"Les Jeux Sont Faits!" : Ensemble Strategies and Historical "Borrowing" in the Music of Bengt Hambrĉus




John MacKay



While compelling timbral and orchestrational nuance abounds in the music of Bengt Hambraeus, it is the larger lines ­ rich in so many devices, from the orchestral and organ literature to the electronic studio ­ which secure his remarkable images in our memory. For those of us fortunate enough to know Bengt's music, these larger lines (and some of them are immense!) bear a certain intrigue in themselves: we wonder how he will combine the new ideas with the myriad gestures of the language: the contrapuntal and massed textures, their development into intricately discernible layers, effects of masked attacks, the unmasking of hidden sonorities in the resonance of others, the fusion, interference, superposition, intersection, alternation, of blended wind-choir harmonies, the “cascading,” "pyramiding" and "wedging" harmonic accruals, the static or undulating timbral clusters, the elemental conga rhythms, the colorful “coupling” melodies,[1] the intense angular cantillations, the extreme low-register solos, often in the thick, reedy timbres of the contrabassoon, doublebass or organ pedals, or the heterophonies, the wailing descants frequently with strident "beating" in the flutes, piccolos or other high winds, the massive pedal points, the virtuosic chord streams, the intimate “lontano” echoings, the tam-tam explosions, the endless bell-like resonances ...  indeed, there is nothing quite like the anticipation of a new Hambrĉus piece, the guessing beforehand of what he will pull out of the group of instruments before us on stage![2]


What will be attempted here is essentially an appreciation of Hambrĉus's musical language.  In Jeu de Cinq for woodwind quintet and Strata for large ensemble (oboes, clarinets, basset horns, bassoons, French horns, and double bass) where various ensemble strategies become the essential compositional pre-occupation, it is possible to observe some of the richness of his harmonic and timbral "thinking" in relation to wind instruments.  In response to the composer's own desire for something more to be written analytically about his "metamusical" pieces (i.e. pieces seemingly "about" other music, or at least involving extensive use of citations from music of the past) the Quodlibet: re Bach will be explored as well as FM643765  for organ,[3] and we will conclude with some commentary on Continuo a partire da Pachelbel, surely one of Hambrĉus's favorite works, for one of his favorite performers and for an occasion and setting which seems to have resonated to the depths of his musical imagination.


Jeu de Cinq for Woodwind Quintet


Jeu de Cinq was commissioned by the York Winds in 1976 as a composition for a conventional though highly virtuosic wind quintet. The notion of "jeu" or game seems to apply not only to ensemble relationships but to many other aspects of the piece as well.  Hambrĉus's comments in conversation with the members of the ensemble are most inviting:


 The musicians asked me "What are you getting at in this piece?" My answer was simply "Wait and see. Imagine a game or gambling-initial gambit (roulette) when the players try to understand each others' strategy. From the very neutral, yet expectant opening things start to move. 'Faites vos jeux!'"[4]


Registral fields of C naturals act as points of harmonic departure and return (at the opening and in mm. 128 and 146; see the orchestrational and harmonic representation in Figure 1) with other focal points emerging throughout the piece on A flat and A natural, and the low pedals on B natural/B flat. Certain harmonic sonorities, such as the diminished seventh, dominant seventh, tritone‑plus‑fourth and sonorities involving a fifth and octave with other chromatic elements in a wide variety of voicings, are clearly part of the game as well.


The formal and dramatic development of Jeu de Cinq also exhibits particularly game‑like qualities in the interruption of its various stages, either by silence (as in a fermata or single measure of rests as in mm. 5, 17, 45, 49, 81, and 159) or by a reduction of the texture to a single mid‑register[5] tone in one of the instruments (in mm. 11, 33, 70, 76, 121, and 191‑193).  While many of these articulations seem arbitrary (and hence "game-like"), they generally outline an introduction with initial elaborations (mm.1 - 45), and two more extensive developmental spans (mm. 45 - 81 and 81 - 137) followed by a texturally contrasting section and coda (mm. 138 - 193).  Similarly, while no predictable cyclic design arises in Jeu de Cinq, isolated foreshadowings and returns of ideas, combine, with unique climactic developments and unravellings to give the work a discernable narrative curve beneath its mosaic of episodes.




                                                                                                            Figure 1: cont'd    `                                         


        Figure 1: cont'd 



mm. 1 - 45


In the cool and subdued opening stage of the piece, high‑ and low‑register C naturals define registral "points" of departure and return as well as a certain recurrent spacing in which the middle register is left open ­ in this case, for the flute's rhythmic impulses, ff possible in its weakest, but harmonically richest register. This opening model (mm.1- 4) is repeated exactly and, following a measure's silence, the spacing is disturbed as the sustained C naturals are expanded fleetingly to upper octaves and grace‑note Dbs are introduced in the bassoon and in a mid‑register trill in the clarinet. E flats and E naturals are similarly touched upon in the oboe and inflections to B flat\A natural in the flute and oboe cadence to the first isolated mid‑register tone in the horn.


As the C natural intensifies in the extreme high‑register flute (fluttertongue), and in the high‑register trill (C natural-D natural) in the clarinet, a sharp dynamic exchange between the oboe and horn on the mid‑register C natural seems to instigate the first tentative harmonic sonorities of the piece ­ the upper-register fifth C‑G in the oboe and clarinet against the reinforced repetition of the bassoon's low‑register C (m.15), and then a complete diminished-seventh sonority (m. 16, C‑A‑E flat‑F#) spaced with minor tenths between all voices and sustained outer-limit C naturals in the flute and bassoon.  A second measure of silence (m. 17) seems to reverse this development in the ensuing, more compact sonorities on an incomplete diminished seventh (A-C-E flat), and a C major (plus minor ninth D flat) sonority as the game then reverts briefly to the C drone.


The sudden convergence on the thick major third/minor sixth  A flat-C (mm. 22 - 27) presents a remarkable point of harmonic and timbral definition, exploring the richness of the interval across the various registers of the ensemble. It is supplanted by an equally striking shift (m. 28, see Example 1[6]) to the ethereal minor third A-C, again across the various registers, which recedes briefly to a field of octave A naturals in the horn and upper winds.  The oboe touches only slightly on the high-register A natural  before skipping to F# against the bassoon's mid-register E flat (m. 33) to gently recall the the diminished seventh of the previous measures against the A drone. 


The isolated mid-register A natural in the clarinet links to yet another surprise in the outbreak of dominants on D and C# in humorous, almost brazen augmented sixth resolutions.[7]  After the sustained dominant seventh on D however, in m. 35, the harmonic fixation deteriorates into isolated semitone (or major seventh/minor ninth) alternations in all of the lower voices beneath a high-register F natural "halo" in the flute (fluttertongue, see Example 2). The "halo" persists over the F-Gb-A-C sonorities ( [0,1,4,7] in classic set-theoretic  representation)  in  mm. 39, 41,43  which  surround  a  quick  and  witty  dominant seventh chord stream[8] in m. 42 but  is  is then transferred to a mid-register F natural in the horn amid the filagree of m. 44.


  Example 1: Jeu de Cinq, mm. 25‑30




Example 2: Jeu de Cinq, mm. 36‑40



mm. 45 - 81


The pre-emptive E-F#-G# (with doubled E naturals) of mm. 45 - 48 anticipates the clustering of high-register timbres in the central developments of the piece, leaving the middle register significantly vacant, as in the subsequent (re-shuffled) D seventh sonority (m. 50). The new sonority on B-D flat-D natural-A however asserts the mid-register D flat in the horn which attracts the other instruments at least momentarily to this register, reflecting the opening mid-register C natural preoccupations of the game, however at this point (m. 53), in clear conflict with D flat.


The movement of the oboe to Ab recalls that of m. 22 but here it is just the initial step in the sequence of ascending sixths/descending thirds C-A flat-F-D-B-G-E flat-C-A in staggered imitation over the entire ensemble (see Example 3).  In passing through C natural to A (m.60), the drone from m. 32 is momentary recalled in the upper instruments.  The A is subsequently maintained through the F in the horn up to the chime-like sonorities of m. 64 - 69 which can be seen to derive through descending minor thirds from D flat yielding B flat, G and E natural against the upper-register A natural.  This sonority (the A-B flat-C# -E-G) is in fact familiar from the F-G flat-A-C of mm. 39 - 43  but transposed with the addition of the seventh G natural[9] in the brief staccato filagree /sustained sonority alternations of m. 67 which give way to the upper mid-register B flat of the horn's solo sustain in m. 70.


This harmony disintegrates in the ensuing measures (mm. 71 - 76) via registrally transposed chromatic shifts of individual tones: the E to D#, G to F# and most emphatically the C# to D and back again in a convergence of the flute and horn on mid-register C#  ­  recalling previous mid-register convergences on C natural (mm.4 and 53) but now thoroughly committed to the C#.


At mm. 77 - 80 the ensemble breaks into two harmonic strata, statically exchanging pitches between instruments ­  the flute, oboe and clarinet on the upper- and high-register tritone/fourth sonority (G-C-F#) and the horn and bassoon, beginning together on A natural but splitting to the minor tenth A flat and B with the B in the horn echoing the rhythmic iterations on C# in the flute from m. 76 (see Example 4).


                                                                             Example 3: Jeu de Cinq, mm. 55‑62





                                                                              Example 4:  Jeu de Cinq: mm. 79 - 82


mm. 81 - 137


Following the brief silence in m. 81, the game of exchanging stratified tones migrates to a C#-D-F natural-F# (0,1,4,5) sonority with the distended minor tenth (D-F) in the mid- and low-register horn and bassoon against the octave/fourth C#-F#-C# in the upper instruments.  This sonority breaks down into trills and pianissimo filagree in the upper instruments but maintains chromatically displaced remnants in m. 85 in the clarinet's F-G flat-F oscillation and in the bassoon and horn's minor ninth (D# -  E natural), wedging inward from their D-F of mm. 81- 84. The filagree (disturbed by passing sforzandi in the flute and clarinet) spreads eventually to the bassoon en route to the brief pianissimo convergence on a trilled diminished seventh sonority in m. 87. The horn is excluded however, to return, cuivré, on its exposed mid-register D natural.


The horn persists (in its D natural) against quick ff  and pp  attacks and continued pianissimo/staccato filagree in the other instruments, but shifts in turbulent crescendi and diminuendi, and via another (0,1,4,5) sonority (Bb-B natural-D-E flat), to C# in measure 91, where the flute, oboe and clarinet deflect upwards to enforce a transposition of the latter sonority down a half-step.  The upper voices, hovering about, and exchanging pitches, in the upper- and high-register fourth/octave sonority, now move intensely in parallel trills and filagree as the lower voices maintain their expanded tenth.  A point of maximal polarization is reached in m. 93 as the horn jumps down to grate in semitones (B fnatural-B flat) with the bassoon beneath the continued high-register stream of activity in the upper instruments and eventually breaking the stratification in mm. 95 - 96 as the lower instruments drop out and the clarinet sweeps in ascending arpeggiations from the mid-register.


As the lower voices resume their extreme low-register B flats and B naturals the flute and oboe center more insistently around the high-register chromatic cluster E-F- F# and the clarinet becomes focused on mid-register turning figures about B and C natural. The oboe and flute drop out briefly echoing their intense high-register activity in isolated trilled fifths in m. 110, but this apparent unraveling to the clarinet alone is deceptive as the flute and oboe re-attack again in m. 117  ­ in tenths however, reversing the interval relationships of the preceding textures with the fifths being taken by the horn and bassoon in the low, and lower mid-registers. 


