WINGATE’S SYMPHONY NO. 2: KLEETÜDEN - VARIATIONEN FÜR ORCHESTER NACH PAUL KLEE


  1. 1.Bewegung der Gewölbe (Movement of the Vaulted Chambers) - Andante gotico 

  2. 2.Furcht vor Verdoppelung (Fear of Becoming Double) - Vivace misurato

  3. 3.Eros - Grave libidinoso

  4. 4.Die Zwitschermaschine (The Twittering Machine) - Allegro meccanico

  5. 5.Gelehrter (Scholar) - Lento con moto

  6. 6.Flucht vor sich [erstes Stadium] (Flight from Oneself [First State]) - Prestissimo

  7. 7.Einsiedelei (Hermitage) - Larghetto introspettivo

  8. 8.Der Tod für die Idee (Death for an Idea) - Vivace portentoso

  9. 9.Zwillinge (Twins) - Allegro compiaciuto

  10. 10.Seltsamer Garten (Strange Garden) - Largo germogliare

  11. 11.Rechnender Greis (Old Man Counting) - Andante calcolazione

  12. 12.Fatales Fagott Solo (Fatal Bassoon Solo) - Allegretto sinistro

  13. 13.Uhrpflanzen (Clock-plants) - Adagietto cronologico

  14. 14.Fuge in Rot (Fugue in Red) - Moderato rossastro

  15. 15.Regen (Rain) - Allegretto spruzzatina

  16. 16.Paukenspieler (Kettledrummer) - Grave morboso

  17. 17.Ein Stückchen Eden (A Fragment of Eden) - Andantino innocente

  18. 18.Mit den beiden Verirrten (With the Two Lost Ones) - Lento ansioso

  19. 19.Leidende Frucht (Suffering Fruit) - Lento antropomorfismo

  20. 20.Ausgang der Menagerie (Outing of the Menagerie) - Vivace zoologico

  21. 21.Mädchen in Trauer (Girl in Mourning) - Andante addolorato

  22. 22.Schwarzer Fürst (Black Prince) - Allegro bellicoso

  23. 23.Gestirne über dem Tempel (The Firmament Above the Temple) - Larghissimo contemplativo

  24. 24.Katze und Vogel (Cat and Bird) - Andantino desideroso

  25. 25.Anatomie der Aphrodite (Anatomy of Aphrodite) - Allegretto cubista

  26. 26.Die Schlangengöttin und ihr Feind (The Snake Goddess and Her Foe) - Con moto mitologico

  27. 27.Ad Parnassum - Allegro trascendente


Wingate’s Second Symphony, subtitled ‘Kleetüden’ (which puns on the German word Etüden or ‘études’) is a vast homage to the iconic twentieth-century artist Paul Klee (1879-1940). The work is comprised of 27 movements, each inspired by (and bearing the same title as) one of Klee's paintings or drawings. Scored for a gigantic post-Romantic orchestra, the music attempts to hint at Klee's small-scale grandeur and transcendent profundity with an unsparing palette of orchestral colorings and textures concentrated into short, as it were Klee-sized movements. The symphony’s subtitle evokes the idea of ‘études’ in reference to both the work's virtuosic orchestral demands, and to the composer's manifold and almost encyclopaedic experiments in formal procedure. The transformative processes employed in the variations range from simple motivic development to Stravinskian rotational arrays, from tonal, theme-generated chord progressions to complicated dodecaphonic simultaneities. The heightened concern for melodic ‘line’ throughout can be seen as a synesthetic allusion to Klee's incomparable draftsmanship and his famous description of the act of drawing as ‘taking a line for a walk’. Yet unlike Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, the Symphony No. 2 has no ‘promenade’ movements to provide cohesion, but instead relies on the unifying power of the Paul Klee theme, which saturates the 27 movements in multifarious ways. Kleetüden joins a rich tradition of Klee-inspired art music including Sándor Veress’s Hommage à Paul Klee (1951), David Diamond’s The World of Paul Klee (1958), and Gunther Schuller’s Seven Studies on Themes of Paul Klee (1959), among many others. Composed intermittently over many years, the Kleetüden Symphony was completed in 2009.


