holliger, Conrad Beck, Wolfgang Fortner and Cristóbal Halffter.
Holliger's CHACCONE is one of the most highly worked out pieces in the set.
Almost everything in the piece is derived entirely from the name Sacher,
including the form and the number of measures in each section. These
aspects will be dealt with later. The title of the piece, CHACCONE,
presents certain expectations, and these are fulfilled. Briefly, a
chaccone is a composition in which a melodic idea is presented repeatedly,
becoming gradually more and more embellished. This is exactly what
Holliger does with the Sacher motif. Each presentation of the motif
occupies one measure, with six measures to a section and six sections
followed by a Post Scriptum. The motif is progressively embellished with
each repetition, with each section displaying more embellishment than the
previous one. Whereas the motif is easy to identify at the beginning it
becomes so covered up and dispersed among other notes that it is impossible
to identify it aurally. Holliger also makes use of variants of the Sacher
motif such as retrograde, inversion and the other methods described above.
The progressive use of embellishment also adds huge technical difficulties
for the performer, and this will also be discussed in greater detail later.
While not entirely based on material from the Sacher motif, Luciano
Berio's LES MOTS SONT ALLÉS . . . ("RECITATIVO" POUR CELLO
SEUL) is similar
to Holliger's CHACONNE through its use of ornamentation to embellish the
Sacher motif. The title of this piece means "words have gone,"
reflects Berio's fascination with words in many of his works. This is
further emphasised with the directions to the performer of parlando and
"intimate, as if speaking."(6) These indications also help give
the piece an
undefined and mysterious character, making this piece the most ambiguous
the set. Following four complete statements of the Sacher motif, the motif
becomes fragmented and hidden in between other notes. Tension and direction
are created towards the centre of the piece by the use of faster rhythms
and repeated notes. It is also significant that unembellished repetitions
of the Sacher motif also occur here. This outburst dies down and the
original character is resumed, finishing on repeated chords of A and E
flat. These notes form the interval of an augmented fourth, the most
unstable and unresolved interval in tonal music, as well as being the first
two notes of the Sacher motif.
Wolfgang Fortner's ZUM SPIELEN FÜR DEN 70. GEBURTSTAG is a theme
and three variations with most of the material being derived from the
Sacher motif and its variants. One exception is in the first variation
where the performer is instructed to improvise briefly with the six
chromatic tones not included in the Sacher motif. The final variation also
uses the hexachord not contained in the Sacher motif, but in a different
way. This variation is a rhythmic canon in two parts, the upper part
material derived from the Sacher motif and the lower part using material
from the other hexachord.
Conrad Beck's FÜR PAUL SACHER: DREI EPIGRAMME FÜR VIOLONCELLO
is also based entirely on the Sacher motif and the other six chromatic
tones. As the title suggests, it falls into three short movements that
correspond roughly, by virtue of their tempos, to a three movement sonata.
It is possible to find development of the Sacher motif by all the devices
used in developing twelve tone rows. Due to its almost academic use of
Sacher motif, this piece has perhaps a less immediate appeal than the
others in the set.
Cristóbal Halffter, like Witold Lutoslawski, seems to have had
original idea of a theme and variations in mind when he composed his
VARIATIONEN ÜBER DAS THEMA ESACHERE. This piece is also entirely based
material derived from the Sacher motif, framed by two statements of the
motif, one in prime form and the other in retrograde. An interesting
feature of this piece is the use of a recurring E flat interspersed among
the Sacher motif at the end. This starts after the main climax of the
piece and through its repetition it gains the character of a tonic note
(Ex. 7). This gives a sense of closure to the piece when it finishes on
sustained E flat, the last note of the retrograde form of the Sacher motif.