Further misdirection ensues as the horn comes pp  to a pause on middle C, wedging inwards from the clarinet's tapering trill on mid-register B-C#. The surprising and intense resumption of the trill and filagree, with the shifts of flute to piccolo and bassoon to contrabassoon, then bring about the work's shrillest and most inharmnonic dissonances in m. 125 sustaining the high register E-F (clarinet and oboe) against the piccolo's extreme high-register F#.  The climax however, is short-lived.  As the piccolo drops an octave into proximity with the oboe and clarinet around high-register E-F natural-F#, the horn and contrabassoon forge an intense, falling and rising line in fifths and the texture suddenly subsides to a pp C natural octave field ­ initially with shades of B natural and D flat and registral skips and octave tremoli in the clarinet, but resolving, as the contrabassoon drops out (switching back to bassoon), to stable octave designations ­ the horn on middle C and flute, clarinet and oboe all on high-register C in overlapping swells and recessions.

Example 5: Jeu de Cinq, mm. 89‑91





Example 6: Jeu de Cinq, mm. 93‑96.


mm. 138 - 193


The intriguing wedge onto middle C of mm. 120-121 is reversed in the high register in the oboe and flute of m. 137 as the ensemble texture suddenly shifts to a delicate and undulating filagree in which earlier ideas submerge, protrude and recirculate. The muted horn projects the C-A flat sixth of the initial developments and quickly pursues the chains of thirds descending in m. 140 (see Example 7).  A brief chord stream then emerges in the lower instruments against the flute, recalling and elaborating upon the little descending  semi-tone/rising tone figure of m. 42, but at this point in major triad \minor ninth (0,1,4,7) sonorities , as opposed to the earlier dominant sevenths. The solo flute (m. 145) recedes to middle C to which the lower instruments gravitate in trills and sustains (around middle B-C-C#  in mm. 146 - 147) but the (half muted) "echo horn" maintains the middle C through the return of the filagree in m. 149.  The horn's muted middle C is attacked by a sforzando in the other instruments stacked in minor ninths (m. 150, F-F#-G-G#), but the horn then initiates a further chain of descending thirds (from E natural in m.151) as the filagree dissolves to a tremolo and quaver texture in narrow thirds and seconds in the upper-mid register.

     Example 7: Jeu de Cinq, mm. 140‑41


In the intense subito fff  outburst of m. 155 (see Example 8), the lower instruments trill on a further major triad plus minor ninth (0,1,4,7) sonority (G-A flat-B-D) before reverting, first to the pianissimo quavers and filagree trills (still clustered in the mid- and upper-mid registers), and then to a measure of silence (m.159).  



Example 8: Jeu de Cinq: mm. 155 - 156


The final unraveling of the game involves continued deterioration of the quaver\filagree figures, echoing the descending third motive, F#-D-B (mm.  160 - 161), in sforzando impulses in the mid-register and eventually arriving on A flat once more in the horn.  A momentary shift to pianissimo middle C/B natural trills deflects to swells on low-, high and extreme-high-register C naturals with a quick and intense flurry of hockets between flute and oboe.  The sustained sonority of m. 165 which is pivotal in the denouement of the piece involves doubled Fs and Cs and a D flat in the horn in reference to the stratified (0,1,4,5) sonorities of the central developments (mm. 81 and onwards), however, instead of the minor tenth D flat-E natural, it is here a major tenth D flat-F producing the more consonant and fused "timbral" sonority of m. 165. 


Following quick pitch exchanges and registral transfers in the lower instruments, there is a further convergence on mid-register A flat in the flute, horn and bassoon, at the beginning of the final descending third/ascending sixth chain which is prolonged over the last 26 measures of the piece.  After momentary doublings with the bassoon and flute (on F in mm. 169 - 170), and the clarinet (on the G), the horn continues the interval chain, once more alone against various superpositions in the other instruments:  a diminished seventh sonority against the horns A natural of m. 176,  and a collective filagree murmuring in m. 178 leaving a quick clarinet flourish which is attacked by a re-scoring of the earlier diminished seventh sonority ­ the clarinet insisting on a lower mid-register Bb against the prolonged A natural in the horn. Three recapitulative chordal gestures bring the work to its conclusion: a dominant seventh (C-E-G-B flat) in m. 186 with the clarinet swelling on the horn's mid-register G natural, a widely spaced F# major plus minor ninth (0,1,4,7) sonority, and finally, against the mid-register Db in the horn (the apparent winner in the many C-D flat conflicts), the stratified (0,1,4,5) octave/fourth plus minor tenth sonority (A-D-A/D flat-B flat) from m. 92 with the  upper voices now shifted down an octave.


Whatever the many intricacies of the "game" in Jeu de Cinq, its essential compositional techniques are directed to the ensemble's propensities for fusion versus stratification ­ techniques which are as integral to Hambrĉus's musical language as they are to the compositional traditions of the organ literature. It is useful to distinguish between the natural harmonic and textural tendencies for fusion (or stratification) in the materials which Hambrĉus employs, and the very subtle and often unique effects of fusion or stratification which Hambrĉus exerts upon them.  For example, obvious conditions for harmonic fusion are found in the C natural registral field of the very opening of the work, but the natural blending of the octaves and unisons is contradicted by the overlapping swells causing one color to protrude over another in disparate registral strands above and below the open middle register.


Obvious conditions for textural fusion are seen in m. 138 in the clustering of mid-register filagree. Interesting in this is the initiation of the descending third line in the clarinet on Ab (echoing the lower Ab heard previously from the horn), which is thoroughly masked in the midst of this texture but which extends, swelling and receding downward in the French horn into the open registral space beneath the filagree texture.


Effects of timbral fusion can be seen in the rarer rmoments of chord streaming or in stable sustained sonorities (mm. 42 - 43, 142 - 145, m. 90) and are accompanied with identical dynamic contours and shadings in all parts to favor a blending of the disparate timbres and registers. The usually fleeting trilled sonorities (mm. 44, 110) which resist harmonic fusion with other material, create fused textural impressions in isolation and natural stratifications against sustained harmonic materials (mm. 50, 91, 110.)  Elsewhere the trill can be seen in its traditional contrapuntal role of attracting momentary attention to any given part or line of the texture. 


Incidental to the game of fusion and stratification are the moments (mm. 26, 65, 79 - 80, 91) in which relatively stable harmonic sonorities shift subtly in their color via pitch-trading between instruments.  Such effects of timbral comparison are also exposed in many of the instances where usually high-, or upper-register tones shift from instrument to instrument in the ongoing development of the piece (mm. 20, 67), and of course in the many successive solo sustains in the middle register. 


Perhaps most striking however, are the combinations of registral extremes.  As observed repeatedly in the analysis, Hambrĉus intentionally stretches and surpasses the limits of registral (and hence harmonic and textural) coherence ­ an effect apparent at  the very opening as well as the dramatic high points of the work (mm. 50, 91 et seq., 117. 166), as if providing "neutral corners" or temporary points of "non-interference" or maximal dispersion in Jeu de Cinq 's shifting ensemble strategies.





Strata[10] (for two oboes, two clarinets, two basset horns, two bassoons, four French horns, and one double bass ) is a virtual study in the ensemble nuances of reed timbres. As in Jeu de Cinq, the French horns provide a more focused lower‑register harmonic filler which is kept apart from the more active passagework of the woodwinds. The use of the double bass is also interesting since, as a bowed instrument, it has certain "rustle" qualities[11] that offer an extension of the reed timbres into the extreme-low register. Quite unusually however, for many of the active ensemble passages, it is as if the double bass were in its own world, either masked or completely mismatched against the more incisive and abundant upper-register timbres.  The basset horns' and clarinets' single‑reed timbre in most registers provide a typically "hollow" counterpart to the oboe and bassoon but In its high registers the clarinets contributes a fuller, more robust sound in contrast to the high-register oboe timbres.


Whereas Jeu de Cinq explores various fluctuating and evolving harmonic conditions, the formal organization of Strata involves a drama of contrasting, sequential textures.  The form and evolution of the work is sketched in Figure 2. Its opening trilled sonorities and running masses of chord streams form a ritornello (see Example10, pg 29), initially relieved by a double bass solo (m.31), and later by sustained, pianissimo, chorale‑like textures (Example 9, pg 28) that do not fully materialize until well into the piece (m. 52). The "chorale" textures first appear as static chord complexes which are interrupted by the earlier trilled textures and staccato chord streams as well as a second double bass solo, but a more prolonged intervention of the trilled textures (mm. 87 - 120) finally succumbs to the chains of static sonorities which comprise the central episodes of the work ­ rhythmically free, in fermatas with returns to low-register sustains as if in a very slow, verse by verse hymn or chorale setting.  The hesitant return of the sixteenth-note chord streams (mm. 168 - 201) invokes two further ppp  chorale episodes separated by a clarinet cadenza in (mm. 220 - 223) and followed by the oboes in ff  incantational fifths, bringing about the final return to opening materials, but not without some closing suggestions of the chorale sonorities which comprised the heart of the piece.



Example 9: Strata mm. 117 - 144


The notion of layering in Strata is unique in that it deals as much with the timbral and harmonic definition of superimposed sound masses as it does with their registral relationships. In many instances of more active textures, different timbral strata occupying the same registral spaces are distinguished by their linear contours and the harmonic intervals between their components (as in Example 10). In the sustained and harmonically fused "chorale" textures, the use of "vibrato" versus "non‑vibrato" designations between each of the two oboes, two clarinets, two basset horns and two bassoons plays a role in creating layers both (as in Example 10)[12] as well as beating effects which add a composed "depth" or "warmth" which is so common in so many of Hambrĉus's sonority complexes.



 Example 10: Strata mm. 6 - 9




Example 11: Strata mm. 16 - 18





Figure 2:  Formal and Textural Evolution of Strata.

Upper line represents oboes and clarinets, second line the basset horns and bassoons, third line French horns, and lower line the double bass.



mm. 1 - 120: Initial confrontations, developments and transitions


In the opening massed trills of the work, we see the tendency for scoring interlocking  tenths  between pairs of woodwind instruments, with the horns in sixths and with the double bass by itself in a separate layer. As in Jeu de Cinq  the dramatic silences play with the tension and momentum of such passages, and we also see the successive re-scoring of harmonic structures, exchanging tones between instruments as in the opening measures and mm.6‑7 between the oboes and clarinets. Other developments of the opening textures include layerings via different melodic contours within the different instrumental parts and shifting the intervals within the individual instrumental layers to thirds, sixths, and tritones  (mm. 11 and 12).  Also as in Jeu de Cinq, fixed register/timbre references are pervasive in Strata.[13] The high-register D natural in the oboes and clarinets in the beginning (as in Example 10) is virtually identifiable with the trilled chordal complex as the E natural in the same register and the accompanying extreme low-register B flat/B natural (mm. 15 - 18, see Example 11 above pg. 29) are with "chorale" passages.


An extensive tug of war which dominates the opening hundred measures of the piece emerges subtly at first in mm. 20- 30 as the staccato chord stream re-asserts itself in the clarinets and bassett horns and eventually in the bassoons against the outer-register sustains in the oboes (returning to their high-register D-E-F natural clusterings) and horns.  It is the sustained outer registers which prevail against the disintegration of the staccato chord stream into clumpings of sixths in the clarinets and lower winds, which, as the oboes swell intensely on their high-register D-E natural, then cut to the first double bass solo.


