Toilettenkünste - (2009)
for medium voice and piano
Das Wort, an sich nicht eben viel,
rüstete sich zum Fastnachtsspiel.
Er setzte sich, das gute Wurm,
Perücken auf als wie ein Turm.
Sie barg die äußerst magern Hüften
in märchenhaften Röckegrüften.
Der Ball war voll Bewundrungtoll.
Der König selbst sprach: Wundervoll!
Doch morgens krochen - flüchtig Glück! -
zwei Nichtse in ihr Bett zurück.
[ 2 pages, circa 1' 40" ]
The Art of Make-Up
The word, not so important by itself,
Prepared itself for the Shrovetide costume ball.
He sat, that good-natured worm,
With wigs piled up like a tower.
She hid her wasted-away waist
In the fairy tale folds of her skirt.
The ball was extraordinarily fantastic.
Even the King himself remarked: "Splendid."
But the next morning -- fleeting happiness! --
Two nothings crawled back into their bed.
The text is grouped with other poems as Zeitgedichte, with this bearing the inscription "to Fritz Mauthner." Tongue-in-cheek without a doubt, Morgenstern looks a bit askance at the work of this German philosopher, whose many works fashionable in their time include a dictionary, Wörterbuch der Philosophie, 1910-11, 1923-24, the three-volume Beiträge zu einer Kritik der Sprache (1901-1902), and Die Sprache, 1907. Such a concentration on the explication of philosophical exegesis did not escape Morgenstern's eye, and his poem has "the word" preparing for the king's festive ball. "He" and "she" put on airs, and in the end the poet shows them to us as soon-to-be has-beens. Morgenstern reminds us not to take ourselves too seriously, in a world filled with people whose self-congratulatory excess is their claim to fame.
A filigree of trills and gestures paints a background of some gaiety, as the pronouns go to the ball.
The highest point of the tessitura is the king's pronouncement "Wonderful!" with the accompaniment's gestures an octave higher and louder. But subito, the reality sets in that "happiness in fleeting" -- fame as well -- and setting concludes with a quiet, somber note.
The score for Toilettenkünste is 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 graphic below for this piano-vocal score.