The use of a repeated E flat also occurs in Boulez's
MESSAGESQUISSE, and this has the same tonicising effect as in Halffter's
VARIATIONEN ÜBER DAS THEMA ESACHERE. Since all of Boulez's six note
start on E flat this pitch occurs often. This gives MESSAGESQUISSE a sense
of stability, and in the second of its three sections, which is not based
on the material derived from the Sacher motif, the absence of E flat,
except in passing , gives a sense of modulation.(7)
Hans Werner Henze's CAPRICCIO is the one piece which, in its final
version, seems to fit in the least with the rest of the set. The present
version, which Henze calls a "concert version,"(8) was prepared
in 1981 at
the instigation of Heinrich Schiff. The original version ran to only a
page and what is left of this after the revision now forms the centre of
the composition. This is prefaced by a fast, angry section that Henze
describes as "a violent speech . . . all jumbled up, shaken about in
kaleidoscopic fashion."(9) Both the section that corresponds to the
CAPRICCIO and the preceding section are based on the Sacher motif, but the
two outer sections which frame it are not. These are likened to a serenade
by Henze in his preface to the score, with the form of the whole
corresponding to a French overture, and are linked thematically.
Klaus Huber's TRANSPOSITIO AD INFINITUM is the longest piece in the
set as well as being one of the most innovative, yet its treatment of the
Sacher motif is limited. The piece works by having eight returning
sections interspersed with four other more contrasting sections. The
returning sections are varied at each appearance, but the Sacher motif only
appears in some of the contrasting sections. When used, the Sacher motif
only appears in its prime form. Huber's salute to Paul Sacher appears much
more in the formal construction of the piece, which will be examined later.
The only piece in this set to make use of a scordatura, a
deliberate mis-tuning of strings, is Henri Dutilleux's TROIS STROPHES SUR
LE NOM DE SACHER. In this piece the 'cello's G string is tuned down a half
step to F sharp, and the C string is tuned down a whole step to B flat.
The effect of this is to give Dutilleux two open strings which are not part
of the Sacher motif. These are perhaps used most effectively in the first
strophe where the de-tuned strings are used to accompany renditions of the
Sacher motif on the upper strings (Ex. 8). Material not from the Sacher
motif is used, but the majority of the material in the TROIS STROPHES SUR
LE NOM DE SACHER is derived from the Sacher motif. Dutilleux also includes
a brief reference to Sacher's commissioning of important works by including
a brief quote from the close of the first movement of Bartok's MUSIC FOR
STRINGS, PERCUSSION, AND CELESTE. This occurs towards the end of the first
USE OF THE NAME PAUL SACHER IN FORM
The idea of basing compositions in the 12 HOMMAGES À PAUL SACHER
on the name Paul Sacher didn't end with just the Sacher motif. Three of
the more extended compositions in the set also have formal structures based
on the name Paul Sacher. These pieces are Heinz Holliger's CHACONNE,
Pierre Boulez's MESSAGESQUISSE and Klaus Huber's TRANSPOSITIO AD INFINITUM.
Form tends to be a less important aspect of many of the other pieces since
most of them are relatively short, or, as in the case of Fortner's ZUM
SPIELEN FÜR DEN 70. GEBURTSTAG, use a pre-determined form, in this
theme and variations. The one exception to this is Henze's CAPRICCIO.
Henze writes that "the listener might here recall the ancient (French)
overture with its slow introduction and fast middle section . . . and even
the calm opening appears again at the end, as if to serve as a reminiscence
of the old form."(10) This form, along with the descriptive ideas for
piece quoted earlier, make the revised version of CAPRICCIO the least
connected piece to the set in terms of paying homage to Paul Sacher.
Almost every aspect of Holliger's CHACONNE is derived from the
name Paul Sacher. The piece is cast in seven sections overall, comprising
six main sections and a "P(ost) S(criptum)."(11) The six sections
piece are derived from the six letters in the name Sacher, as well as the
six notes in the motif derived from that name. The title of the seventh
section is derived from the first letters of the name Paul Sacher, and
seems to have been written almost as an afterthought. (12) Each section
consists of six bars, although Holliger gets around the problem of making
the piece too short by giving a time signature of 13/8 and a tempo of
eighth note =70. As has already been said each section becomes
progressively more difficult, and this is in part caused by an increase
the density of the embellishment. This use of embellishment parallels the
traditional Baroque chaconne, but there is one big difference. In a
traditional chaccone the idea that is embellished is always audible, but
Holliger's CHACONNE the fragmentation and covering up of the Sacher motif
by embellishment robs the ear of this aid. This does not negate the formal
structure of the work but does make it very difficult to perceive, except
by a detailed examination of the score.