The dramatic reduction to the double bass exposes its low- and lower mid-register third B flat-D and E-B flat tritone ­ important pitch and harmonic elements which are often submerged beneath the activities of the winds.  Its quick ascending chain of thirds evokes both sustained low-register "chorale " elements in the horns and bassoons as well as analogous solo contours in thirds in the bassett horns (m. 45) and clarinets (mm. 50-51) whose solos are broken up by brief pre-emptive resurgences of the chordal trills and staccato chord streams (mm. 48 - 49). 


                                                                                     Example 12: Strata mm. 52 - 63


The tug of war becomes more nuanced in subsequent measures (see Example 12) as a ff  mid- and lower mid-register sonority subsides to a momentary trilled interruption (m. 56).  A more insistent insurgence of the trilled sonorities and staccato chord streams cuts to a second brief double bass solo, now more intense, but almost contradictorily pizzicato (despite the ff dynamic) as a type of parenthesis before the incisive attack of the chordal sustains of m. 70.  Initially these sonorities are non vibrato but shift to molto vibrato (see Example 13) and stratify in fifths in the oboes, clarinets and horns  (note the high-register E-D natural in the upper tones of the sonority), and tenths in basset horns and bassoons to which the double bass mixes, again, ostensibly inaudibly (arco and pp! sempre).


                                                                                   Example 13: Strata  mm. 81 - 86.


A remarkable harmonic complex emerges in mm. 81 through 90 in which octave C#s occupy the upper and lower extremes of the texture in the oboes (ff  on upper-and high register C#s) and horns/bassoons/double basses (p  on the lower mid-register C#). The C#s are harmonically supported by fifths on G# in the horns and bassoons and upper-register clarinets, but softly conflicted with G-D fifths in the lower-mid and low-register horns, and upper- and lower mid-register bassoons.  These softer fifths are retained as echoes from of the preceding measures in the upper- and high-register clarinets along with a ff   upper-register A natural transferred to the first clarinets from the oboes which sharply conflicts with the G# in the second clarinets.  The chime-like, inter-swelling of harmonic masses undergoes pitch exchanges between oboes and clarinets as well as register shifts of the C#-G# and G-D fifths, finally dropping out of the lower voices and leaving the upper-  and high-register C#-G#-A-C# to endure, ff  in the oboes and clarinets (see Example 13).


The climax of all of these initial confrontations and developments arises in mm. 95 - 108 (see Example 14) in surging, mid- and upper-register trill streams in the oboes and clarinets ­ first in sixths and then in tenths as the fifths of the earlier harmonic complexes (mm. 72 - 90) return with a vengeance in fortissimo dissonances in mm. 104 - 107.   These fifths are staggered, at first on low and lower mid-register A-E / D#-A#s, but spread  to the mid-registers with the A-E shifting to G#-D# before another flash of the trilled sonorities and a subito pp  mid-register chromatic cluster adumbrating the mysterious arrival of the chorale of dense mid-register sonorities.  Residual elements are superimposed on this sonority over the next 10 measures: a repeated octave glissando to a tremolo (on low-register F) in the double bass and another "solo" interval stream in the basset horns in minor thirds and then sixths, and finally a cluster of running mid-register passagework in all of the woodwinds resolving in m. 119 to the subito pp sonority minus the horns.



mm. 120 - 240: The "chorale" episodes


                        The central ppp "chorale" which comprises the principal pont of arrival and the transcendental core of the composition begins subtly and imposingly in staggered mid-register sustains on B natural in each of the woodwind pars, but as mentioned, with the designation that one of each pair play non vibr(ato) and the other molto vibr(ato).  The entry of the bassoons after the oboes, clarinets, and basset horns coincides with a branching out from the unison - down to F natural in the first clarinet and subsequently up to E natural in the first basset horn before the first of the remarkable chains of fermata sonorities in m. 126.


mm. 128 - 134:  horns/db tacet - one instrument per group sustaining C-F-B-E sonority

 oboe and clarinet in parallel semitones in contrary motion to the

 bassoon and horn also in parallel motion in semitones

 French horns sustain m6ths a semitone apart in mm. 132 - 134


mm. 135 - 139:  oboes in m7ths, clarinets in semitones in contrary motion

 basset horns and bassoons in tritones

 horns continue their sustain, double bass sustains low-register fourth E-A


mm. 140 - 144   oboes in semitones in contrary motion with clarinets in m7ths

 basset horns and bassoons in tritones; horns sustaining sixths

 double bass sustaining low-register fifth E-B


mm. 145 - 155   oboes in m9ths in contrary motion with clarinets in M2nds

 basset horns in m10ths, bassoons in 4ths/11ths

 horns in M/m6ths double bass on low-register tritone (E-Bb) in tremolo


mm. 156 - 159   oboes in M2nds, clarinets in M7ths

 basset horns in M6ths, bassoons in P5ths

 horns in M/m6ths, double bass sustains low E natural


                                               Figure 3:  Phrase by Phrase Interval and Motion Relations in Strata  mm. 128 - 159.




                                                                                   Example 14: Strata  mm. 99 - 102.


Here Hambrĉus opens up a wealth of timbral composition as the "molto vibrato" instruments complete and sustain their mid-register tritone/fourth sonority (F-B flat-B natural-E) and the "non-vibrato" instruments play in parallel and contrary motion (the clarinets and oboes in parallel semitones in contrary motion to the parallel semitones in the bassoons and basset horns).  An additional sustained element obtains in the entrance of the horns in a sonority of major sixths a semitone apart (m. 132) which cadences the first phrase of the "chorale" as the woodwinds drop out in m. 134.


With the addition of the double bass drone on its low open E, the horns continue to provide background and cadential sonorities for the chord streams of the subsequent phrases which extend, at this point, to both "molto" and "non-vibrato" woodwinds. Figure 4 above summarizes the changing phrase-by-phrase timbral and harmonic strata of this section of the piece which are generally maintained by narrow melodic motions, especially in the upper voices, and, with the exception of the bassoons in the fourth phrase, by constant parallel motion between the layered pairs of instruments.  An element of instability arises in the sfz sonorities (woodwinds only) on the second chord in each phrase of the "chorale"[14] and in the double bass drone, in its sfz and decay in the second phrase and its tremoli and swells and recessions in the fourth phrase.


While the registral and intervallic relationships of the clarinet and oboe in the chord streams is reversed between phrases, the basset horns and French horns frequently overlap except in the last three sonorities of the fourth phrase and all of the fifth phrase.  In the second and third phrases a delicate harmonic and timbral mixture is maintained as the minor second strata (in the clarinets in the second phrase and oboes in the third) is placed directly against the upper tone (in the first oboe) in the second phrase then the lower tone (in the second clarinet) in the third phrase, of the mid- and upper-register minor seventh strata.  In the fourth and fifth phrases these strata more or less diverge and the last phrase of the "chorale" represents a harmonic dissolution of the passage and a convergence to a D flat major sonority in sixths and fifths (the E-F natural minor ninth can be regarded as anticipatory to the returning high-register D#-E minor second in the oboes.)


The intervention of the previous characters in mm. 162 - 197 arises gradually via a recall of the high-register E-D# semitone in the oboes of mm. 15 - 20 (but here also in the clarinets an octave lower) and the polar opposite, now a low-register E flat-F in the bassoons (as opposed to the B flat-C fixation in the earlier passage.) The basset horns, horns and double bass however sustain residual background elements from the "chorale" episode  throughout this section in the form of low-register E natural (double bass), lower- and mid-register stream of sevenths (bassett horns) and ppp!,  half-muted ("Echo horn") diminished sonorities in the French horns (see Example 15 below).  As also seen in Example 15, the culmination of this passage is to a sporadic fixation on an E dominant seventh which crops up in the staccato chord stream, eventually becoming the object of an intensely swelling trilled sonority and a slow  deceleration back into the ppp chorale texture now metered, non-vibrato  and solely in the upper woodwinds and horns. 



                                                                                    Example 15: Strata  mm. 193 - 197



Figure 4: Harmonic voice-leading summary of measures 202 - 239 with example of disjunct chromatic voice leading between upper voices.


Although the texture of the return of the "chorale" is timbrally simple and constrained to the central mid-register, it is stratified harmonically and linearly in an interesting way: the oboes and clarinets in close-position dominant 6/5 sonorities descend chromatically against the horns who ascend in close-position diminished sevenths (see Figure 4 below). Within the converging strata, direct semitone motion is avoided via overlapping disjunct motions between instruments, resulting in the oboe and clarinets alternating upper tones in the descending chromatic line (see illustration in Figure 4).


Arabesques in the clarinet solo and oboe (mm. 220- 224) provide distant suggestions of the staccato chord stream motions, and as the chorale resumes (m. 225), it is more static, with the horns in diminished sevenths on top of the oboes, and clarinets in dominant 6/5 chords, now moving in straightforward parallel motion. The basset horns join in sustained diminuendi, doubling first the clarinets and oboes and the horns before emphatically joining in dominant 6/5 sonorities with the clarinets, descending from D to D flat (as in the end of the central "chorale" episode) and instigating the entrance of the oboes' strident cantillations in fifths.



mm. 240 - 279: Coda and conclusion


The oboes' fifths on upper-register D-A, (ostensibly in reaction to the mid-register Db 6/5 in the basset horns and clarinets) augur the closing events of the work. Initially (m. 248 - 251) the harmonic background dies out as the oboes converge upon a molto vibrato vs. non vibrato unison upper-register A flat. The second ff  assertion of the Db 6/5 however leads to the re-entrance of the horns and bassoons, respectively on a lower mid-register G 6/5 and an extreme low-  and mid-register 10th, B flat-D flat (the characteristic interval of the trilled sonorities) as the double bass enters ff pizzicati, again heroically beneath the streaming fifths and cantillations in the oboes and decaying lower mid-register 6/5 sonorities in the other winds. The vivid and powerful return of the trilled diminished seventh sonority in 10ths (A#-C#-E-G, subtly anticipated by the B flat-D flat tenth in the bassoon mentioned in m. 255) is monolithic, fluctuating with minor third skips in the oboes and bassoons and suddenly giving way to the horns alone in a sudden pianissimo and swell before returning full force and shifting into sixths in the oboes and clarinets and the brief stringendo staccato chord streams in all woodwinds. 


The closing measures of the piece return to the high register D#-E-F# clustering in the oboes and clarinets (the basset horns providing a mid- and upper-register doubling of the oboes and clarinets) against frantic downbow sforzandi  in the double bass, and the horns in a mid-register fifth C-G and a low-register fourth B-E which is doubled in the bassoon. The low and middle registers suddenly drop out in m. 271 leaving a diminuendo in the shrill clustering of the oboes and clarinets, the basset horns, and horns. Finally the bassoons unfold downwards in a C dominant seventh with the fifth in the mid-register horns (the middle C doubled in the bassoons) and a B major triad with the B-D# deep in the low-register horns (resolving from the B-E fourth of m. 268) and the lower mid-register F# arriving in the bassoons as the harmonic complex swells to its closing fermatas (lunga) and fortissimo cutoff. 