Wingate’s original Paul Klee theme was created by transforming the letters of the artist’s name into pitch class integers based on their numeric position in the alphabet. Thus:

P     A     U     L     K     L     E     E

16    1    21   12    11   12    5      5

via mod12:

e     c#     a     c      b     c     f       f

This theme and its six pitches (referred to by the composer as the ‘Paul Klee hexachord’) ultimately generate the entire symphony.


1. Bewegung der Gewölbe (Movement of the Vaulted Chambers)...............................listen

The first movement of the work (after a watercolor of 1915), in fact uses only these six pitches ([E,C#,A,C,B,F], or in post-tonal parlance—set class 6-16 [014568]), and is completely permeated with the theme and its retrograde (i.e. the theme played backwards), both in melody and harmony. There is no obvious statement of the theme as one would expect from the opening of a theme-and-variations (it is actually not until the symphony’s last movement that the theme is stated completely in an overtly melodic way), but instead the theme is embedded everywhere. It even generates the movement’s counterpoint: The flute and cello episode in bars 7-16 states the theme collectively via each note-change in the ensemble, while the cello line not only contributes to the above ordering, but stands alone as a large-scale statement of the theme by itself. Meanwhile the ascending chordal layers of Klangfarbenmelodie and the cascading harp flourishes throughout the movement evoke Klee’s colorfully unstable ‘vaulted chambers’ while spelling out his name forwards or backwards (or both) within every gesture. The grand statement in bars 34-35, for example, combines the theme forwards and backwards in counterpoint, accompanied by florid hexachordal elaborations.


2. Furcht vor Verdoppelung  (Fear of Becoming Double).............................................listen

As suggested by its title, the second movement anxiously tries to avoid the condition of two notes sounding simultaneously, resulting in Klangfarbenmelodie of an extreme case: the monophonic melody is scintillatingly passed around to different instruments on almost every note. The only pitches sounding together are ominous major sevenths, intermittently interrupting the proceedings of the scherzo. Extensive use is made of set class 3-3 (014) (a subset of the Paul Klee hexachord), which is transposed via the intervals contained in the original theme. The theme itself is abstractly and registrally ‘stated’ across the movement by the piccolo in both prime and retrograde forms, as well as more explicitly in the melodic collaboration of bars 83-84 (backwards) and bars 111-113 (forwards).


3. Eros

In the third movement, Klee’s geometricisation of a psychological complexity is here rendered musically by a gigantic upward sweep of tone color spanning the entire range of the orchestra over all 38 bars. Starting with the low F in the contrabasses, the Paul Klee hexachord (transposed up one semitone in musical obeyance of the painting’s arrows) gradually rises through the strata of a complex divisi string orchestra, while diverse wind instruments take turns melodically stating transpositions of the theme’s major seventh, accompanied by harp glissandi and an obscure, movement-long tone-color ‘statement’ of the theme’s eight pitches. A layered partial statement of theme is also heard in the horns and trumpets just before the movement’s climax.


4. Die Zwitschermaschine (The Twittering Machine)

In the fourth movement, Klee’s famous ‘Twittering Machine’ is given musical life as a disquieting little four-voice fugue for the flutes and piccolo. Here the Paul Klee hexachord is developed via ‘rotational arrays’ of the kind used by Stravinsky in his late works. Each fugal voice follows a unique horizontal pathway through the array, while the pizzicato gestures in the low strings move back and forth amongst the array’s ‘verticals’. The original theme is hauntingly stated underneath the avian choir by the harp.


5. Gelehrter (Scholar)

The sixty-four notes played by the cello section in the fifth movement constitute the eight notes of the theme inverted, and then transposed eight times, with each set beginning on a pitch from the original theme and arranged to follow its sequence of intervals, thereby spelling the artist’s name with the 1st, 9th, 17th, 25th (etc.) notes. Hence, the movement embeds the scholarly concern with theory and form in a slow cadenza-like melody suffused with intellectual melancholy. This is the first of three musical ‘portraits’ in the symphony (along with the 11th and 19th movements) portraying its subject with an unaccompanied musical line.