There is a surprising lack of research on almost all of the 12
HOMMAGES À PAUL SACHER, and this is particularly apparent with
MESSAGESQUISSE. The one source of information on this piece that I have
discovered, Susan Bradshaw's "The Instrumental and vocal music"
BOULEZ: A SYMPOSIUM, contains only one page on Messagesquisse, and this
refers only to the use of the cells and the coda of the piece. The form
Boulez's MESSAGESQUISSE can be seen on two levels. On one level the piece
is constructed in a quasi-symmetrical ternary form, but within this it is
possible to see six smaller sections. MESSAGESQUISSE is ternary not
through the return of melodic material in the third section, but by the
return of the cells generated from the Sacher motif. This material is
absent in the second section of the piece, which consists entirely of
sixteenth note figures played by both the soloist and the ensemble. The
third section opens with the accompanying ensemble playing each of the
cells derived from the Sacher motif in turn. These are sustained with
trills while the solo 'cellist plays short fragments derived from the
second section. Also at this time the Morse code rhythm derived from
Sacher reappears, but this time with one letter-rhythm in each part and
different pitches. The accompanying ensemble then falls silent while the
soloist then plays all six cells as a cadenza. However, these cells are
presented in reverse order from how they originally appeared (also with
solo 'cellist) and each cell is in retrograde. The final cell to appear
the original version of the Sacher motif, but this is the only cell not
be treated in strict retrograde. This cell is played more or less in its
prime form, although the A precedes the E flat, but interrupted continually
by the pitch of E flat (Ex. 9). This also reinforces the tonic aspect of
flat discussed earlier, especially considering that it was absent during
the second section. The presentation of this material differs from the
first section in that the six cells are initially presented over the
ensemble sustaining the Sacher motif and gradually taking up the Morse code
rhythm. The separation of the two types of material, as well as the use
retrograde forms of the cells, helps give the piece a symmetrical feel.
The cadenza is then followed by a coda, derived entirely from material
generated from the six cells. The melodic material at the beginning of
coda is labelled a-f. Each cell entry occupies one bar, and the number
cells used increases by one with each entry from a-f.(13) Hence a consists
only of the first cell (the Sacher motif), b consists of two cells, and
on until entry f uses all six cells. The rest of the coda develops these
entries. As can be seen, MESSAGESQUISSE displays a quasi-symmetrical
structure, although as with Holliger's CHACONNE this is not immediately
apparent to the listener.
Within the ternary structure MESSAGESQUISSE can be seen as
comprising of six smaller sections. The first section comprises of the
initial entry of the first cell, the Sacher motif, with the second section
being the entries of the remaining cells and the Sacher Morse code rhythm.
The third section corresponds to the second part of the ternary form while
the fourth is the beginning of the third section, with the return of the
cells. The 'cello cadenza forms the fifth section and the coda rounds off
the piece as the sixth section. These sections are perceived aurally by
virtue of changes in material, texture or use of material. Seen in this
way MESSAGESQUISSE is cast in a ternary form, but with six smaller
sections. However, since the number three is half of six, perhaps even
three part ternary structure is derived from the six letters of Sacher!
Klaus Huber's TRANSPOSITIO AD INFINITUM is one of only two pieces
in this set to employ aleatoric techniques, the other being Wolfgang
Fortner's ZUM SPIELEN FÜR DEN 70. GEBURTSTAG. However, the pieces
different. Fortner's work asks the performer to improvise for a short
amount of time on given material whereas Huber's work allows the performer
to decide, to a limited extent, in what order the sections are to be played.