As in the Jeu de Cinq, there is an interplay in this work of harmonic types and, and perhaps to a greater extent, of pitch and harmonic centers, although both these appear to be intuitively linked to the ensemble strategies which have been the focus of this discussion.  In Strata clear associations are created between the trilled sonorities with the diminished triads and diminished sevenths and in particular the opening dispositions in tenths. Diminished triads and diminished sevenths also characterize the running staccato chord streams in tritones, but the static sonorities which develop from the registrally polarized clusterings about specific semitones evolve a variety of intervallic and harmonic structures. Many bear the "trace" of the high-register E-D# or E-D natural  and some are transferred to the mid-register as seen in Figure 4 in the sequential interplay of diminished and dominant 6/5 sonorities. 


Another passage to significantly combine the diminished sonorities with the E-D natural (as derived from the high-register E-D#) is the array of fifths of mm. 74-80 which is set against the low- and lower mid-register diminished triad A-C-E flat in the basset horns and bassoons.  The thematic high-register E natural and associated chromatic neighbors permeates both the anticipation and the development of the "chorale" sonorities in the central episode of the piece which opens out to a mid-and lower mid-register seventh, E-F natural, divided by the lower mid-register B-Bb. The woodwind sonorities in the "chorale" section project the element of the minor second in the second and third phrases (respectively) in the oboes and clarinets, and the interplay of the major and minor second about the sensitive high-register E natural becomes all the more explicit in this passage as the E-D at the end of the fifth phrase in m. 159 in the oboes links back to the return of the D#-E semitone in m. 162.  The E natural is obviously integral in all of the pitch and timbral discourse involving the double bass and it is the E complex which ends the work, intermingling a B major sonority and a C dominant seventh.


Another pitch which seems to acquire an autonomous but clearly secondary significance is the Db which emerges emphatically in m. 81 in chromatic descent from the high-register E-D of the superimposed fifths in the oboes and clarinets. It is a Db major sonority which seems to halt the fifth phrase of the "chorale" in m. 160 and an emphatic Db 6/5 sonority and accompanying cantillations around D flat-A flat fifths in the oboes (mm. 240 - 259) which harken the closing developments of the piece.  In this context the double bass in mm. 254 - 271 shows interesting transitional emphases in its intense pizzicati from C# (in pentatonic G#-B-C# figures) to a diminished seventh figure (C#-G-B flat) in accommodation of the sustained diminished seventh sonority in the horns and finally, in its repeated arco E naturals until it drops out of the texture in m. 271, nine measures before the end of the piece, as the oboes and clarinet sustain the high-register clustering of D#-E-F#.


On an extra-musical level, the pitch centering of the music may very well be related to Enid's name[15], especially in a piece which is dedicated to her and of such significance to the composer.  The low-register tritone E-Bb(the German E-H) is prominent, of course in various passages in the double bass where it is so idiomatically produced ­ perhaps most emphatically (forte and tremolando) in the fourth phrase of the "chorale" in mm. 145 - 154 and onwards in the subsequent re-transition of mm. 162 - 168.  It is inviting to speculate further that here (and perhaps as already noted, in other pieces) Bengt's name (B-H or Be - Ha - see footnote 8) may also have been the subject of a musical signature.   B natural is perhaps not as quantitatively prominent in Strata, but its emphatic appearance in the mid-register unisons mm. 120 - 124 which begin the central chorale episode is unmistakable as is its appearance in the final measures of the double bass.




Quodlibet: re BACH  and FM643765 


While extra-musical significance in Jeu de Cinq  orStrata  may remain a matter speculation, there can be little doubt as to its importance, if not its exact meaning, in Hambrĉus's many pieces involving quotation and "borrowing" since the mid- seventies.  As is little known in the English-speaking world, Hambrĉus was a prolific commentator on music and musical history.  In fact, he left few, if any, of his favorite and most influential concerns untouched in his wide-ranging ruminations and polemics.  In a remarkable dissertation entitled Back to the Future:Towards an Esthetic Theory of Bengt Hambrĉus[16] Per Broman provides an important survey of Hambrĉus's writings and  isolates many quotations reflecting his philosophical stances on the relevance of historical awareness for the composers, performers and listeners of today's music. Concerning the fundamental cultural relationship of present versus past in music, Hambrĉus writes::


Historical reality must not become a cult-like historicism.  The older epochs must never work as a hindrance to our experience of our own time ­ if the fact is that both now and the past are equally important bricks in our music cultural history, little is gained by ever-so-correct replicas of a historical style.[17]


With this in mind, the Quodlibet re: Bach provided an ideal opportunity for Hambrĉus to explore his dialectics on both music history and performance practice. The work was completed in December of 1984 as a commission by Centrestage Music, Toronto for their BACH 300 1985 festival. It is dedicated to Mario Bernardi who conducted the première in March of 1985 with the Bach Festival Orchestra and Hambrĉus offered the following remarks for the occasion:


When I put all those fragments together, they were all molded into a kind of musical canvas that consisted of a short fragment from the end of Bach's G Minor Fantasia  for organ BWV 542 which  returns over and over as a sort of Ariadne's thread running through the whole work. So my piece is simply a mosaic not only of Bach quotations, but of different styles and different attitudes to Bach in a kind of dialectical approach to performance practice of Bach's music.  Each listener will probably recognize something in my Quodlibet, but on the other hand, some quotations may totally escape everyone's detection. That is Bach's way!"[18]

 In an interview just prior to the première performance Hambrĉus also mentions that the fragments he selected for the Quodlibet  were taken only from works for violin or organ (Hambrĉus, like Bach, also played violin in his early years) and the orchestration of the piece is that of the Brandenburg Concerto #1: 3 oboes, 1 bassoon, 2 horns (in C) 8 first violins, 6 second violins, 5 violas, 5 'cellos and 2 double basses. The recurring fragment from the Fantasia in G Minor is reproduced in Figure 5 ("a") along with an assortment of other fragments which may or may not be recognized in passing. In keeping with the spirit of the composer's comments, no attempt will be made to identify the myriad quotations in the piece. (To be honest, there are some in the work which have either passed over the head of the present analyst or which Hambrĉus may even have inserted of his own making!) Whatever the exact compositional schema, the essence of the piece lies in the narrative interaction of the fragments. Some quotations are obvious and prominently placed, and others are obvious but in less conspicuous contexts. Others still are more obscure yet presented with greater or lesser degrees of exposure. Hambrĉus's relationship to this representational aspect of his music can perhaps be inferred from his comments on borrowing from musics of other cultures in Nocturnals :


Naturally it was not my intention to make a collage from ethnomusicological curiosities or historical quotation(s);  neither do I intend that the listener should need a musical travel guide but yet get lost in my nocturnal landscape.  On the other hand, maybe the term World Music  could give a more direct approach to understanding Nocturnals as well as several other of my recent compositions.[19]


So if the concept of "World Music" is a viable point of entrance for Nocturnals, the "BACH" in capitals (as in the title) in all of its ramifications as a historical persona of near-mythical proportions, as a composer, violinist/organist, devout believer, even musical signature, or a virtual musicological/compositional institution, etc. etc. must be the kind of window through which we need to view Hambrĉus's Quodlibet.  Not far removed from this are Hambrĉus's comments on the current ecology of performance practice in Bach which very likely have a direct relevance to the Quodlibet:


Maybe our perception of Bach has reached a stage of balance.  We are now to benefit from the sound romanticism that after all resides in Baroque music, without giving up the valuable style-historical discoveries.  A young generation of musicians has rediscovered the old fine rules of improvisation and ornamentation and turned back to the colorful instruments from the Renaissance and Baroque (that disappeared during the eighteenth century)  ­  and found that they give a wonderful, almost sensuous fire to the music that modern instruments seldom give.  And this young generation has above all learned how to make music according to the old scores in a way that catches the living pulse of the music and it is an expression of academic pedantry, least of all.[20]


The form of the Quodlibet is tripartite: an opening section is tenaciously riveted to the Fantasia fragment but often entangled in a flurry of superpositions, progressively interrupted, and eventually diffused by various derived figures and gestures. The second movement which is the most stable and transparent, although also perhaps the most complex of the three, seems to fully forsake the ascending Fantasia fragment in favor of a recurrent descending sequential line harmonizing a chorale/cantata-like melody which opens out into a richly rhythmicized contrapuntal web. The web is conflicted with a variety of figures and effects including, some recalled from the opening section, before it closes with a halting oboe cadenza   and an unusual Phyrigian cadence. The brief and witty final movement appears almost as an anti-climactic epilogue based on the fugue theme from the Fantasia and Fugue in G minor bringing the work to its whimsical but strangely enlightening conclusion.


The in media res opening of the piece projects a multiplicity and even a certain confusion since the subject of this section, the linking "Ariadne thread," is not an opening idea but essentially a developmental, ascending chromatic bass line.  Here it is subjected to thick doublings in the horn and overlaid with distracting bursts of mid- and upper-register trills in diminished triads in the oboes (see Example 16). As it links to the sudden harmonic convergence on the submediant and diminished seventh of the dominant ("b1" in the upper strings and "b2" piercing and cuivré in the horns) we sense echoes of the grandeur of Stokowski's famous transcriptions[21] in the intensity of the tremoli and trills in the strings and their extension into the extreme upper register.  The "b" fragment (also taken from the close of the G minor Fantasia as reproduced in Figure 5) is repeated at this point almost as a fixation as it is later in the work, and "a" is boldly and starkly repeated in the low register with a dissonant out-of-phase canon in the mid-register violins against shimmering remnants of the previous textures in the high-register trills of the violins and oboes


A repeated abbreviation and acceleration of the ascending chromatic motion in the bassoons of the Fantasia  ("a") fragment is interrupted by a new rolling triplet figure "c" (cuivré in the horns in m. 13) which derives, in its rounded and danse-like pulsations, as a diatonic paraphrase of "a". It is obviously opposed to the very deliberate, creeping chromaticism of the Fantasia  fragment which arrives in the bassoons, emphatically on B natural against the initial Bb of the horn's new figure. The horn's further insistence on "b2" at this point seems to elicit (in addition to "a" again in the double basses) a whirlwind of virtuosic (D minor, scalar) passage work in the strings interrupted temporarily by a return of "c" (solo in the horns) but now on A natural.  As the passagework continues and stabilizes (mm. 25 - 38) a  further  transposition of "c" is heard (against the scurrying activity of the strings) on D as the loping triplet rhythm gradually usurps the varied diminutions of "a" in all of the lower instruments in a prolonged muti-layered rhythmic field in mm. 29 - 36. The entire texture cuts however to a preemptive dramatic pause and a massed (Stokowskian) tremolo dominant 4/2 of Db. 





                                                                 Example 16: Quodlibet re: BACH opening measures





                                            Figure 5:  "Quotational" Materials in Hambrĉus's Ouodlibet re: BACH


Continuing in this newly imposed tonal orientation, the earlier passagework resumes but  breaks down into clumpings of trills in the oboes and pizzicato residues of "a" in the lower strings. The surprising cycle-of-fifths, richly arpeggiated in the strings ("d" mm. 43 - 44), is short-lived as it links back to "a"  ­  at first seamlessly but then interruptively and terminally as "a" drops slowly and once more, menacingly, into the extreme low register against a hushed mid-register dissonance in the oboes, and eerily sustained high-register A naturals in the muted violins. 


