Es war einmal - (2012)
Susanne Paasch nach den Brüdern Grimm
for soprano, tenor, baritone soli and
(celesta, harp, harmonium and percussion)
my librettist, Susanne Paasch, we planned to write a settings of some Grimm
fairy tales. While she was having surgery and for the obvious musical
possibilities, I began with the rather less well known Läuschen und
Flöhchen, and as we then worked together over many
weeks, other tales came to mind and uniting three into one through-composed
work grew from this work. The 'conceit' uniting them makes use of the Grimm
brothers and a Marie Hassenpflug, who also is known to have contributed to
the collection by means of introducing the Grimm brothers to other
informants and their folk stories. Three singers, then, became our cast by
which to tell four tales, and throughout they play a number of characters.
Susanne Paasch studied music and Romance languages and literature in Detmold
and Berlin, theater in Bochum with engagements in Augsburg and St. Gallen.
Additionally she has worked in stage direction in various projects, and
taught music, French and theater. She has adapted three Grimm stories for
our storytellers to enact, the three playing all the parts throughout.
The chamber ensemble consists of celesta, harp, harmonium and percussion
(vibraphone, triangle, hanging cymbal with soft sticks and snare drum).
Opening in the study of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, they ponder (amusingly, as
this is for children) their ongoing work towards a complete German
dictionary. Jacob, elder and more serious, and Wilhelm, younger and our
comedian for the purposes of this set of tales, are interrupted happily by
the entrance of Marie, who brings them the first story. Among the musical
materials is a signature relationship between the opening tonic and its
three playfully choose to enact some tales, so many of which begin with
"Once upon a time...."
refrain for this story is treated musically, as more and more phrases
lengthen it in the elaboration of the story and its many fanciful characters
are portrayed in a rush by the three friends.
conclusion of the first fairy tale ends with a reminder, "Once upon a
time...." The more serious Jacob wants to return to their work on the
dictionary, but instead they are reminded of a next story.
second story is separated from the first by a small fughetta, as the
three improvise costumes in order to play the second tale.
next story of the fisherman, his demanding wife and a magic fish begins on a
more serious tone in octaves, as the first themes are stated as a small
magic fish (actually an enchanted prince) is called by the fisherman in a
magical rhyme which reappears often in the original story. The music which
accomapnies varies with each repetition.
character of the demanding, never satisfied fish wife is painted in musical
fioatura and a wide-ranging tessitura, which becomes more aggressive
with each greater demand of the fisherman.
tale of the fisherman and his wife ends with the wife having lost all, the
magical fish singing the last repetition of the conjuring spell as the
fisherman and wife are returned to their impoverished circumstances for
having demanded too much. Another short fughetta breaks the mode,
allowing for some costume changes, and its subject becomes the musical
material for the last of these three Märchen, the well-known story of
the Frog King.
young princess plays with her golden ball and loses it in the bright key of
D flat major, allowing many wide-ranging arppeggios to accompany the flight
of the ball and play which ensues. The "King's daughter" loses her treasure
and it is returned by the enchanted prince who was transformed into a frog.
Frog-King demands his part of the bargain, and woes with a lyrical melody
and its accompaniment the maiden. In the end he is transformed back and the
tale ends happily.
third tale ends, as the three characters break with their play, Wilhelm and
Marie finish the retelling of the tale and its conclusion about the loyal
servant, Heinrich, as the Grimm's study ceases to be an improvised theater
for these stories -- for the time being.
Piano-vocal edition -- 103
Chamber ensemble score - 201 pages
Celesta part - 50 pages
part - 43 pages
Harmonium part - 53 pages
Percussion part - 16 pages
Given that harmoniums are of varying dispositions in terms of registers as
well as technical specifications (pressure versus suction types) and even
number of keyboards, the harmonium part is not marked with register
suggestions as found in 19th and early 20th century solo and some opera
scores are, but rather it is left to the taste of the player and the
abilities and limitations of a specific instrument.
The scores and parts for Es war einmal are available as a free PDF download,
though any major commercial performance or recording of the work is
prohibited without prior arrangement with the composer. Click on the graphics
below for these scores.
For inquiries and the arrangement of performance rights,
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