TRANSPOSITIO AD INFINITUM is cast in (14) short sections overall. Eight
of these are based on the same material, but transposed with each
appearance (hence the title). These sections are numbered I to VIII.
Interspersed among these are sections derived from the letters of the name
Paul. For P there is a section entitled Piano dolce con espressione, A
Aliquote, U is Untertöne (subharmonics), and L is Lento molto espressivo.
These four sections are expanded to six by having 2 sections each based
the A and U sections. These are entitled A, A1 and U, U1. The Sacher
motif is only used in the P and L sections, with the rest of the
composition being based on other material. The aleatoric aspect of the
piece concerns the order in which sections A, A1,U and U1 are played. Each
section can only be played once, but between sections II and III either
or A1 or can be played first, with the other being played after section
III. The same applies between sections IV and V with U and U1. Huber also
writes that the PAUL sections are "six more strongly subjective-personal
fragments,"14 and the quality of the material in these sections seems
more personal and inward than in the sections I to VIII. This piece also
demands some extended playing techniques, and these will be discussed in
the next section.
'CELLISTIC ASPECTS OF THE 12 HOMMAGES À PAUL SACHER AND THEIR DEGREE
SUCCESS FROM A PLAYER'S PERSPECTIVE
Many performers are dissuaded from playing twentieth century music
because of the difficulties involved, and the 12 HOMMAGES À PAUL
no exception. All of the 12 HOMMAGES À PAUL SACHER are difficult
demanding a high degree of both musical and technical accomplishment from
the performer. Along with this, many of them demand extended techniques
pursuit of particular types of sounds. These techniques include harmonics,
pizzicato, use of a fingerschlag (finger blow) in the left hand, quarter
tones, and the bowing techniques of col legno and ponticello. Some of the
compositional techniques in the pieces also demand special consideration
the performer if they are to be fully realised. These include aleatoric
procedures, use of indeterminate pitch and other notational devices, many
of which are peculiar to a particular piece. Two of the pieces involved,
Heinz Holliger's CHACCONE and Klaus Huber's TRANSPOSITIO AD INFINITUM,
demand completely new playing techniques that only occur in these
particular pieces. These will be examined in due course. The use of these
extended techniques has also contributed to the relative obscurity of many
of these pieces. Performers seem to be unwilling to devote the time needed
to master these extensions of standard techniques, resulting in the unfair
neglect of many of these works.
The use of techniques such as harmonics and pizzicato are not new
in 'cello playing and string playing in general, but their uses in the 12
HOMMAGES À PAUL SACHER are new. Pieces such as Heinz Holliger's
and Klaus Huber's TRANSPOSITIO AD INFINITUM make extensive use of both
natural and artificial harmonics,(15) but these techniques are also used
new ways. Holliger often uses harmonics in double or triple stopping,
either with stopped notes or other harmonics, and this creates technical
problems for the performer that are unique to this piece. Similarly,
Huber's use of harmonics in a new way creates problems unique to his
composition. Pizzicato techniques are extended by the use of Bartok
pizzicatos (where the string is allowed to slap against the fingerboard),
three or four part chords and glissandi of plucked notes. Again, it is
these techniques are used in these pieces that create difficulties for the
performer. The bowing techniques of ponticello (playing very close to the
bridge to produce a glassy sound) and col legno (playing with the wood of
the bow) are also extended by the number of times that they are used within
a composition and by the speed with which the performer has to switch
between traditional playing and these techniques. The use of a
fingerschlag in the left hand to produce a percussive effect is also not
new technique. 'Cellists often use this to help set the strings in
vibration in traditional playing, but its use within a composition to
create an effect in its own right, while not unheard of, is unusual.
Finally, quarter tones create technical problems for the performer for a
number of reasons. Performers are trained from the earliest age to
recognise whole steps and half steps, so that the very sound of a quarter
tone is alien and difficult to hear. It is also very awkward to physically
play quarter tones as the gaps between the notes become that much smaller.