The arresting entrance of "e" against this background, (anticipated by what seems like a false entry of "h") is the most clearly recognizable quotation of the entire work and provides a watershed at this point on many levels. The upper-register E-F natural of "e" is doubled in the solo oboe as the first notes of "f" in it's graceful rhythm (with pizzicato accompaniment in the 'cellos), and fervent and solemnly descending sequential line which is prolonged at length throughout the central section of the work. While the A minor tonality is transparent and pervasive in the solo oboe and accompanying strings, the passage quickly develops a counter-motive "g" in the other oboes and violins, extending, in the solo violin from "e" and drifting into a delicate and remote polytonality in the high register.  A minor returns however, after the prolonged cadence on A in the oboes in m. 63, in a further, more serene, and elegiac pianissimo counterpoint.  As "h" then "i" enter, the texture becomes more gently rhythmicized  with "h" in its trills and wide leaps in thirds in the oboes taking on an exquisitely lilting and thoroughly "baroque" dance-like character (see Example 17).




                                                    Example 17: Quodlibet re: BACH mm. 69 - 71


A passing cadence at m. 72 brings a reversion in character and materials. Another clearly recognizable quotation "j" in the solo violin is more obscurely placed in the euphonic cluttering of activities in the strings and winds, and as with the transient cycle of fifths of mm. 43 - 44, the texture opens into lush passagework ­ a harmonic pedal, "k", on A (AM - DM6/4 - G#o ) in arpeggiating figures in the lower strings (much as if in an organ pedal register) and a re-entrance of "c" in the horns (on A) along with the chordal trills in the oboes (m. 75).  As the texture subsides, overlapping figure "f"s in the oboes are sustained to a pause on a (tritone/fourth) sonority to which the solo violin stacks a further dissonance.  Following  a pause on a high register C# in the solo violin however, the orchestra obliviously reverts, to the rich and exuberant pedal point/heterophony ("k" but now on F ). It  succumbs to a high-register diminished-seventh sonority in the oboes in a further overlapping, but isolated sequence of "f" motives (with only a 'cello pizzicatto accompaniment) which yields a pause in the oboes alone, this time on a bitter upper-register chromatic cluster.  The insistent return to the earlier lilting counterpoint of the beginning of the section in F major/minor, is hesitant and insecure, and drops, after a brief accumulation of low-regsiter dissonance, into a dramatic pause and once more a dilluvial Stokowskian cadential pedal (in F minor).


After the pause and silence, the "cantata" character returns in a tragic B minor as a short arioso/recitative in the oboe. A brief cadenza unveils a mysterious, prolonged cadential sustain in the strings on a diminished seventh (D#-F#-A-C) above E natural, evoking first, a hesitant contrapuntal figure recalled in the oboe, then a tremolo shimmering in the strings and, after a pause and short descending line in resignation in the 'cellos, "b2" once more in the horns pp  but with an abrupt sforzando closing punctuation.


In one of Hambrĉus's favorite devices, the fugue subject (rhythmically shifted from the Bach ­ see Example 18) is treated in micro-polyphonic imitation. While half of the strings are involved in this, the other half sustains muted background sonorities with the winds, and the first oboe superimposes further quasi-recitative arabesques in a return once more to the very busy but transparent textures of the opening section. After the second arabesque in the oboe, the orchestra drops out to the fugue subject now tonally distorted in the solo violin and double bass ­ together (five octaves apart!) persevering against intermittent superpositions of the dense micro-polyphony in the strings plus lyrically arpeggiating overlays (legato possible )  growing and expanding in the oboes and bassoons. As these elements begin to recede, a final stringendo emerges to close, wittily and playfully, with a touch of "b2" in the horns and oboes against a tonal confusion of probably more dominant than tonic and submediant, ffff  in the tremolo strings.


While any comprehensive interpretation of the Quodlibet would appear to be safely and perhaps wisely out of reach, it is clear that the piece encapsulates a multi-faceted view of Bach: the clarity of the busy and complex textures in the Brandenburg orchestration, the vividness and simplicity of the wind choir orchestration (3 oboes, bassoon, 2 horns), the majestic opulence of the organ/string sonorities, the aggressiveness of the chromatic bass lines, the brooding temperament of the Chaconne  ("e") which gives way to the fervent elegance of the cantata setting, the uncanny grace of the dance-like passages of the  central section and the pathetic vulnerability of the oboe cadenza section, and the tense animation of the ensuing fugue subject  ...  all seem to have a role in world-view of Bach projected in the Quodlibet.  The work also maintains a certain organic order in the treatment of its "BACH" imagery. The aggressively ascending bass lines of the opening sections opposes the elegantly descending sequential (diatonic) lines of the central section; layered, often titanic, rhythmic conflicts result in the opening section between lines in steady values versus triplet figures versus the profuse passagework rhythms in the strings and winds. On top of this we also see the dramatic juxtapositions and fluctuations between classical harmonic clarity and the struggling textural multiplicities, the focal solo passages and the recurrent and imposing dramatic majesty of the Stokowskian tutti sonorities.  All explore, much as Hambrĉus seems to suggest in his own comments, a type of good-natured free-for-all between competing musical vantages of a much revered cultural/historical edifice.





                                                    Example 18: Quodlibet re: BACH  mm. mm. 119 - 120 (vle 4-6, vcl excluded).

                                                                          Bach subject from G minor Fantasy and Fugue.


Contrary to the relative anonymity of the citations in the Quodlibet, Hambrĉus is more explicit in his source references in FM 643765 , and at this point in his work, more reflective on his compositional procedures:


Throughout my composition of the last twenty-five I have now and then worked with music from the past.  In my dual function as musicologist as much as composer, I was particularly interested in the shifts between history and present and how I could realize a new compositional relationship between them.  It was not my intention to write something like "variations on a theme by ..." (as we have come to know for so long in numerous works, for example, of Brahms and Reger, or Saint-Saëns and Rachmaninov, where new alliances are established with old colleagues like Bach, Händel, Beethoven, Corelli or Paganini).  My point of departure was perhaps nearer to that in which Liszt transformed thematic material from some Bach or Meyerbeer into other forms, almost like contrasting symphonic fantasies.


... Hayko Siemens, asked me if I would write a similar work for the Second International Organ Festival in Bad Hamburg.  This time it involved Mendelssohn as the occasion of the 150th anniversary of his death was to be the centrepiece of the 1997 celebration. For the principal source material I used various fragments and episodes from three of his works namely the Violin Concerto op.64,  the Prelude and Fugues op. 37 and the Six Organ Sonatas op. 65 (hence the somewhat cryptic title of the work!) These fragments are modulated with each other to yield a new metamorphosis to which are added short fleeting quotes from the Hebrides Overture and theThird Symphony which, much like the opus 65 Sonatas, have a relationship to England and Scotland. Certainly Bach's music played a significant role for Mendelssohn, not in the least, the St. Matthew's Passion. I found it effective to almost symbolically recall the pulsating,  gripping bass rhythm of the stunning opening chorus of this work of Bach in the passage of FM 643765 where the chorale melodies from Mendelssohn's third and sixth sonatas appear (In Deep Woe: Our Father in Heaven).


A particular stimulus in connection with this commission was the circumstance of the upcoming inauguration of a restored Sauer organ.  For many years I have been occupied as a musicologist with the sound of Reger's organ music in performance; the large Sauer instruments can certainly be taken as near-authentic Reger organs; Reger greatly enjoyed Mendelssohn's  music; so for me, it comes full circle ... 97-05-18 BH  (trans. ed)[22]




                                          Figure 6: Succession of Tempi and Dramatic Characters in FM 653764.



                    Figure 7: Succession of Tempi and Dramatic Characters Quotational materials and sources in FM 653764.


Example 19: FM 653764  opening measures. Concerning dynamcs and registers, the composer notates a 12-value scale of dyanmics for the Walzer  ("Register crescendo" ) or W0 - W12.  The manuals in this work are indicated as follows: "Hauptwerke" ("HW" - "Great"), "Schwellwerke ("SW" - "Swell"), "Recitative"  ("Récit".) and Pedal.


                        As the Quodlibet  mimics aspects of the Baroque tri-partite formal dynamic, FM 643765 can be seen to imitate the looser and more spontaneous forms of Mendelssohn's opus 65 sonatas, at least the third and sixth which, in completely different schemas, each involve introductions, finales, fugues, choral-prelude style episodes, and chorale melodies.[23] The nature of the character portrait in FM 643765  is, however, more focused than in the Quodlibet  and more developed in its quasi-narrative alternation of the brilliant and obsessive passagework (in triplet sixteenths, see Example 19, mm. 3-4) with dark and shadowy melodic fragments (Example 19 mm. 1, 5-13) and the transformative references to Bach which Hambrĉus develops at the climax of the piece.


Figure 6 provides a summary of the dramatic structure of the work and Figure 7 presents some of the work's "borrowings" including those found in the opening measures in Example 19. Interesting is the apparent shifting (and transposition) of the G major second theme of the Concerto first movement into a minor key, seen in the opening alternations beneath the clustered diminished seventh (m. 3 onwards), itself a recurrent transitional gesture throughout the piece.  Although the opening Pesante, gravissimo outlining of a diminished triad is virtually generic to Mendelssohn's harmonic language, it references important figures among the citations of the work's title.  As suggested in Figure 7 it could be related to the lyrical tritone (third and fourth measures of the excerpt in Figure 7) in the opening solo theme of the first movement of the Concerto, but its more likely reference is to the subject of the fugue from the Third Sonata of op. 65:  both passages share the expressive urgency of the tritone and diminished triad as vital to aspects of Mendelssohn's harmonic temperament. The subsequent developmental accelerandi pass through an actual quotation from the op. 37 Prelude in D minor (see Figure 7) which establishes the impetus of the ensuing Mendelssohnian scherzo/allegro.[24] The first fracture in the brilliant and wide-ranging modulatory passagework is a sudden pp shift from a cadential dominant-seventh trill on F, to an E flat minor 6/4 (m. 48) and a similar shift to F# minor (see Example 20). A similar trilled sonority on a dominant of C minor (m. 55) however breaks the rhythmic continuity into dramatic pauses and successively more discordant chordal trills.



                                                                   Example 20: FM 653764 mm. 47 - 48


 The first, short-lived resurgence of the driving and fateful passagework culminates, as at the very opening, in a clustered diminished-seventh chord and a longer passage (mm. 67-139) based on various ruminations and recalls against sustained dissonant backgrounds. Initially (mm. 67 - 79,) the minor version of the second theme/first movement  of the Concerto is explored and elaborated against the clustered upper-register diminished seventh, but a slow-motion intervention of the triplet diminished-triad motion initiates a temporarily shift to the dissonant, mid- and upper-register A-E-Bbbackground which slips to a lower-  and mid-register minor ninth (E-F) and connects with D minor foreshadowings of the fugue theme from the Third Sonata  (mm. 86 - 106). The process continues with superpositions above and below the E-F natural ninth as staccato fragments in the lower register, and more fully formed lyrical contours in the upper register, accumulate bitterly into a Bb minor triad against the lower mid-register E natural of the minor ninth. 


The following abbreviated passagework episode arrives once more at a trilled dominant (m. 113) and the parade of somber visions continues against an accumulating C minor scalar sonority, eventually leaving a solo lower mid-register F natural to taper and swell (as in the opening of the work) in anticipation of a return entrance of the minor-key version of the opening movement second theme of the Concerto. This brooding, but now more insistent (subito Allegro vigoroso) figure heralds another curtailed lapse into the triplet sixteenth-note passagework, recalling the cadential gestures in chordal trills and echoing the earlier tangential harmonic/register/dynamic shifts (into C# minor here, as opposed to the shifts to E flat and F# minor of mm. 47 and 50, see Example 19 above), before its rallentando into the Andante, sostenuto religioso adapted from the Fourth Sonata.





