Baruch Berliner. Symphonic poem “The Creation of the World”.
The theme of the creation of the world, the theme of the act of divine creation could not leave artists of all time indifferent. Each artist, who draws inspiration from this theme, be it a painter, writer, poet or composer, offers his own view on the issue of being and puts forward his own individual concept. ”Music and faith, in my opinion, are very closely connected. The word reflects the content explicitly and clearly while the sound reflects it abstractly and ambiguously. As a scientist, I know how to define sound in a dispassionate and accurate way. And as a musician, I cannot but admire how the seemingly simple physical organization of sounds, with which a melody is created, awakens a wide range of emotions in us, brings together feelings and intellect and enriches the deep content of the Torah about the creation of the world with its emotional perception. In my work I wanted to combine the Holy Scripture I have faith in with the music that is in my heart, to combine the language of the Torah with the language of sounds. After the concerts there is often a lively discourse between me and the audience and I am especially touched by the reaction of the listeners who feel they are part or participants of the creation of the world during the performance”. Here is what Baruch Berliner, a prominent scientist, poet and composer, author of scientific articles and philosophical works, the creator of the symphonic poem “Genesis”, told in an interview on the eve of his 80th birthday.
The global theme, deep content, melodic richness, interesting dramatic and stylistic features of “Genesis” by Baruch Berliner put it among the number of significant achievements of world art related to biblical themes. The synthetic nature of the work evokes associations with biblical images in painting, literature, poetry, theater, and music. The composer defined the genre of “Genesis” as a symphonic poem. This genre, which arose in the 19th century in the work of Franz Liszt (1811-1886), became widespread and soon became the main one in the field of program symphonism, creating many different interpretations. Baruch Berliner freely weaves various traditions of the genre, developed by European composers. As a result, the original work with an individual interpretation of the genre appears before the audience.
An indispensable feature of the genre – programming – is enriched with elements of theatricality, which is manifested, in particular, in the progressive development of the musical plot, in the use of the technique of leitmotifs, and partly in timbre characteristics. The type of programming can be defined as a change from a generalized to a sequential and plot one, which is often found in the poems of the 20th century. But the Bible as a source of the program is used for the first time. Also, the narrator who recites the sacred lines of the Torah becomes the most important character in the symphonic poem.
In the dramaturgical aspect, we note the interweaving of the epic, dramatic and lyrical features, which are typical for the genre of the poem and partly from the ballad. All components of this triad in Berliner’s poem are quite harmoniously combined, although the lyrics, of course, greatly outweigh. The structure of “Genesis” belongs to the category of multi-part symphonic poems with the features of a program suite with a through structure.
The number of parts is driven by the program idea; all of them are inextricably linked, closely connected both by the text and specific musical techniques. The very concept of poem in music implies the desire to unite, erase the boundaries between parts and sections of a work, as well as freedom in compositional solutions, individualization of musical forms. The seven parts of Berliner’s symphonic poem, like the seven chapters of one book (poem is originally a literary genre), can be likened to seven sections of a single large composition. The parts follow one another without interruption, and sometimes they are connected by improvisational interludes. Elements of monothematism, thematic arches and a leitmotif system tightly fasten the whole work. Leitmotifs can be transformed depending on the storyline. On the one hand, they help the audience to be guided in the content, the author’s intentions and images of the work; on the other hand, they make the form unified.
The idea of creating a symphonic poem “Genesis” was suggested by Nachum Slutzker, a wonderful musician and teacher, whom Baruch Berliner met in 1994. Back in Switzerland, while working on his doctoral thesis, Berliner had a special notebook where he wrote down the melodies that appeared in his head during leisure hours, during a break from numbers, formulas and graphs. After walking along Lake of Zurich, he played these melodies on the violin, which he could play a little from the age of 11, having received the necessary skills from the famous violinist and composer Oeden Partos in Israel. In 2007, Baruch showed his Zurich sheet music to Naсhum Slutzker. The melodies made a strong impression on him; some of them caused the associations with pictures of the creation of the world. And then, according to the memories of Slutzker, work began on a grandiose piece of music. According to Nachum, it’s a real pleasure to work with Berliner, to be his producer. This is a person with the purest soul, absolutely tolerant, open to creative cooperation, who “lets” like-minded people, whom he trusts unconditionally, in his creation, allows them to make some adjustments or additions, gives each project participant the opportunity to feel like a partner, partly even a co-author. It’s inspiring!
