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“Vom zarten Pol” – a Commission for the Opening of the Salzburg Festival by Moritz Eggert

The composer Moritz Eggert is presently gaining a lot of experience in the area of opening events. Parts of his football oratorio “The Depth of Space” ("Die Tiefe des Raumes") were performed at the opening of the Football World Championship in Munich. This year the Salzburg Festival has also commissioned a work from Eggert for its opening ceremony on 23 July 2006. The composer has created a fantastic, enigmatic work from the 22 Mozart operas, which at any rate only serve as a foil. “Vom zarten Pol” (“From the Tender Pole”) is his title, and friends of anagrams will doubtless have immediately noticed that the name of Mozart lies behind the title. The Mozarteum Orchestra under the direction of Manfred Honeck will perform the premiere on 23 June in Salzburg.

Moritz Eggert has written the following concerning his work:

Creating a 22-minute piece from all 22 Mozart operas was a task that I could only resist with difficulty. Mozart is of course one of my very favourite composers and has always been a model for me. It was immediately clear to me that the intensive occupation with his operas can only lift up and inspire every composer, so I agreed to do it – perhaps a bit recklessly.

An essential problem in approaching this piece seemed to me to be the danger of a mechanical potpourri, i.e. a stringing together of the most popular numbers from Mozart’s best-known operas. Not only the fact that a composer is not necessarily required for such a task; but also there is something akin to Reader’s Digest about ticking off the operas one after the other according to popular criteria. After all, Mozart’s less well-known operas also contain wonderful arias that hardly anybody knows – Mozart can still be “discovered” as a composer.

What I needed was a story, a reason for presenting the operas in this abridged fashion. In searching for this story, I first made a giant list, working on it for several days. I listed all the figures of all the operas, all their arias, duets, trios, etc., their ranges and roll types. I worked through all the stories, arranging the operas into definite types: opere serie, comedies, azioni sacrali, opere buffe and “Seraglio operas” (this last category, including two operas, forms a small sub-genre).

When I then saw all these figures on the stage before me on an empty stage in my mind’s eye, the question urged itself upon me of how the stories of these 156 characters could continue if they had a life extending beyond the confines of their operas.

Thus arose the classical situation of “persons in search of an author” – the operatic figures find themselves again in the world of their operas, after the disappearance of their creator Mozart, and don’t know what to do. They search for the “tender pole” on which they assume the spirit of their creator to be.

This is of course a playful situation (Mozart loved any kind of game; this is therefore to be understood as an homage), a kind of “what if…,” and it was a lot of fun to think out what happens to each character AFTER the corresponding operatic plot.

Mozart’s great genius is shown by the fact that he imbues even the least important subsidiary character with a wonderful aria, with eternal life. That is why my ambition was to have really ALL 156 characters appear, with the same emphasis – my piece is therefore not a collage of the operas but a compendium of the characters.

It is clear that, in the nature of things, each character only has a little time at his disposal: an average of five seconds (the orchestral interludes and overtures – by the way, are also a compendium of ALL the overtures of all the Mozart operas in chronological order – in one minute). All characters communicate exclusively through the already existing material composed by Mozart, which was only slightly adjusted or altered by me in only the rarest cases.

This produces a frequently dizzying sequence of melodic ideas (which sometimes overlap or take place simultaneously), approaching a kind of “zapping” aesthetic typical of our era. The material itself, however, through the constantly unique Mozartian ideas, stands more or less anarchically in opposition to the zapping aesthetic – I find this a very attractive contradiction.

Since listening to all the Mozart operas (some of them for the first time) took longer than the amount of time I had in which to write the composition (this is indeed a monumental statement about Mozart’s relentless creative power), the Mozart expert Janina Hofmann helped me to bring a system into my research and to unearth one musical treasure or another, for which I hereby wish to offer her my heartfelt thanks.

Moritz Eggert, Berlin, 26.06.2006