                                                         Example 21: FM 653764 mm. 140 - 148


The more substantial contemplation of the gentle but lyrically plain and straightforward Andante, sostenuto religioso (m. 140) provides a point of relative stability and repose from the alternation of the brilliant and precipitous with the morose. The quotation however is neither at the same pitch as the original nor constrained to its B flat major modulatory ambitus.  Beginning a step higher than the original, and in a kind of F major/minor over a B flat pedal, it suddenly slips into B minor as the pedal blurs to B flat/A (see Example 21 above) and descends briefly into a somewhat cryptic motivic and tonal intervention (G-B flat-D- E in m. 145) and a  strangely misshapen cadence (m. 148). 


The tonality then clarifies into E flat major but with a dissonant digression, deflecting chromatically once more through B minor where  it lingers and comes to a further deformed harmonic close (on an augmented triad D-A#-F#) and hovers in an upper-register sixth (A#-F#) against a chromatic development of the opening motive of the Andante, sostenuto regioso fragment, now adagio in the lower register. Once more a sustained and shrill dissonance (F#-A#-D#-E-F natural) emerges from the background sonority as the defiant subject of the fugue of the Third Sonata  enters, slipping surreptitiously from E minor back to its original A minor (see Example 22 below). The fugue subject continues it's descending (Mendelssohnian) chromatic sequence but in triplets (instead of the original eighths) against the poignant entrance of the bass line derived from the Bach St. Matthew's Passion ­  pulsating on E natural but (unlike in the original) shifting restlessly (mm.173 -174) back and forth to E#.




                                                                Example 22: FM 653764 mm. 166 - 175


                         The Unser Vater in Himmelreich and In Tiefe Weh  chorales also enter the mix at this point (Example 22 m. 170), antiphonally between alto and soprano voices against the undulating triplets, which might even be imagined as transfigurations of the brilliant and driving triplets of the allegro vigoroso passages.  At this point, the work becomes a type of chorale prelude ­ transcendental, ethereal, and floating remarkably through an oceanic richness of contrapuntal nuance.  As seen however, in Example 23, this very texture may also be Mendelssohnian in inspiration since it is virtually identical rhythmically and contrapuntally with that of the first fugue (C minor) of the op. 37. 



                                              Example 23: Mendelssohn op. 37, Fugue  (C minor) excerpt


In any case, the gradual dispersal of the chorale-prelude episode gravitates to the E natural pedal point (which intermittently partakes of the gentle triplet motion), and, slowing once more, to repeated sustains and a chromatic blurring of the E pedal to D#-E, where once again the A minor fugue subject (E-F-D-G#) intervenes.  At first the figure is free and improvisatory but then evolves into a French Overture in m. 206 ("alla francese; molto marcato e pesante " -  see Example 24) essentially in an elaboration of the sequential tail of the subject itself, as if in a stark and harmonically lucid response to the lilting mysticism of the choral prelude, yet going one step further in this unusual Mendelssohnian evocation of Bach's music.




                                                                Example 24: FM 653764 mm. 205 - 207


While the French overture is essentially tonal in its harmonic texture, the pedal register, after some slight chromatic divergences and contradictions, briefly recaptures the chorale motive of In Tiefe Weh, before once more the upper voices "jam" (mm. 214 - 215) on a clustered mid- and upper-register diminished-seventh sonority.


Closing regressions ensue, alternating tensely sustained dissonances with resonances of the Concerto theme and the triplet passagework-sixteenths as they become increasingly violent and volatile and suddenly reduce to what appears to be an furtive touch of the Hebrides ostinato and a sustained and registrally disparate unfolding of a chromatic triplet.

Continuo a partire da Pachelbel



Nowhere are Hambrĉus's historical allusions and his pan-historical imageries and his long-range formal intuitions more imposing than in the Continuo a partire da Pachelbel.  Written in 1975 for Werner Jacob and the international organ festival in Nuremberg the following year, it was premiered in the St. Sebaldus Church (home in different epochs to both Pachelbel and Werner Jacob) in celebration of the reconstruction of the church organ and as a "Requiem" to war-ravaged sites of worship the world over.


Anybody who is familiar with Pachelbel's music may easily identify some of the main structural elements in CONTINUO f.i. fragments of the frequently quoted big d-minor Prelude, of the Ciaconas in d-minor and f-minor. But often there are only characteristic features in Pachelbel's work which have been transformed like perpetual canon technique (which in my case develops to dense micro-polyphonic textures), the sometimes static harmonic-melodic progression, or the perpetuous (sic) rhythmic momentum in his keyboard toccatas. The latter is represented by conga drums in CONTINUO, the former by outheld organ chords, which resemble the sonic function of the sho or sheng (the famous mouth organ) in East-Asian music.  At the very end, a quote from Pachelbel's  Aria Sebaldina appears as the very spirit of the church itself, which survived in spite of the catastrophy.  I wrote CONTINUO as a Requiem to all those shrines and sites for worship in all culturesof the world, which had been vandalized, destroyed or abandoned during thousands of years ­ very few among them had a resurrection like St. Sebaldus in Nuremberg .....[25]


As in many other works, Hambraeus's Continuo  seems to resist both schematic and narrative representation ­ all the more via the image of a "continuo" implying an unending relationship or evolution. Like the Quodlibet, the Continuo begins strikingly in media res, but unfolds almost panoramically through a number of episodes and dramatic stages with persistent lapses and renewed references to the Pachelbel materials.  While a tripartite view of the of the form of the Continuo [26] is not a necessity, the work does respond on many levels to three major and quite different articulations and thus, three expansive but not entirely distinct episodic developments plus a type of "non-concluding" epilogue.  Without reading too much from Hambrĉus's commentary into the score, it is also possible to isolate certain thematic elements reflecting the destructive violence in the piercing dissonance of various ensemble gestures in the opening pages, the persistent rhythmic energy as Hambrĉus suggests in the conga ostenati, the often peaceful reflectiveness of the harmonic/timbral exchanges between organ, brass and wind choirs, and of course, the presence of the organ itself in its various guises from toccata to recitative.  One further element, a series of brilliant and luminously ascending tremolandi in the vibraphones, seems to have a mysterious and pivotal significance in the central episodes of the work.



mm. 1 - 265


The sheng-like scoring of the organ is apparent from the very opening of the piece in a bitter harmonic drone (see Example 25)[27] which is ornamented with oboe arabesques as a backdrop to a devastated landscape pervaded by conga drumming and an ebb and flow of shrill, wailing, and cascading dissonances in the upper wind choirs which intensify into biting trills against menacing lower-register sonorities in the trombones.  These initial impressions, which emerge solely in the winds and organ (and which recur persistently in work), are interrupted in a resonant shift to the strings (m. 16 ­ note only violas, 'celli and double basses are used in this work) in dense, multi-divisi, mid- and lower-register tremoli (sub ponticello).  Initially whispy and static, against the now muted background in the organ, the string choir shifts into mysterious fleeting scalar and climbing third fragments (a generic, reference to Pachelbel's keyboard writing) which blur into passing micro-polyphonic clouds as the clarinets interject declamatory registral skips about upper mid-register B naturals (mm. 27 - 32). 


 With the sheng-like organ background replaced by the mid-register flutes, (F#, G, Ab, mm. 31 - 33) the development of the clarinet figures continues, opening to chromatic arabesques around mid- and upper-register G and F# as the progressively clustering background shifts to the organ and brass. It is enjoined temporarily by the low strings who return abruptly alone in a sustained low- and mid register molto vibrato cluster. Swelling mid-register cluster attacks and sustains in the winds (oboes and trombones, m. 37) and a protrusively swelling lower-register G-natural, droned in the horns give way to the arabesques once more in the clarinets, but these  expand briefly to the shrill, extreme high-register flutes before succumbing once more to the G-natural drone in the horns. 


At first the flutes return to their mid-register clusters, delicately exposed against the strings, but then shift to calm and lucid mid-register octave-fifth sonorities (D-G-D), swelling back and forth and transforming into resonant fluttertongue tremoli (see Example 26). The poised stability of these timbres (stroked by delicate resonances in the tam tams) is obscured gradually at first, in rhythmic stirrings in the congas and by sonorities (semitones in fifths) in the horns, but as the flutes shift their sonority up an octave (m. 52), they are joined in an urgent metric accelerando by the oboes at the tritone below and then by the fifth/semitone sonorities in the upper mid- register (F-C/D flat-G flat) and low-register (A-B flat/E-F) trombones. These chromatic registral struggles anticipate the preemptive return of the full organ (all stops), submerging the entire texture in a massive F# suspension sonority (F#-B-C#) with the congas re-entering intensely as the voluminous pointe d'orgue deepens into the  pedal  register,  wavering  erratically  between  full,  partial,  and even down to zero swell pressure ­ a remarkable effect which creates Doppler-like resonances against the fifth/semitone sonorities sustained in the muted brass


Example 25: Continuo a Partire da Pachelbel  oboes, flutes and organ in opening measures 



                                                             Example 26: Timbral Chords in Continuo a Partire da Pachelbel ­

                                                                     flutes mm. 44 - 47, oboes and clarinets mm. 368 - 372


                     Amid the steady insistence of the congas, and expansive and luminous explosions of the tamtam, successive iterations of the organ sonority in sharp, "heroic", anacrusic  attacks  (henceforth figure "X" ­ see Example 27)   slip  downward  in dominant sevenths onto F and E natural, before relentlessly jumping back and sustaining at length on G natural, a semitone above the original entrance. The pedal point then fills into an upper-register suspension sonority on G (GCDFG), darkened temporarily with lower register chromatic dissonances and masking the pp  re-entrance of the brass in their dissonant lower- to upper mid-register sonority composed in fifths (m. 86) which swells to the incisive return of the winds, uncannily blending with the sheen of the tamtam in a multi-register trilled sonority. 


                               Example 27: Continuo a Partire da Pachelbel  anacrusic chordal gesture "X" in organ m. 75


An anxious conflict of harmonic masses ensues as this trilled and swelling mutl-registral sonority in the winds (supported by the congas) breaks in sustained iterations upon the monolithic suspension sonority in the organ. It is the latter which prevails at immense length, providing one of the visionary moments of the piece, alternating between the thick, colored clarity of the endless upper-register cluster sonority and the tumid, stormy, low-register harmonic superpositions and the sharp insistence of the conga rhythms. The epiphany is suddenly interrupted, shifting to a multi-registral dissonance in the brass, at first in contrary dynamic swells and fades (trumpets fading as the trombones swell m. 121 - 127) but then re-attacked in a synchronous fade and swell to rejoin the congas and organ.


                        In the following transitional measures (mm. 128 - 132) the trombones are dynamically in a low and lower-mid register chord stream against the continued fff  rhythmic stream in the congas and the organ which breaks down into rhythmically vague, registral echoes of G major sonorities (henceforth figure "Y"), a quotational element from the Pachelbel D minor prelude (see Figure 8).  Another reiterant quotational element ("Z") also emerges here in the descending 32nd-note arpeggiating passagework in the organ, enhanced however, in romantic modulatory third shifts (see Figure 8).  This initiates an extensive mosaic of recalled materials in alternation with the exuberant Pachelbellian passagework. The high strident filagree and trilled sonorities in the flutes (mm. 135 - 136) gravitate  to  an  E  major  sonority   maintained   in   the  background  in  the  organ. 






Figure 8:  Quotational Elements in Continuo a Partire da Pachelbel "a" and "b" (figures "X" and "Y") from

D minor Prelude  and "c" from the Fugue in D minor.