The premiere of “Genesis” was performed in 2010 at the Tel Aviv Museum Concert Hall by the Israeli Chamber Orchestra conducted by Karin Ben-Yosef. The narrator was Zvi Salton, a news anchor for the state radio station Voice of Israel. The work was enthusiastically received by the audience. A warm welcome, a storm of applause and positive press reviews prompted the composer to continue working on the poem, in particular, to add a very important part of “Cain and Abel”. Since then, “Genesis”, like a living organism, has been constantly developing and improving. There are several versions of the score, as well as various formats of performance, including symphonic rock with scenography and ballet. . Each conductor, who touched the score, made a certain contribution with his individual interpretation and left a mark on the life of the composition. The first orchestration was written by Eugene Levitas, an Israeli composer and arranger. In 2019, the Austrian-Israeli conductor Ronen Nissan expanded and re-orchestrated “Genesis”. The final version belongs to the Russian conductor Mikhail Kirchhoff (2020).
Before beginning the analysis of the score, let’s pay attention to an important part of it, namely, video art. Composer Baruch Berliner and co-author of the project Nachum Slutzker set a number of difficult tasks for Yaron Shin, illustrator, designer, and animator. One of them, according to the artist, is very responsible and even frightening – a graphic interpretation of the Bible and the large-scale orchestral composition associated with it. ”When I started making the first sketches, I tried to combine three aspects. The first one was text and typography. The second one was the patterns in the background. And the third one was the creation of the appearance of human beings along with the text about them spoken by the narrator… ”. The video series perfectly coped both with the function of visualization, illustrating the musical content and helping the listener to understand the idea of the work, and with a kind of decorative role of coloration the musical and symphonic action, where the color dramaturgy emphasizes the tonal dramaturgy. Finally, the most difficult task, which Yaron Shin considered at first almost impossible, was the constant mobility of the tempo-rhythm of the visual series. The point is that the project, grandiose in its scale, involves reading the texts of the Bible in the language of the country in which “Genesis” is performed. The Bible has been translated into almost 700 languages and dialects. The duration of the sound of the text in different languages does not coincide with the original one, sometimes quite significantly. It is also necessary to take into account the individuality of the conductor and the orchestra, and indeed the reader, who feel the tempo in their own way. The video series is scrupulously calculated for each concert! And at each concert, it is manually controlled by an experienced operator who knows the score well.
Having become an integral part of the “Genesis” score, Shin’s video art performs another very important function. This is a generalization of the essence of human existence from biblical times to the present day: the beginning of all things, the creation of man, the fall, murder, natural and social disasters… What has changed? Vice? Perhaps curiosity and the desire for knowledge, even despite the prohibitions, today is not the biggest sin. It’s probably not a coincidence that the bitten apple became the logo of the famous IT company Apple. Envy? Self-interest? Thirst for power? A heart-rending inner struggle between good and evil? Technical characteristics of the weapon? But not the very act of murder. Certainly, Cain’s shot from a gun draws attention. So is this the biblical Cain? The video series is a parallel layer of the score, which enhances the perception of music, involuntarily leads to reflections, and possibly to reassessments, sharpens the view of the eternal problems of humanity.
Now let’s give the floor to the creator of the symphonic poem “Genesis” Baruch Berliner. “The choice of seven parts for the poem is not accidental. The first part – The Creation of the World – is an eternal theme, the main question of all questions that has always interested, interests and will interest the best minds. Therefore, I thought that it would be right to start the poem from the first day, when the creative potential of the Creator was concentrated as much as possible, and all the stages of Divine Providence were ahead, up to the time of our existence. The second part – the creation of Adam and Eve – confronts us with the fact that man is the crown of creation. A philosophical dilemma arises: was the whole world created only for man? God provided man with the instincts of Good and Evil and predetermined free choice. I have chosen this theme as the central one in the following parts. The Evil instinct leads to sin, and sin to punishment, the purpose of which is to prevent subsequent possible sins. The level of sin and punishment gradually rises from part to part: the fall of Adam and Eve (third part), the murder of brother (fourth part) and the destruction of almost the entire universe in the flood (fifth and sixth parts), because “man’s heart is evil from his youth.” But despite this, according to the Torah, God sets a rainbow in the clouds as a sign of the covenant with man (the seventh part) and gives us hope for better times. As an optimistic person, I decided to end the poem in this positive tone” .
