Music and Texts of Gary Bachlund


Unerhört - (2009)    

Ludwig Kalisch

for medium voice and piano


Es saßen auf dem Throne
Der Kaiser und sein Sohne.
Der Kaiser und sein Sohne
Sie saßen auf dem Throne.

Da sprach der Kaiser zum Sohne
Auf seinem gold' nen Throne;
Dann sprach zum Kaiser der Sohne
Auf seinem gold' nes Throne.

Und als sie beide gesprochen.
Nicht länger sie mehr sprachen;
Dieses ist alles geschehen
In der großen Kaiserstadt Achen.

[ 2 pages, circa 1' 40" ]

Ludwig Kalisch


Seated on the throne

were the Kaiser and his son.

The Kaiser and his son

were seated on the throne.


There the Kaiser spoke to the son

on his golden throne;

then spoke the son to the Kaiser

on his golden throne.


And as the both had spoken

no more did they speak;

this is all that happened

in the great imperial city Aachen.



For more on this less known author please see the information about Hugo der Finstere.


Subtitled a Swabian ballad -- "Eine schwäbische Ballade" -- it is not meant as Hochdeutsch, or standard German. The poem itself is among those which say little with much. What do we know of that "unheard" conversation? Nothing. The little drama presents us with a cast of characters, a place and images, yet as to the content of the drama, there is no meaning at all, for this is in the genre of nonsense poetry. One might opine that much of political speech is nonsense, and of little or no consequence. I suspect this is Kalisch's editorial intention, and it certainly is mine.


The bass is merely a succession of tonic and dominant, as the treble triads slip by half steps down from tonic to dominant and then rise again shaping small palindromes. Above this the vocal line in the first two strophes sketches out its own palindrome, twice the length of the accompaniment's.




The final verse breaks with the shape of a palindrome in the vocal line, as the last line summarizing this small vignette simply rises chromatically to finally cadence in the dominant-tonic which has underpinned the entire setting. The title of the poem itself is the "last word" on the subject.



The score for Unerhört 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.