6. Flucht vor sich [erstes Stadium] (Flight from Oneself [First State])...........................listen

The sixth movement, a brief virtuosic scherzo for 1st and 2nd violins, uses musical lines that try to escape from themselves in florid scale passages alternately tracing the pitches of the Paul Klee hexachord and it’s complement (i.e. the other six possible pitches). The body of the piece has only one melodic line which is arranged between the voices in a kind of round, or in the manner of Telemann’s Canonic Sonatas (or 6 Canons Mélodieux from 1738). The theme is hysterically stated in the trill-like figures of bars 218-221, before the ‘self’ finally catches up with it-’self’ in the final ascending gesture. The scoring for violins also serves as an oblique biographical reference to Klee, who was an accomplished violinist.


7. Einsiedelei (Hermitage)...........................................................................................listen

The withdrawn quietude of this movement spells out the theme and its retrograde tonally via chromatic chord progressions in the harp. The center section states the theme in mirrored woodwind dyads over contrapuntal, theme-based chord progressions in the high strings, culminating in a Paul-Klee-hexachord-sonority ‘cadence’, which leads to a return of the primary arpeggiated harp material with gentle solo flute elaborations.


8. Der Tod für die Idee (Death for an Idea)...................................................................listen

The brass fanfare ‘idea’ motive of this movement is simply the Paul Klee theme blown backwards with octave displacements and varied rhythmic garb. A thunderous and grumbly prime-form theme statement occurs in the instruments of low compass as the trumpet tries to extend the opening fanfare, but this is swept away by a storm of string trills setting the stage for a soaring retrograde theme statement in the horn, foreshadowing the Romantic proceedings of the symphony’s last movement (Ad Parnassum). As the fanfare material begins its return, all the accompaniments trace out the theme heterogeneously from displaced starting points. But the return itself is cut short in its jubilance by a blitzkrieg of plummeting scale gestures which contain all the pitches not present in the ‘idea’ fanfare, leading to a last whimper before suffering death by its own hexachord.


9. Zwillinge (Twins)

As a kind of contrasting companion piece to the second movement (Fear of Becoming Double), this movement instead makes a ‘double’ of everything, and exults in its extensive use of the ‘closest’ of intervals: the semitone (and its inverse, the major seventh). Bathed in secundal harmony, the twisted promenade of the oboe and English horn melody moves in dyads, sometimes stating the theme and its retrograde simultaneously. All accompaniment figures including the low woodwind ostinato move only ‘in twos’ as well.


10. Seltsamer Garten (Strange Garden)

The tenth movement states the theme in a series of transposed bass clarinet flourishes mysteriously burgeoning under a high-strings accompaniment which alternates between vertical statements of the Klee hexachord and its compliment. Other woodwinds contribute disconnected statements of their own before layering themselves in a trilled, theme-based sonority, giving way to the completion of a theme statement (and the movement) by the flute, piccolo and harp.


11. Rechnender Greis (Old Man Counting)

Klee’s magnificent etching is here portrayed as a cadenza-like movement for unaccompanied bass clarinet. It uses the complete Klee theme in rotational array twice: the slow first section traces its way through the array horizontally, while the brief scherzo gesture (beginning with the repeated E’s) traces its way through the same array vertically. The tiny coda represents a return to the original theme in retrograde. Also, in reference to the counting or ‘reckoning’ of the title, but known only to a reader of the symphony’s score, is a series of tuplets in ascending degree (groups of 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13) which inaudibly delineates the melody, much in the way that Klee’s old man is semi-fastened into his background.


12. Fatales Fagott Solo (Fatal Bassoon Solo)

The twelfth movement takes a different approach to variation, transforming the eight notes of the Paul Klee theme into tonal key areas. After beginning in E Major, this concertino for bassoon (and contrabassoon) proceeds with modulations that spell out the artist’s name in key changes: E minor, C# minor, A minor, C minor, B minor, C major, F minor, and finally F major. Meanwhile the piccolo disharmoniously punctuates the otherwise Classical mood with statements of the original theme, obliquely referring to the ominous presence of birds in Klee’s picture from which the movement takes its name. These ‘birds’ ultimately interrupt the cadenza, ushering in a dissonant whirlwind of theme statements to overwhelm the F major string finale before the final percussion-assisted death blow.