This sonority persists in the following brief reiteration of "Z" which reduces (as in the Pachelbel) to harmonic, timbral and registral echoings of E major, but here, conflicted in tremoli with B-flat major.  Recalling their earlier open static sonorities of (m. 44), the flutes capture the E major of the organ (m. 147) against solemn tamtam intonations and a Bb seventh in the brass in crossing fades and swells ­ the flutes, as earlier, shifting upwards into fluttertongue sonorities.  Subsequent alternations and recalls of materials at this point involve distortions of the arpeggiating thirty-seconds of "Z" into third clusters (mm. 154-155, mm. 178 - 181) with more harmonic shifts in the descending passagework (mm. 156 - 157), a dissonant variation of the descending anacrusic "X" figures (mm. 159 - 161 and 171 - 172), and a reiteration of the brass chord stream of mm. 129 - 132 (mm. 162 - 167). 


As the sequential alternations continue a new character is introduced in the drama, abruptly, and at first in isolation: a quotational (diatonic), swelling, chromatic line, rising lyrically in the mid-register strings. This nuance is developed later, but only after the dissolution of the preceding sequential energies in the flutes, in a rich, descending chromatic chord stream in high-register fluttertongue tremoli and trills (G#-D-A) which is solemnly transferred, con sordino, to the mid- and lower-register strings in "wobbly" tremolo trills (E-B in mm. 189 and onwards).  At the onset of the new episode an exquisitely haunting gesture is scored in the 'cellos ­ a ringing, sul ponticello swell and fade on a lower mid-register B natural (see Example 28).




                                             Example 28: Continuo a Partire da Pachelbel mm.192 - 195).


The cellos' B natural, which holds onwards through the texture, expands harmonically to the flutes in a widely spaced diminished sonority (G#-D-B) against the  lingering E major background delicately quivering in the strings.   As the upper flutes echo in their diminished seventh overlappings to a high-register F natural, a resonant, widely-spaced (diminished-seventh) melodic chord stream emerges in the flutes and solo 'cello (from its mid-register B natural), developing the earlier urgent and swelling quotational fragment in the strings (m. 177) to a narrow chromatic shift and Phrygian close (mid-register E flat-D) momentarily reaffirming the E/B flat major opposition and blending (Example 29).



                       Example 29: Continuo a Partire da Pachelbel  'cello fragment mm. 204 - 206


A blurry and unfocussed transitional texture ensues as the organ enters in a descending "glassy"-timbred and widely vibratoed chord stream,[28] backgrounded by the strings who nervously shift to C/F# major tremoli.  The return of the filagree/trilled sonorities in the flutes (mm. 216 - 217) is now veiled against the shimmering tremolo background in the strings, whose quick accompanimental agitations return to the "ringing" gesture on middle C, swelling in another trilled Phrygian cadence back to B natural.


This soloistic nuance evokes an imitative response in the violas and a resumption of the "soupy" lyrical blend with the organ resuming a faint semblance of "X" in its earlier "glassy" timbres. Swelling tremolo agitations in the strings persist against the lush triadic and trilled chord streams in the flutes (mm. 227 - 229) and the organ's stream of multi-registral contrapuntal fragments reverts to now incisive "X" figures. This time however, the ensuing passagework ("Z") deflects to registral echoes of A major (accompanied by the congas) which resolve powerfully in a full Pachelbellian D minor. Then, maintaining the D natural by itself in the upper register, a powerful cadential sequence ensues, descending forcefully through a superimposed C natural and then Bb (submediant) to G# which (as leading tone to the dominant) evokes further registral echoings ("Y") of E major and, after a dramatic silence, a prolonged resolution to A minor.


Potent harmonic extensions through lower mid-register F# and D# smear into dense hand-clusters in the soloist in the manuals and a chromatic cluster in the pedals ­  sustained at length as the organ's wind motor is cut to deflate the entire massive complex into its billowy registral depths. As the collapsing sound mass begins to fade however, the motor is restarted, quickly reviving the texture into a flash of the tamtam and descending clusters in the organ into a sustained low-register chromatic cluster in the double basses.



mm. 266 - 457


Despite the intensity of the preceding cadential passages, there is in fact no real pause as the chromatic cluster in the double basses is diverted into the upper strings in a brief moment of reflection and the image of a continuo (i.e. "continuum" without stop) gathers force in the thick low-register textures which ensue in the orchestra in seeming response to the darkness visited upon the organ in the preceding measures.


The cavernous textures of mm. 270 - 328 have a certain nightmarish quality, not only in their murky register but in their inharmonicity and unsettling heterogeneity of materials and dynamics.  Cyclically reiterated in the textures are the micro-polyphonies of diatonic figures and chordal tremoli in the strings, the menacing attacks in the trombones, the effusive splash of the tamtam and the beating semitone clusters sustained and undulating in the horns, trombones and bassoons. The organ maintains an independent stream of mixed ideas, recalling the A minor sonority from the previous passages but tagging on a Pachelbellian half-close on E with broken passagework fragments in running sixteenths, and a repeated and sporadic, descending chord stream in Viennese fourths. 


A further, wailing convergence on A minor (m. 302), fading and swelling across the entire ensemble is muddied by multi-registral cross currents in the winds and by extensions from the previous climax of m. 260 in the organ as it twists and weaves in vividly registered palm glissandi and cluster rhythms. This arouses brilliant flashes of trills and filagree in the upper winds (the flutes having shifted to piccolos) amid an embroiled and turbulent sea of dissonance, at this point in all of the wind choirs (see Example 30). The sheer complexity and clarity of the passage is remarkable as the denser streaming and maneuvering of the palm glissandi cut through the smothering thickness of the wind sonorities, which are in turn penetrated by multi octave A naturals in the brass, echoing the previous emergences of A minor amid the astonishing turmoil. The passage dissolves (mm. 325 - 328) via attrition to deep and messy sforzandi  in the low brass and bassoons and dramatic pauses articulating the organ's clumpings of palm cluster rhythms and blurred chromatic oscillations in the pedals.


                                                          Example 30: Continuo a Partire da Pachelbel mm. 308 - 312


In the subsequent rhetorical fragmentation (mm. 330 - 343) the organ fixates nervously on a dramatic (C minor) progression, as if in a confusion of figure "X" and its harmonies (flat VI7 - viio7/V) while it is inundated with the tamtam.  It halts abruptly on a mid-register E flat (Example 31).



                                           Example 31: Continuo a Partire da Pachelbel organ mm. 340 -342


The resurgent cataclysmic fury of the orchestra projects a massive distortion and hyper-extension of the preceding C minor harmonies, bridging to a return of the earlier intensities, superimposed however on new quotational materials in the organ: an imitative, toccata-like F# major in sixteenth-note contrapuntal passagework in rhythmic unison with the congas, which survives the orchestral and percussive onslaught and recedes in echoes and eventually a further fixation on the harmonies of Example 31.


Extracting pitches from the fixation in the organ, a mid-register fourth/tritone sonority (E flat -A-D) emerges in the oboes (m. 354) and is prolonged through fleeting trills and arabesques as a distinctly recapitulative (but inexact) reference to the very opening of the work.  The ensuing measures similarly recapitulate devices from the early stages of the piece, in particular the echoing of the mid-register fourth/tritone sonority (E flat-A-D) between he clarinet and oboe choirs (as the organ continues its  A flat M 7  - F#o7 alternations) recalling earlier static chordal/timbral exchanges (mm. 44 - 50 and mm. 153 - 157, refer back to Example 25).  This time however, in the more dissonant sonority, the exchanges are intricate and tenacious, eventually involving the flutes (m. 277) in fluttertongue, tremolo and trill colorations, and in various deflections to other closely related sonorities.[29]


                            A remarkable tonal and timbral image emerges inthis passage as the oboes sustain the original sonority (molto vibrato) against the clarinets, who slip down a semitone, and the flutes (also molto vibrato), who in turn enter a whole-tone below, thus chromatically blurring the entire timbral/harmonic complex. Muted staccato attacks superimposed in the trombones then nervously anticipate an intense outbreak of rapid scalic passagework in the organ which conflicts initially with the brass and tamtams in a hesitant alternation with the oboe's tritone/fourth sonority, but which then streams with the more prolonged interaction of trilled, swelling, and sustained harmonic commentary in all of the wind choirs. This development however, is abruptly cut to the return of the conga rhythms and once more of the A flat M 7  - F#o7 alternations in the organ (m. 411), this time however, breaking free of the harmonic fixation into a G minor sonority (a voice-leading convergence from the sonorities on F# and A flat) and then, in an inspired Pachelbellian "visitation," slipping in m. 419 to F# minor and its dominant, and down another half-step to F minor, overlaid with thick and violently attacked sonorities staggered between the brass and woodwinds.  The organ holds fast to F minor, in a quickened and relentlessly step-wise ascending harmonic bass up to the dominant, only to slip obtusely to B minor with the onset of the tamtam. The subsequent violence of the ensemble (in sustained multi-register brass and incisive trills and filagree in the woodwinds) then provokes the ascending, clamoring tremolandi in the vibraphone (m. 439, as already mentioned, see Example 32). A graphically imposing and focal event among many in the work, it cuts through, in a sheen of metallic resonance and the continued pummeling of the orchestra which covers and uncovers the now descending and receding fragmentation of the Pachelbellian harmonic sequence in the organ.


The second repetition of the vibraphone's ascending "ladder" (there are three repetitions, four presentations, in all) occasions a dramatic sonority in the organ which is sustained and reiterated beneath an upper-register A flat amid remnant gestures of the vibraphones and the entrance of  constant low-register background aura in the strings.




                                             Example 32: Continuo a Partire da Pachelbel vibraphones mm. 431 - 433

mm. 457 - 616 and Epilogue


It is the pervasive metallic resonance from the vibraphones ("vibrato lento"), extending gracefully and eerily to the strings (sul ponticello) and organ which defines the ultimate dissolution of these developments.  A new tonal and timbral fixation arises in the marimba ­ a haunting and resonant mid-register tremolo on G# extending, from the organ (its trill on A flat in mm. 455- 456 and also from the fixed-register sonority of the dissolution of the preceding section), effortlessly to the harp and back to the organ in an introspective relief and departure from the overwhelming dramatic developments of the previous section (Example 33).



                                                  Example 33: Continuo a Partire da Pachelbel  mm. 457 - 461


The simplistic richness of the marimba's mid-register G# tremolo, enhanced by the harp's registral sweeps, forms the basis of a quasi-improvisitory pause and soliloquy. Following a silence and shift to hard sticks, a larger direction begins to emerge as the marimba focuses on mid- and upper-register sixths against a deep line in tritones looming in the pedals of the organ (mm. 474 - 475). The sheng  sonority of the opening, transposed  an octave higher in the organ, emanates at length from an attack masked by the marimba and harp (in contrary glissando and scalic sweeps) who become more consistently involved in the flow of ideas, doubling the sporadic sixths of the marimba and (in various registers of its rhythmic patterns) the altered return of the its trill, now as resonant upper-register F#-G# in the vibraphone.  In a gradual accelerando an ethereal multi-layered perpetual motion ensues in which the harp meanders in an accented staccati F major strata as the organ sustains its high-registersheng sonority against a steady enunciation of the chromatic lines of the Pachelbel Fugue (refer back to Figure 8).