№1 “The Creation of the World”. The first day. The beginning of the poem is a staggering cosmic explosion (it is important to note the scientific approach of the scientist Baruch Berliner to the appearance of the planet Earth). And an equally stunning background is the Great Book, the Bible, arising from the depths of Space and revealing its immortal texts to us.
The voice of Baruch Berliner in Hebrew, the original language of the Torah, solemnly and soulfully pronounces the initial phrases of the seven parts of the poem, polyphonically overlapping one another, as if rushing, trying to have time to identify the main milestones and turning points in the history of humanity. Verbal polyphony is also reflected in the video series. It is very majestic, amazing! The authors make you instantly get involved in the performance, break away from everyday problems, enter the open Book and immerse yourself in the world of the eternal, imperishable things.
Narrator: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void. And darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters”. God created the world out of nothing: Creatio ex Nihilo. In the poem, the sound “NOTHING” appears in the form of a distant rumble created by the timpani tremolo in a very low register on pianissimo.
Narrator: “And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light”. A timid ray of the first light, trying to cut through the darkness, quietly “lights up” at the clarinets and violins on pianissimo in the high register, immediately outlining the space with the help of timbre-register stratification into “up” and “down”. There is a faceless void between them.
Narrator: “And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness”. In the fifth measure, the third texture layer appears: the main theme emerges from the double basses, heavily rising from the darkness – the leitmotif of the creation of the world. And in the sixth one, the fourth layer is turned on: in the part of the flute and piccolo, xylophone, harps and piano in the high register, gleams of light flicker like “fragments of an explosion”. The emergence of thematism – the emergence of the world of the work – the emergence of life. The parallel development of “top” and “bottom” symbolizes the separation of Light from Darkness.
There are so many events on the first page of the score! This is an introduction. We turn over. The action begins, which consists of four episodes according to the principle of variant development. In the first one, the violas, cellos and double basses, which are still in a disembodied texture, with parallel movement of slowly and evenly creeping quarter-octave chords against the background of the ostinato syncopated tremolo rhythm of the timpani and violins, expose the severely archaic theme of the creation of the world, the main leitmotif of the work. And immediately a conflict arises: another major theme of the cycle breaks in – the leitmotif of destruction, sharply contrasting with the main one (a short four-sound motif of two minor thirds connected by the diminished fourth with a sharp rhythm and no less sharp timbre – the unison of flute, piccolo and piano).
Dramaturgically speaking, this is an exposition, but at the same time, it is already the beginning of a drama. Two opposite intonational systems are immediately formed, the opposition of which underlies the dramaturgy of a symphonic poem. The themes of the “sphere of creation” are melodic, extended, diatonic, calm and balanced; but the themes of “spheres of destruction” are angular, with sharp rhythms (dotted barlines, syncopes, triplets, polyrhythm techniques), chromatic elements, moves at reduced and increased intervals, accompanied by reduced seventh chords and unstable harmonies.
In the second statement, the main leitmotif grows, is supplemented by a second sentence and takes on a finished form. Between the two sentences, breaking the epic narrative, the motif of destruction flashes by, as well as a short but easily recognizable quote from the Concerto for two violins and orchestra in d-moll by Bach (unison flutes and xylophone). In the second sentence, the purity of Bach’s theme is broken by the invading motif of destruction (trumpets, trombones). The meaning of using this quote and its so inharmonious combination with the theme of destruction will be revealed in the fourth part of the poem – “Cain and Abel”.
In the third statement, the tension increases. Compaction of the texture, saturation with inner voices, expansion of the range and dynamic development gradually fill the space, give physicality to the initially incorporeal image of the Universe. The culmination of the first part is a joyful and solemn tutti in G-dur, announcing the main event of the universe – the appearance of Man, the crown of the creation of the Almighty. On the crest of a dynamic wave, a new theme of the creation of man is proclaimed – bright and enthusiastic, this is how God conceived his offspring.
But, alas! … Further – chaos: is it the destructive activity of man or unresolvable emotional conflicts? There is the struggle again. In the last, culminating statement of the theme of the creation of the world, the external conflict develops into an internal one. Having gained strength and energy, both opposing themes sound twice at the horns with strings against the background of raging passages of high woodwinds, harp and piano. The first attempt to fight ends unsuccessfully, leading to the leitmotif of destruction. But the second one, where the theme of creation is strengthened, supported by woodwinds, trumpets and piano, sounds like parallel fifths – deliberately archaic-primitive, but powerful, sweeps away the leitmotif of destruction and affirms the final victory of Light and Creation. This is the second climax, after which comes calm and enlightenment. The first part performs the function of an overture: the main concept of the work is stated, the main images and conflicts are outlined, and main themes are exposed.
