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Rolf Wallin

Publisher: Chester Music

Das war schön! (2006)
A project of the Wiener Mozartjahr 2006, co-commissioned by the Wiener Mozartjahr 2006 and the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, with support from the Norwegian Composers' Fund.
Chester Music Ltd
Soloists and Orchestra
Year Composed
20 Minutes
Solo Instrument(s)
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Programme Note
Rolf Wallin Das war schön! (2006)
The five movements of this concerto focus on different musical and biographical sides of the picture of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The three middle movements are composed on the basis of musical excerpts from his oeuvre. The outer movements are based on the frequency plotting of bird song. It has repeatedly been suggested that Mozart "composed like a bird sings", effortlessly and almost like a medium for divine forces. Mozart was also very attached to his pet bird, a starling named Herr Stahr. Mister Starling could sing the main theme of the final movement of his master's 17th Piano Concerto, although with two small mistakes. Mozart included these mistakes in the entry of this theme in his catalogue of finished pieces, and he added the comment "Das war schön!" (that was nice!).

1) M. Noir
A tribute to another M. in music history associated with birds, Olivier Messiaen; one of his many compositions based on birdsong is Le merle noir (The Blackbird). The song of a rock thrush, cousin of the blackbird, was transposed down two octaves and slowed down to one fourth of its speed so that we sluggish humans can appreciate the many wonderful melodic turns hiding inside the song.

2) Mon trés cher Pére
The first work Mozart completed after his father's death was oddly enough Ein Musikalischer Spaß (A Musical Joke). This caricature of the musical shortcomings of his often much more popular rivals ends with three extremely dissonant chords. Actually, played very softly these chords are quite beautiful, and they serve here as a small requiem for Leopold. Amadeus usually opened his letters to his father with "Mon trés cher Pére". This misspelled cliché of endearment strikes right into the core of Mozart's strained relationship to his father.

3) 3 x 3
Mozart was an active Freemason. In the overture to the Magic Flute, the wind instruments give away the secret knocking signal of the second grade: Short - long - long, repeated three times. Here, the signal can be heard in the Marimba part.

4) Es klinget...
The only melodic percussion instrument available in Mozart's time was the glockenspiel. In The Magic Flute it is Papageno's musical weapon, and here is a transformed excerpt from the glockenspiel part. The orchestration also includes a reference to Mozart's use of glass harmonica.

5) Herr Stahr
Herr Stahr died only a week after Mozart's father, and Mozart wrote a heartfelt poem for his funeral. The starling is one of the great virtuosi among birds. Therefore the speed of the bird song is slowed down three times before analysis, but without losing virtuosity!

Score preview:

  • Ensemble
    Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra / Kroumata Percussion Ensmble
    Martin Grubinger (percussion)
    Jaap van Zweden / John Axelrod / Jukka-Pekka Saraste
The Norwegian composer Rolf Wallin is increasingly gaining international recognition, and this disc is likely to win him further admirers. The percussion concerto Das war schön! refuses to conform to the genre's stereotype of superficially impressive crashing and banging. This Mozart tribute combines a genial charm, with flair and a sometimes impish sense of humour.
Christopher Dingle, BBC Music Magazine,01/01/0001
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