None of these techniques were invented by the composers of the 12 HOMMAGES
À PAUL SACHER but their particular uses in this group of pieces create
problems for the performer. Since the uses of these devices are often
peculiar to a particular piece, many hours of practice are needed to learn
the production of these effects, time which many 'cellists are unwilling
Many of the scores of the 12 HOMMAGES À PAUL SACHER include an
exploratory section for the interpretation of symbols used, much in the
that a map uses a key. These include, among others, symbols for quarter
tones and symbols for indeterminate sounds (Ex. 10). These symbols also
create problems for the performer. Before the piece involved can be fully
realised the performer must give due consideration to the interpretation
these special symbols. The fact that the eye is not used to seeing these
symbols also complicates the learning of these pieces, again adding to the
relative neglect of many of these works.
Heinz Holliger's CHACCONE and Klaus Huber's TRANSPOSITIO AD
INFINITUM present even more specialised problems to the performer.
Holliger's CHACCONE is probably the most difficult work in the entire set,
and the last section, the Post Scriptum, demands on entirely new way of
playing. The performer is instructed to put the bow down and to play
pizzicato and fingerschlag notes with both hands at the same time.
Holliger compounds the difficulty of this passage by the use of cross
rhythms between the left and right hands, something most 'cellists never
have to cope with except when playing with another instrument. The
problems presented here are so great that most 'cellists are dissuaded from
learning this work. Huber's TRANSPOSITIO AD INFINITUM presents problems
through its extended use of harmonics and bowing behind the bridge to
create subharmonics. This again dissuades many 'cellists from learning
How successful are the 12 HOMMAGES À PAUL SACHER? As pieces of
music all of them, without exception, are significant and worth performing.
Some of them, such as Dutilleux's TROIS STROPHES SUR LE NOM DE SACHER and
Lutoslawski's SACHER VARIATION, have become fairly well known among
'cellists and are performed relatively frequently. However, many of the
other pieces are seldom performed, if at all. There are two reasons for
this. As has already been pointed out, the extreme virtuosity demanded
works such as Holliger's CHACONNE, Huber's TRANSPOSITIO AD INFINITUM and
Ginastera's PUNEÑA NO. 2 dissuades many 'cellists from learning them.
other reason centres on the brevity of many of the pieces in this set.
Works such as Britten's TEMA SACHER are simply too short to fit easily into
recital programs, often meaning that they are not played at all. The
relative neglect of the 12 HOMMAGES À PAUL SACHER is symptomatic
neglect of much twentieth century music. Until performers can be persuaded
to take the time to learn the techniques required to perform these works,
there is no way a wider appreciation of them can be fostered. Until that
time, pieces such as these will remain unknown.
Beck, Conrad, et al. DOUZE HOMMAGES À PAUL SACHER. Wien: Universal
Beck, Conrad. FÜR PAUL SACHER: DREI EPIGRAMME FÜR VIOLONCELLO
Mainz: B. Schotts Söhne,
Berio, Luciano. LES MOTS SONT ALLÉS. . . ("RECITATIVO"
POUR CELLO SEUL).
Milan: Universal Edition,
Boulez, Pierre. MESSAGESQUISSE POUR 7 VIOLONCELLES. London: Universal
Britten, Benjamin. TEMA 'SACHER'. London: Faber Music, 1990.
Dutilleux, Henri. TROIS STROPHES SUR LE NOM DE SACHER. Paris: Heugel &
Fortner, Wolfgang. ZUM SPIELEN FÜR DEN 70. GEBURTSTAG. THEMA UND
VARIATIONEN FÜR VIOLONCELLO
SOLO. Mainz: B. Schotts Söhne, 1976.
Ginastera, Alberto. PUNEÑA NO. 2. HOMMAGE À PAUL SACHER.
& Hawkes, 1977.
Halffter, Cristóbal. VARIATIONEN ÜBER DAS THEMA ESACHERE.
Universal Edition, 1977.