13. Uhrpflanzen (Clock-plants)

This enigmatic movement consists of a layered series of partial, retrograde theme statements for low brass, transposed according to the theme’s own intervals, and quietly peppered by contextually dissonant prime and retrograde statements in the harp.


14. Fuge in Rot (Fugue in Red)

Klee’s abstraction of an abstract musical form is here ‘re-abstracted’ as a fugue for four voices in which the eight subject statements spell out the artist’s name in minor keys. The painting’s shadowy palette of variously hidden crimsons is symbolized by the dense contrapuntal scoring for low strings, whose dusky and overtone-rich low frequencies mimic, as it were, the long wavelengths of red light in the visual spectrum. After the eighth (augmented) subject statement in the basses, the final cadence arrives reluctantly, as if Klee’s fugue wished to continue into eternity. The theme proper is embedded in the last flourish of the viola line in the penultimate bar.


15. Regen (Rain)........................................................................................................listen

In this brief movement, Klee’s filigree chandeliers of precipitation are musically depicted by a light-textured combination of flutes and harp, whose diaphanous lines are actually mini-theme statements in descending transpositions. The scattered raindrop-esque pizzicatos in the strings, while being theme statements collectively as well, also serve to give musical breath to the drawing’s white space.


16. Paukenspieler (Kettledrummer)

One of the great images of the twentieth century, Klee’s late-period masterwork here finds expression as a psychological tone painting. Free use of the Klee hexachord and it’s complement generate large, Ligeti-esque clusters of orchestral tone-color, which are juxtaposed with no melodic content except that formed by the ‘edges’, which are elaborately transformed and reordered via mathematical interventions. The Klee theme is nevertheless present beneath all this, disguised as quiet rumblings from the kettledrum of the title. The sixteen subdued note-events played by the drum across the movement represent the theme twice, first in retrograde and then in prime form, with the last F-stroke quietly terminating the transcendental proceedings.


17. Ein Stückchen Eden (A Fragment of Eden)

This brief ‘fragment’ of musical nostalgia for high strings further explores the tonal implications of the Klee hexachord. Beginning with an unprepared suspension in the violins and a partial theme statement in the violas, the string lines continue with the presence of other eerie non-chord tones, until coming to an unsatisfyingly wistful end on an unresolved dominant seventh chord.


18. Mit den beiden Verirrten (With the Two Lost Ones)

The clarinet duo in the eighteenth movement represents the two hapless figures at the bottom of Klee’s painting. Over an unsettlingly static accompaniment, the clarinets hesitantly state the theme together, one backwards, one forwards. The two are then interrupted by a series of grand orchestral gestures which stack the pitches of the theme into dramatic towers of sound, each tutti episode transposed to mimic the intervals contained in the original theme, the last one discordantly stacking two transposition levels together. This gives way once more to our quiet pair of ‘lost’ clarinets and their last simultaneous prime/retrograde theme statement and their unknown fate.


19. Leidende Frucht (Suffering Fruit)

Klee’s beautiful anthropomorphic painting is here rendered as a cadenza-like inner monologue for unaccompanied English horn. The melody freely alternates pitch materials from the Klee hexachord and it’s complement in a simple collage set in the instrument’s doleful lower compass. The last melodic gesture ‘signs’ the work with the artist’s signature in retrograde.


20. Ausgang der Menagerie (Outing of the Menagerie)

Another ‘canonic’ arrangement (similar to that of the Flight from Oneself movement) creates the kinetic moto perpetuo cello lines in this movement. These repeatedly state the theme in disguised forms while serving as accompaniment to the fanciful, quasi-zoölogical theme statements in the violins, trumpet/ trombone, contrabassoons, and timpani.