The second part is prepared by a piano interlude in the genre of “reading with music”. The text tells about the sixth day of creation, about the creation of the Garden of Eden and man. The two-bar introduction is illustrated by the words “then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground”: ascending passages without a melody that have not yet been finished rhythmically, texturally, harmonically. And then the composer creates a person from a lifeless body, “dust”, forms a melody – the soul of a person! (“and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature”).
№2 “Adam and Eve” is a wonderful love scene, a love dance that is both divinely sublime and humanly mundane and sensual. The whole part is based practically on the development of one musical theme. This is a chaste, lyrically gentle and touching theme of love, perhaps the most beautiful one in the work because Love is the most wonderful thing that God has given to man. The composer chooses romance in waltz rhythm as the genre basis of the second part, connecting two “love” musical genres. Love is one for two, therefore a single melody combines the images of a man and a woman. The personification of the characters occurs due to the timbre differences: the sound of the theme of woodwind instruments is associated with the image of Adam, and the violin solo soaring in ethereal cloud is associated with the image of Eve.
Based on the text distribution, we assume that the author’s intention of this part was slightly different, namely: God lovingly creates Man, the crown of His creation, and this soulful melody refers to the emotional state of the Creator. Moreover, it is a monothematic transformation of the theme of the creation of man from the first part. But it is really sensual, ingeniously simple and humane!
The second interlude is two-part. The first section, as it were, ends the previous part, gives time to comprehend its content and stay a little longer in the blessed and innocent mood of the first people. And the text already tells about punishment, and in the second section the theme of the expulsion from Paradise is formed. The last descending piano passage is pictorial, which is a reversal of the initial from the first interlude: “You are dust, and to dust you shall return”.
№3 “The Expulsion from Paradise”. The line of musical development of the third part unfolds from soulful lyrics to a dramatic denouement, to a climax-crash on the motif of the medieval sequence Dies irae (The Day of Wrath), symbolizing the anger of God that destroys the paradise idyll of the first people.
The beginning of the part did not seem to portend terrible twists of fate. Again, the composer’s melodic talent helps him create a mellifluous sound, and you can enjoy the extended cantilena of the viola and its emotional continuation in the second sentence: the oboes join in, and then the flutes carry the gentle and touching lamentose intonation aloft. Only in retrospect we do understand that this beautiful melody is based on the intonation of Dies irae (the composer’s excellent mastery of the technique of monothematism!). Aspiring dynamic development is achieved by various ways, but the main one is the compression of subsequent statement, up to one bar at the climax.
№4. “Cain and Abel”. Turning to mythological subjects, major composers have always touched upon not only eternal themes, but also the problems of the present. The philosophy of good and evil, the conflicts of the universe, fratricidal wars, human pain and suffering, the tragedy of entire nations – so you can outline the content of the fourth part, the largest one in the poem, a kind of cycle within a cycle. It opens with an introduction, the main function of which is an illustrative background for the narrator’s text. But not only.
Narrator: “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain”. And again a simultaneous conflict: “conceived and bore” – creation, “Cain” – destruction. It is this conflict that is the basis of the musical development of the entire fourth part. In the introduction, as in the first part, the score is divided into “top” and “bottom”: severe timpani glissando, the dull rumble of double basses at the slow tempo on a quiet dynamics – and a xylophone in the upper register, which begins to form a fussy, prickly third timbre-motif of the diabolical temptations, a variant of the theme of destruction.
The gradual formation of themes and the general tone of the sound are also similar to the first part. The intonation of the theme of the creation of man flashed during the story of the birth of Abel. With the words “Cain was very wroth,” the cellos and double basses intone the “devilish interval” tritone. Thus, we can talk about a figurative and thematic arch with the first part, which serves as a unifying factor of the work. The main part begins with the vertical conflict.
