Lament was written as a comment or introduction to Beethoven’s symphony. The Norrlandsoperan Symphony Orchestra commissioned works from a number of composers, with the task of linking in some way to one of Beethoven’s nine symphonies – which composer got which symphony was decided by lottery. Tally chose to emphasise the lyrical side of Beethoven by basing his work on a recitative in the cello part, taken from the fourth movement of the Ninth Symphony.
Lament (2013) is one of 9 works written within the project “Beethoven & Beyond” where 9 composers participated and each received a Beethoven symphony by lottery. This work is based on Beethoven’s 9th symphony. A recitative in the cello part, with which the 4th movement begins, became the basic material for the whole piece. I have brought out the lyrical side of Beethoven, which is perhaps not a typical feature of his style, because I thought that “fight” and fireworks, which often describe his music (and also the 9th) are a bit too redundant in this context. I have repeated excerpts of the cello recitative in different registers, so that it becomes like a mantra. It is densified with overtones and cluster lines, like an acclamation. This mantra is repeatedly interrupted by fanfares, which fall like a shadow over the lyricism.
Mirjam Tally had the thankless task of tackling Beethoven’s famous Ninth, but kept her head cool and her heart warm. In the work ‘Lament’, she chose to capture Beethoven’s cello recitative amidst airy hisses, modernist playing techniques and thunderclaps. Typically Tally-esque, but also Beethoven-enthusiastic and very delicious in all its lamenting quietness.
– Johanna Paulsson, Dagens Nyheter
Backgound thoughts, while writing Lament:
Why do we need more music that sounds monumental?
Watching a film with many war scenes on TV yesterday, I was reminded of things I have thought many times before. Partly it concerns film music, partly music, which is played at official events, etc. But most noticeable is the tendency in Hollywood-influenced film music. I asked myself several times during the film, why the orchestra must play tutti all the time, and why there must be massive choral scenes. To represent war? Of course. Ok, I understand, massive choirs reinforce the feeling of the presence of death, to show that a human being is a small and mortal creature, etc.
But an orchestra plays tutti in almost every Hollywood film. Sometimes you wish someone would do it differently, it happens. There is a certain taste that determines how a film score must sound: usually it is orchestra in tutti with glossy harmony sequences.
If you look around, you wonder why monumental works are some kind of standard. I have asked myself several times, why do we create monuments at all? A war memorial. To worship them. As if they were gods that we no longer believe in. They often stand somewhere in parks covered in bird poo. Several wars are still going on in the world, and we will probably never get rid of them. But a modern world needs new expressions.
As I myself grew up partly in the Soviet era, all monuments (and music that sounds monumental) are linked to this time, which I wish would never come back. Back then, all the Lenin monuments and texts with grandiose words on (factory) buildings were compulsory. In the free world you don’t want to voluntarily create such art. Strangely enough – when times change, old monuments are removed (like all Lenin sculptures were quickly moved when the Soviet era was over), to replace them with new ones.
I’m working on an interesting commissioned work, and I happened to think about that question again. It will be a concert of music in which several composers interpret Beethoven’s symphonies. Which symphony you get, you were assigned by lottery. Beethoven is just a good example of monumental music. This is perhaps also where the gender issue comes in. There is a kind of male fight in his music that I lack in mine. So I was almost afraid that I had peeled away all his grandiose constructions when I started sketching my interpretation of his 9th (which I got by lottery). There will be a lot of noise instead, I promise.