                        Mirroring the high-register organ, the double basses sustain the sheng  sonority in the low and extreme-low registers, and, as the organ's descending sequences become quicker and more ornate, the vibraphone protrusively superimposes sixths, at first haphazardly, but then with accumulating density in relation to the superposition of returning ideas ­  low-register sonorities in the brass, high-register, repeated-note gestures in the marimbas, and the elemental rhythms, not in the congas, but in the bass drum. The high-register sixths in the vibraphone then compress to fifths (m. 502, see Example 34), becoming more strident and chromatic, and more directly mirroring the descending chromatic line of the sequences in the organ. Further materials reappear from earlier passages: the improvisatory marimba filagree (m. 511), the ascending tremolando in the vibraphones (m. 514 - 515), the mid- and low-register brass sonorities, the tamtam crashes, the anacrusic harmonic figures ("X") (m. 523 - 528) in dominant sevenths in the organ (on E) and eventually a very brief instance of palm clustering in the organ as the incisive filagree/trill gestures return in the flutes (mm. 548 - 559). 



                                                             Example 34: Continuo a Partire da Pachelbel mm. 502 - 504


While the clear function of this passage up to its abrupt cutoff in m. 588 is recapitulatory, the inevitability of the harmonic sequences from the D minor Fugue  in the organ give rise another remarkable textural effect as they absorb the dynamic and rhythmic dislocation of the superimposed images from the orchestra, as if in a different and remote temporal stream.  While a floating sense of multi-temporality is maintained, the very delicate and fluctuating mixture of the passage is directed by the accelerandi in m. 519 (to q = 108) and m. 542 (to q = 120) and a culmination is reached in the furor of cadenza passagework in the organ and winds and finally in the organ alone against explosive iterations in the tamtam.  


A further recapitulatory and cumulative episode ensues after a dramatic pause in the double basses, sustaining the scheng sonority. This episode primarily involves the strings and flute choir paralleling the roles of the organ and winds of the opening.  Here (m. 591), the organ reverts to its "glassy" mixture against swirling clouds of narrow filagree in the mid-register flutes and micro-canonic pizzicatti in the 'cellos and sul ponticello scalar passagework in the violas. The flutes gradually spiral upward over two octaves into the high register before jumping back to pause on a tremolo tritone/fourth sonority in the mid-register (m. 604).  Once again a cadenza arises in the organ, first on the registral echoing of A major sonorities ("Y") but then in the broken chord/arpeggiating passagework ("Z") which is rejoined by the congas to a brief but furious venting of palm and foot pedaling in all registers. 


The epilogue begins similarly to the preceding episode with the tremolo flutes in a mid-register chromatic cluster (C#-D-E flat) as a gentle background to the "spirit" of the church (the "Aria Sebaldina") in a rich and graceful recitative above the uneasiness of the  bass drums. Other earlier moments of tension in the work are evoked in the mid-register tritone and fourth sonority in the flutes, to which the organ responds with a slow version of the chromatically slipping dominant seventh ("X") motions (E up to F natural). The chord stream in the organ continues as the mid-register flute cluster gradually ascends (like the earlier swirling clouds of filagree) in a subdued but deliberate tremolando stream.  As the organ climbs to upper registers, contact is made with chordal articulations in the strings but the ascent suddenly encounters a ringing sixth in the vibraphone, which evokes the anacrusic "X" gesture in the brass. Resonant embellishments of this sonority encounter echoes of "X" in the horns and an insurgent tremolo tension in the strings which awakens a quick recall of the searing, strident high-register semitones in the flutes and the organ plunges into a thick, dense low-register sonority disrupted once more by a final cutoff of the motor and a dark, final deflation of the sound as the dying breaths of the instrument whistle lightly through the upper harmonics of the pipes.


[1] i.e. pairs of timbres (flutes, clarinets etc.) at specific intervals, as in the second movement of Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra  ­ an example Hambrĉus mentioned frequently in his orchestration class.

[2] see Waters "Bengt Hamrĉus's Livre d'Orgue : An Exploration of the French Classic Tradition and Beyond" ex tempore  vol. viii/2 (Summer 1997) pp. 77 - 120, for a summary of Hambrĉus's pallet of idioms and resources in his organ music, and also Margo MacKay-Simmons "Aspects of Orchestration in Bengt Hambraeus's Transfiguration for Orchestra: Composed Resonance as a Generator of Musical Texture," ex tempore vol III/2 (Fall-Winter 1985 - 86),  pp.  38 - 55 for insight into Hambrĉus's orchestrational devices.

[3] phone conversation March, 2000.  This issue in Hambrĉus's music is certainly worthy of a dissertation in itself. Bruce Mather in the notes (p. 251) to his article "Collage technique in Carillon" in Crosscurrents and Counterpoints ed. Broman, Engebretsen and Alphonce, gives a very useful and extensive list of compositions involving "quotational" or "borrowing" devices.  Hambrĉus also drew particular attention to hisThree Dances for free bass accordian and percussion of 1986 which will be left for another study.

[4] Liner notes, Folia recording of York Winds performance:CMC Centre disques: 2001 BWV 542.

[5] Register will be specified verbally in this paper. "Mid-register tones" are those from middle C to the B natural a seventh above, "upper-register tones" are those in the octave above "mid-register" and "high- and extreme high-register" refer to the two upper-most piano octaves.  The octave below middle C will be referred to as "lower mid-register" and the two remaining octaves as "low-register" and "extreme low-register." 

[6] Jeu de Cinq, Quodlibetr re: BACH  and FM643765 are currently available only through the Canadian Music Centre.  Excerpts from these works are reproduced here with their kind permission .

[7] As we will see later in the study, this moment  like so many others in Hambrĉus's music might be called "quotational" i.e. seemingly borrowed but with no recognizable reference. The C# dominants are never complete and seem to contain some extraneous sustained elements in the form of the oboes high-register C natural in mm. 34 -35  or the clarinets upper-register trill on Eb in m. 36 as if superimposed on the other materials in the game.

[8]  This passage which also has a certain "quotational" flavor underlines what might well be a signature motive of the composer. While Hambrĉus would be rarely explicit about such things, the musical letters of his name, B (German B flat) -  E  - H  (German B natural) - A, can be related to many relatively spontaneous and distinctive motivic figures.  Here in m. 42, the B-A-H can be seen transposed simultaneously in the E flat-D-E natural and G flat-F-G in the clarinet and oboe.

[9] Creating a dominant seventh plus minor ninth in sonority but also, in terms of the intervallic syntax, a sonority based in thirds; A-C#-E-G-B flat.

[10] dedicated to Enid, the composer's wife, and composed in 1979‑80 for the Netherlands Chamber Wind Ensemble.

[11] i.e. the acoustic features of "rustle noise" or the inharmonic upper spectrum characteristic of low-register "buzzy" timbres.


[12]  Strata is available in a published performance score from Edition Suecia, Copyright (c) 1988.  Excerpts from the work are reproduced with permission of Edition Suecia, but because of the transposed parts in the performance score, the composer's autograph containing only untransposed parts is used, again courtesy of the Canadian Music Centre.

[13] For example in Jeu de Cinq, the high-register sustained clustering around E-F#-G#, or extreme low -register semitone on Bb-B natural.  Interestingly the same pitch/timbre references seem to occur in both works.

[14] Except for the more subdued first phrase and in the fourth phrase the accent is on the middle chord of the extended nine-chord phrase.

[15]  See footnote 10. Per Broman (e-mail correspondence) has also drawn to my attention that the "E" centerings may not be surprising given the names of Bengt and Enid's son and daughter: Michael (mi) and Elizabeth.

[16] Gothenberg University, 1999, No. 57 of "Publication from the University of Gothenburg, Department of Musicology." containing chapters on contemporary musical history, composition, performance practice, "world music", academicism, music education, music criticism etc.

[17] Broman op. cit. p. 199.

[18]  Notes to Montreal Symphony Orchestra Gala Concert Jan 14, 15, 1992. courtesy of  CMC Montreal.

[19]  Per Broman, "Bengt Hambrĉus's Notion of World Music: Philosophical and Aesthetical Boundaries" Master's Thesis, McGill University Faculty of Music, 1997, p. 56.

[20]  Broman (1999) p. 200.

[21] Hambrĉus had great respect for Stokowski as an organist and musician which he aired generously in his research on performance practice: " In fact Stokowski appears to have been the first conductor to get involved with physics and acoustics on a more research-oriented basis, and with ongoing improvements of recording techniques ever since the 1920's; as a part of all this, he constantly experimented with new seating arrangements for orchestras which he conducted both in concerts and recordings.  Therefore, his "symphonic transcriptions" do not only feature certain classical works, but can be seen as results of advanced ear-training and dynamics;  the main source of inspiration for most of his c.35 Bach transcriptions was the sound of a huge organ in a large church.  But it was not the big German and French Baroque organs which were in his mind; rather his ideal was closer to the British cathedral instruments around 1900 ...  Aspects of 20th Century Performance Practice: Memories and Reflections Stockholm 1997, Royal Swedish Academy of Music, pp. 99 - 100.


[22] From the composer's notes in German courtesy of the Canadian Music Centre in Montreal.

[23] The "Unser Vater"  which Hambrĉus mentions in his commentary occurs in a four-voice setting at the beginning of the Sixth Sonata and the "In Tiefe Weh" arises extraneously to the thematic ideas in the development of the fugue of the Third Sonata.

[24] The figure that generates the extensive passagework sections in FM 654764  makes only a brief appearance in the op. 37 prelude, as if Hambrĉus took its passing suggestion as the beginning of an entire piece that might have been.

[25] A Portrait of Bengt Hambrĉus MAP CD 9131 Scandinavian Contemporary Music, Series Malmo Audio Production, Malmo, Sweden, distr. CDA Stockholm,  liner notes by the composer.  Hambraeus also mentions in his notes that the title "can be translated" as "I continue on the road from Pachelbel" but it also refers to the "constant relationship to Pachelbel's music."

[26]  The most explicit discussion of a formal model for one of Hambraeus's pieces can be found on pages 163 - 164 of  Chris Howard's "Completing the Circle:  Bengt Hambrĉus's Concerto for Piano and Orchestra," in Crosscurrents and Counterpoints: Offerings in Honor of Bengt Hambrĉus at 70 1998, University of Gothenburg.  Here note is made of  Hambrĉus's reference to a medieval circular icon and inscriptions "I will reign. I reign. I did reign" in relation to the form of the Concerto.  It has been possible in this study to observe certain formal tendencies in Hambrĉus's music which admit returns or revisiting of opening conditions as well as flashback recalls of previous events during latter, and perhaps especially, closing sequences.  It is often also possible to find a point of "discovery" or a climactic focal event in the middle of a work after which the isolated recalls begin to occur.

[27] Continuo a partire da Pachelbel  is a manuscript on deposit at the Swedish Music Information Centre who have kindly provided permission for the excerpts reproduced in this article.

[28] This eerie and celestial registration which involves a remarkable combination of flute stops in tremolo is completely specified by the composer in the score (p. 17): on the Schwellpositiv : Rohrpommel 16', Kappelflöte 4', Sifflet 1' with Trem.; on the Schwelloberwerk: Nachthorn (16') Terz Köte (3 1/5)  Flûte douce (2') Trem.;  and in the Pedal register: Subbas (16')  and Doppelrohrflöte (2') 

[29] An intriguing detail in the scope and intricacy of the work can be noted parenthetically here in m. 385 where the organ interjects, completely in the background beneath the developing timbral and harmonic exchanges in the wind choirs, a slow "boogie woogie" figure  ­  in passing and without any apparent development or repetition !