Narrator: “Sin is crouching at the door. And its desire is for you, but you must rule over it”. Man gets the right to choose! Mental struggle and the search for a solution continue throughout the part. The composer chooses the ancient form of basso ostinato, which makes it possible a deep and multifaceted analysis of the subtlest shades of the character’s emotional experiences. Numerous melodic variants color the four-bar bass theme, revealing new facets of emotional states. In addition to the variational principle of construction, a large whole is held together by wave dramaturgy: the first three waves of increasing conflict, each of which ends more intensely, lead to a dramatic climax of great emotional power; and the last one – to the general climax and tragic denouement of the instrumental drama.
Narrator: “Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field”. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him”. Shot – and stupor. Silence. The music is cut off. The world has collapsed. The distorted intonations of the introduction, the same tritone of the angry Cain, begin to bring us out of this stupor. Then there is a stratification of texture with complete disharmony of layers, awkward recitation of cellos and double basses, indistinct chromatisms of the clarinet and flute, eerie flute flutter-tonguing, destruction of tonality, melody, and rhythm. The second fall destroyed the harmony of the Universe. The leitmotif of destruction sounds with the words “and now you are under a curse”(curse as the destruction of the relationship between man and God). A loud unison strike on the note B, like a sudden realization of a curse, plunges into a state of fear, confusion. Variations on basso ostinato return and continue the interrupted development. There is extreme tension; all themes of the “sphere of destruction” are involved. The entire long climax is based on a musical quotation from Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins, which is heard or the first time in the first part of the symphonic poem. The author of the study learned the key to unraveling the meaning of the quote from conversations with Baruch Berliner. Johann Sebastian Bach is Berliner’s favorite composer, a symbol of musical art, the rational structure of the Universe, a deeply believing Christian, and at the same time a great lyricist, humanist, who exalted Man and his divine essence, turned all his creative genius to glorifying the cosmic harmony of God and Man. The German land is the foremother of the greatest pillars of science, culture and education, philosophy, literature and art, which brought to the world Bach and Beethoven, Goethe and Schiller, Kant and Hegel… How could such a great country create such a universal Evil as fascism? This question, according to Baruch Berliner, torments him all his life. And these are not abstract thoughts. The German national chauvinism and antisemitism of the late 1930s directly affected his family, forced to leave Berlin in 1937 and flee to Palestine in order to save their lives. The Nazis destroyed all the relatives of the composer who remained in Europe. What’s happening? Why does brother fight against brother? Why does one people rise up against another people? Why are Jews and Slavs being destroyed? The rapid development of the Bach theme breaks out with the tragic general culmination of the entire part – almost a quotation of the invasion theme from Dmitry Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7 “Leningrad”, as a symbol of enmity, war, murder, world evil. At the end, everything gradually subsides: total annihilation, the harmony of the world is destroyed; the sinister procession leaves this place.
№5 “Noah”. The fifth part of the poem is called “Noah”. The narrator’s quite lengthy text tells the story of the only person pleasing to God who is not mired in sins. As for the music, it is not a portrait of a biblical righteous man and not a story about him. The mournful, tragic theme, full of deep suffering, embodies the hard feelings of the Creator, His disappointment in His creation: “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. And the Lord was sorry for what had happened. Yes, He had made man on the Earth, but not for atrocities. Sorrow and indignation filled His heart”.
As a genre basis for the music of the fifth part, the composer chooses the mournful walking dance of the passacaglia and, accordingly, the form of variations on the basso ostinato, as in the previous part. Moreover, in the second variation with the words “And the Lord said: “I will wipe out the human race that I created from the face of the Earth”, and then the bass line from “Cain”, repeatedly downward in semitones, sounds along with the leitmotif of destruction, as if persistently forcing a person learn the lesson: mortal sin will not go unpunished.
