René Mense




Grand (2001)
In Remembrance of Stefan Wolpe (1902-72)
for violoncello and piano, 7'40"

  When Stefan Wolpe was a young man he had been active with many artists of the Weimar "Bauhaus" and the left wing "Agitprop" scene in his native city Berlin. In 1933 he went but for a short time to Anton Webern in Vienna, but soon the political circumstances forced him to leave Europe.

  As first step of his immigration he tried to find a way living as part of the Zionist project in Palestine. Altogether he spent five years in different kibbutzim. It was also here that for the first time in his artistic life he devoted himself to the Jewish tradtion.

  Nevertheless he decided once and for all to immigrate to the USA in 1939.

  There he felt divided all his life: as a stranger in the English language and concerning his musical and political tradition he never succeded in leaving a lasting impression in the American music scene. Even the post war avantgarde in Darmstadt and Donaueschingen more or less ignored him and his music. In Germany, one let Wolpe play the role of the Jewish immigrate, but never was he to accept this.

  He died suffering heavily from Parkinson and almost totally isolated in New York in 1972.

  Only in the eighties one rediscovered his music, the special appeal of which lies in its immense stylistic and technical diversity.

  "Grand" (in German) means a certain kind of sedimentary rock consisting of tiny squared stones and gravel. This material is a product of  the decay of resistant granular rocks (granite for example). Extreme fluctuations in temperature and /or permanent insolation play an integral part in this process of decay. It is most likely that Stefan Wolpe knew a climate like that when he lived in Palestine.

  Metaphorically speaking one could indicate "Grand" with sediment as history. Led from this metaphor my composition emerged from the idea Wolpe could once have started to read in such a sediment in the land of his ancestors.

Sheet Music Sample (PDF)
as Audio Sample (MP3) 3.2 MB

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