Henze, Hans Werner. CAPRICCIO PER VIOLONCELLO SOLO. Mainz: B. Schotts
Holliger, Heinz. CHACONNE FÜR VIOLONCELLO SOLO. Mainz: B. Schotts
Huber, Klaus. TRANSPOSITIO AD INFINITUM. FÜR EIN VIRTUOSES SOLOCELLO.
Mainz: B. Schotts Söhne,
Lutoslawski, Witold. SACHER VARIATION FOR SOLO CELLO. London: J. &
Wilhelm Hansen, 1980.
Bradshaw, Susan. "The Instrumental and Vocal Music". PIERRE
William Glock. London: Eulenburg books, 1986.
Casares, Emilio. CRISTOBAL HALFFTER/EMILIO CASARES RODICIO; PROLOGO PEDRO
Oviedo: Universad de Oviedo, 1980.
DANK AN PAUL SACHER. Zürich/Freiburg: Atlantis Musikbuch Verlag, 1976.
Hirsbrunner, Theo. PIERRE BOULEZ UND SEIN WERK. Laaber: Laaber Verlag,
Humbert, Daniel. HENRI DUTILLEUX: L'OEUVRE ET LE STYLE MUSICAL. Geneva:
Mari, Pierrette. HENRI DUTILLEUX. Paris: Editions Aug. Zurfluh S.A, 1988.
Demenga, Patrick and Thomas. 12 HOMMAGES À PAUL SACHER. ECM, 1995.
Ex. 1. The Sacher motif.
Ex. 2. The Sacher motif with intervals and their inversions labelled.
Ex. 3. The six cells from Pierre Boulez's Messagesquisse.
Ex.4. The Morse code rhythm from Messagesquisse.
Ex. 5. Pierre Boulez, Messagesquisse, number 3.
Ex. 6. Benjamin Britten, Tema "Sacher", opening.
Ex. 7. Cristóbal Halffter, Variationen über das Thema eSACHERe,
Ex. 8. Henri Dutilleux, Trois Strophes sur le nom de Sacher, first
strophe, top of page three.
Ex. 9. Pierre Boulez, Messagesquisse, one bar before number 10.
Ex. 10. Alberto Ginastera, Puneña No.2, symbols.
1. Several of the works in this set have been subsequently revised and/or
expanded. For the purposes of this paper I will be examining the final
printed versions of each work. Due to the nature of this paper it is
impossible to include comprehensive analyses of all of the pieces involved.
This paper will draw the reader's attention to aspects of the pieces that
believe to be significant.
2. Susan Bradshaw "The Instrumental and Vocal Music," Pierre
Symposium, ed. William Glock (London: Eulenburg books, 1986) 222.
3. Bradshaw 222.
4. Alberto Ginastera, Preface, Puneña No. 2 (London: Boosey &
5. Ginastera, Preface.
6. Luciano Berio, Les Mots Sont allés. . . ("Recitativo"
pour cello Seul )
(Milan:Universal Edition, 1979) 1.
7. Bradshaw 222.
8. Hans Werner Henze, Preface, Capriccio (Mainz: B. Schott's Söhne,
9. Henze, Preface.
10. Henze, Preface.
11. Heinz Holliger, Chacconne (Mainz: B. Schott's Söhne, 1976) 6.
12. Holliger 5-6. The end of the sixth section is dated 10/11.7.75, while
the Post Scriptum is dated 29.7.75. These dates are written in the
European style, i.e. day, month, year.
13. Bradshaw 222.
14. Klaus Huber, Notes, Transpositio ad Infinitum (Mainz: B. Schott's Söhne,
15. Natural harmonics are created by touching the string lightly at certain
points of the string corresponding to the harmonic series. Artificial
harmonics are created by holding down a pitch (the fundamental) and
touching the string lightly a fourth or a fifth above the fundamental.
Due to the nature of this paper it is impossible to include comprehensive
analyses of all of the pieces involved. This paper will draw the reader's
attention to aspects of the pieces that I believe to be significant.
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