21. Mädchen in Trauer (Girl in Mourning).....................................................................listen

This hushed movement is built around a somber drone on E played by a pair of horns, whose staggered breathing creates gentle punctuation. The centricity of this pitch plays on the larger drama of E vs. F throughout all of the Kleetüden Symphony, but here E wins out and F is nothing more than an appoggiatura or neighbor tone of distant bells, as the melody in the English Horn languidly tries to escape the attraction of the static perfect intervals. The original theme is heard twice on the harp; first as widely-spaced accompaniment events, and secondly as another flourish-like ‘artist’s signature’ in the final bars.


22. Schwarzer Fürst (Black Prince)

Driven by a relentless ostinato in the low strings, this movement treats the theme as a militant chorale for low brass ensemble, interrupted by dazzlingly vehement theme statements in the timpani. Retrograde theme statements are also heard in the trombones near the piece’s edges. After evoking Holst’s Planets and perhaps Bruckner along the way, the movement threatens to come to a quiet close until the shock of the final timpani blows.


23. Gestirne über dem Tempel (The Firmament Above the Temple)

This musical landscape is built around an expansive (partial) statement of the theme in the extreme high register of the violins, hovering above the entire movement as a distant inverted pedal point. Under this, the contrabassoons state the theme starting in dyads, and then, along with other low instruments, begin a series of theme-based chords. Meanwhile the harp traverses the night sky with it’s own retrograde theme statement in the form of arpeggiated octaves. The movement comes to a close as the violins reach only the fifth note of the theme, a high B6, while the earth exhales its final chord below.


24. Katze und Vogel (Cat and Bird)

The symphony’s twenty-fourth movement is a tiny love duet for violas and piccolo, which calls forth Klee’s metaphysics of desire in the guise of childlike innocence with its bijou scoring and playful brevity. Both ‘cat’ and ‘bird’ present the theme as their musical natures entail.


25. Anatomie der Aphrodite (Anatomy of Aphrodite).......................................................listen

Evoking the fragmented physiognomy in Klee’s painting, the theme statements in this brief movement follow a kind of domino effect in which each note of the first statement generates the beginning of another theme statement at that note’s pitch, while the generated statements generate their own sub-statements, and so on until the conglomerate evaporates. String tremolos act as frames which then begin to transform themselves following theme-based transposition levels. Despite all these cubist-like relations, the mood is light and gingered by cheeky theme statements in the timpani.


26. Die Schlangengöttin und ihr Feind (The Snake Goddess and Her Foe)

The mythological drama of this penultimate movement is played out as a contrast between the percussion section and the instruments of low compass. Playing on the false dichotomy of opposites, the music does not make it entirely clear which is the snake goddess and which is the enemy, despite clues like the ‘hissing’ of the cymbals. The ‘slitherings’ of the low strings make use once again of the polarity of the Klee hexachord and its complement, while a brief central section (bars 19-23) is a complex contrapuntal setting of all eight lines of a rotational array simultaneously. The climax stacks the theme upon itself as it ascends, ultimately leaving the musical psychomachy unresolved at the movement's end.


27. Ad Parnassum........................................................................................................listen

The symphony’s shimmering finale, after a painting of 1932 (and one of Klee’s grandest canvases), attempts to paint the metaphorical ascent of Mount Parnassus (as well as Klee’s titular reference to Johann Joseph Fux’s seminal 1725 counterpoint textbook Gradus ad Parnassum, or ‘A Step to Parnassus’), in a complex synesthesia of polyphonic and polychromatic modalities. Here the soaring line of the theme in retrograde at last gets a Romantic treatment worthy of it’s potential as such, while the original theme gets its most obvious motivic use in the entire symphony as two separate counter-themes. One of these serves as the basis for the faster central section, which almost befuddles the ear with its complicated contrapuntal accompaniments. The theme also gets one last turn as a chord progression in a vigorously dark brass chorale, before the clamor gives way to the soaring retrograde theme in the horns, our last quiet glimpse of the summit before the symphony hastens to its thundering end with three more theme statements (in the piccolo—mirroring the opening bars of the first movement—and then in the violas and timpani). The final tutti chords are built from the Klee hexachord, thus bringing the work to a close in a characteristically Klee-like air of morbid jubilance.




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