Maria Anna, wach, im Nebenzimmer(Maria Anna, wach, im Nebenzimmer: Notturno für großes Orchester) (2021)
Bamberger Symphoniker / Andris Nelsons
Many of my works are related to other artists: my second opera Peer Gynt refers to Edvard Grieg, Henrik Ibsen and Søren Kirkegaard, my third opera Minona to Ludwig van Beethoven and his presumed daughter Minona von Stackelberg, a whole cycle of works – including the orchestral piece Norilsk, the Daffodils and the ensemble work The Empire of May – to poets of English Romanticism. As we artists are always in dialogue with those who came before us, and hopefully with those to come after us, there is something fundamentally sympathetic to me about the idea of an homage. But the work must be independent. It must not become unsubstantial, garish or striking in its reference to others.
In Maria Anna, awake, in the next room, my conviction that we composers are essentially shaped by our closest fellow human beings played a role. I have always felt that Palestrina’s rich wife or Brahms’ kind mother is to be heard through the work of these artists. Thus, I am also certain that it was important for Wolfgang Amadé Mozart to have had Maria Anna, Nannerl, his older sister. As in my opera Minona, absence also plays a major role in Maria Anna and Wolfgang Amadé: the brother travels to Paris with his mother; the sister is not allowed to come. The brother goes to Vienna and marries, the sister to Sankt Gilgen also marrying – contact between the two breaks off. When Maria Anna learns, after his death, of her brother’s last years, she bursts into tears.
My impression of the Mozart family in Salzburg is that they were ambitious, hard-working, strict, but also courageous and enterprising. Father, mother, sister and brother formed a well-rehearsed quartet that achieved a great deal, but also loved jokes and games. In my experience, children who enjoyed such a childhood gain an understanding of grace and develop a great readiness to accept what life throws at them. Wolfgang Amadé and Maria Anna went on long journeys together as children. Both certainly saw the path they had to follow, quite early on, even though they were perhaps to go their separate ways. But I believe that the constellation of Nannerl versus Wolferl never became the subject of a drama. What may have become of Maria Anna had she had the same opportunities as her brother is a question quite foreign to that period and most likely not one that would weighed heavily on the brother and sister’s hearts – unlike fifty years later between Fanny and Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy. Today it is easy to see Maria Anna as a ‘victim of her time’. The documents we have of her, however, bear no signs of tragedy or bitterness.
The title inspired me in two ways: the genre paintings of seventeenth century painters such as Georges de la Tour, often depicting girls at night with a candle, and the genre name of the nocturne, which Mozart already used, but quite distinct from the Romantic period. They are not pieces about the night, but music in the night. And so one can also hear this piece as a night picture featuring a woman who has gone into the next room, no longer hearing or seeing social life at all, perceiving, with melancholy, the difference to her worldly brother, but nonetheless loses neither her joie de vivre nor her confidence. This shared willingness to make sacrifices and their courage to face life unites brother and sister. It is the inheritance of their family.
My Notturno can be an introduction to a concert evening. It uses the same instrumentation as Anton Bruckner’s Sixth Symphony, unusually little percussion by my standards, but it works with the juxtaposition of sound and noise, just as documentary soundscapes play a role in many of my works. In the process, perhaps the atmosphere of a waking dream torn apart several times between consciousness and unconsciousness emerges, a nocturne of floating.
Jüri Reinvere, 2021