“I asked myself what they were talking about because that was the last human talk, the last words of life that my mum could hear. […]
These were the last human words that my mum could hear, because immediately after the arrival, the service in the chapel of the cemetery would have started, and from that moment the sounds and the words wouldn’t belong anymore to life, they were the sounds and words of the afterlife coming.”
In this passage from his moving short story Two drivers, Dino Buzzati wonders what his mother may be able to “hear” while heading, dead, towards the cemetery: the different sounds that surround her are what links her to life and, then, death.
If sounds are so important for a writer in such distressing circumstances, it is spontaneous to think that composers like Mozart or Schnittke would use sound as the most immediate way to convey the feeling of suffering connected with the loss of their own mother. This is how two tense masterpieces were conceived: the Piano Sonata K 310 and the Quintet for piano and strings.
Mozart composed the K 310 in 1778, choosing, for the first time for a sonata, a minor key (it is significant that only two sonatas in his catalogue are written in a minor key), so to highlight tragically the dramatic nature of the piece.
Two centuries later, in 1972, Alfred Schnittke began to write, right after the death of his mother, the distressing Quintet, but he terminated the work only four years later, because the strong emotional connection with that music would not allow him to proceed.
The Quintet, while very modern, proves to be extremely calibrated and “classic” in its structure. It is full of dissonances and microintervals and the five movements are held together by the recurring melodic line that we hear in the beginning and that represents the electrocardiogram of the dying mother. Such peculiar musical devices (another example may be the unusual use of the piano pedal at the end of the third movement) are what makes this quintet an extremely dramatic piece of music.
Ever mine is an opportunity to listen to the reaction, set to music, of two distant composers to one of the most painful of losses.
EVER MINE – TEATRO OFF
2nd February 2019 – 9 pm
Nurit Stark, Nicola Bruzzo violin
Georgy Kovalev viola
Alexey Stadler cello
Elisabeth Brauß piano
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Piano Sonata no. 8 K 310
Alfred Schnittke Quintet for piano and strings