The main mourning theme is a musical quotation from the Allegretto of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, which is not exact, but only outlines the brightest melodic features of the famous passacaglia of the great Viennese classic. The eight-bar theme is exhibited after a short introduction, where in the part of bells, harp and piano one can hear either drops of the future flood, or the tears of the Lord, which will later become a textural layer of variations. In the third variation, the lyrical and mournful mood is enhanced by the lamentose melody of the trumpet, which will return in the last, culminating one. The fourth variation embodies “sin” in a somewhat grotesque manner: the viola solo carries away one of the themes of the sphere of destruction with the rhythm of a passionate and entrancing tango. In the fifth one, the horn’s main theme clashes with the ongoing tango. The counterpoint of two conflict spheres again leads to destruction. And in the sixth variation, there is no theme from the sphere of destruction, although the words of the narrator seem to suggest their sound (“I will blot out them and the Earth along with them”). The inner state comes to the fore: sadness, deep regret, sorrow, human tragedy. But the constant rhythm of the snare drum begins to count down the time…
After the seventh variation, a long culminating zone begins. In the last ninth one, all elements of the previous development are mixed in flashy counterpoint. Violins with violas lead the main mourning theme. Bells, harp and piano have a sad theme of tears. Trumpets with horns play the lamentose melody from the third variation desperately loud. The wooden instruments in the high register perform the Bach theme. The rest of the instruments count down the last minutes of life with a pounding rhythmic ostinato. And all this conflicting resonant sound is interrupted by the main leitmotif of destruction that sounds for the last time. Wind instruments stop playing. Dissolving melody. Minor. A fading diminuendo. Drops. Hopelessness. Leaving.
Why is a quote from the passacaglia of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 used? This question was asked to the co-author of the project, Nachum Slutzker. It was he who suggested the idea to use the quote. According to him, he adored this symphony from childhood and always bowed before the genius of Beethoven, before the great power of the influence of his music, which will never run out, which belongs to eternity. The depth of thought and the incredible simplicity of this ingenious music are also striking. The authors try to push the audience to serious reflections on the musical art and the ways of its development. They, like many musicians, are very concerned about the problems of the current state of music, when genuine classical art is being replaced by newfangled modernist tendencies, inventions of all kinds of composition techniques, artificial systems, the magic of numbers, graphs and spirals, unusual and unfamiliar methods of sound production, prepared instruments, etc. Many modern composers, driven by a passionate desire to be extraordinary at all costs, often forget about the true purpose of Music in their relentless search for innovative means. Here is the aesthetic credo of the authors of the project: Music is a gift from God. Melody is the soul of music. Without melody, there is no real music. Its absence cannot be replaced by any of the most sophisticated techniques of composing music. Who are these inventions for? Melody carries meaning and creation, while cacophony is the destruction of music. The musicians themselves often perform such music with difficulty and only out of necessity. Who listens to this music? Do composers write for themselves or for each other? They organize competitions and give out awards. What is the future of these works? Who, where and when performs them? Listen to them? Remembers them? Talks about them? The hedonistic function of art is the main one. Bach’s most complex and impeccably constructively verified fugues are ingenious and eternal because they are melodic and certainly contain an artistic image. It is the reason for creating a work of art; it is the meaning of art. The constitution cannot be the meaning of a real artistic creation, but only the frame. The message cannot be a technical device. Instead of a work of art, you will get a manual for the study of this technical device. Of course, the Universe does not dictate beautiful melodies to everyone. Great melodists remain in history forever.
Baruch Berliner contrasts techniques alien to music with a simple, understandable to any person (but not vulgar and trivial!) melody that touches the strings of the human soul and brings a person closer to the highest manifestation of the Beautiful in all things. Finally, to God. He speaks to the Bible in a simple and clear language.
Why did the authors of the project touch upon the most important topic of the purpose of music in this part? Let’s try to reflect on this. Berliner perceives the destruction of the melody as the destruction of the music itself and equates it with the destruction of life, with the global flood. Berliner in this part of the symphonic poem, as Noah, faithful and devoted to God, declares the postulate of his fidelity to the melody. And the passacaglia from the Symphony No. 7 composed by Ludwig van Beethoven is used in this work as a symbol of true art, eternal and imperishable, like the Bible.
№6 “The Flood”. Based on the plot, the sixth part is a direct continuation of the fifth one. However, its function in the symphonic poem as a whole can be defined as a dynamized recapitulation in terms of musical dramaturgy. The thematic arch, present in the work from the first part, gives not only structural, but also dramaturgical integrity to the whole work. Before the end of the human history, the composer recalls its beginning, makes us think about the reasons for unfulfilled hopes, unrealistic expectations of the Universe and lost Paradise given to man. Epic, dramatic, decorative and pictorial episodes alternate in this most colorful and illustrative part.
The introduction is identical to the introduction of the first part. In the context of the plot, the perception of some themes is reinterpreted. For example, shards of light are now associated with raindrops, and it is from them that the theme of the flood is assembled. The leitmotif of the creation of the world in the first episode is associated with Noah’s ark, which is quite logical, because it is the beginning of a new birth of life on Earth. It sounds calm, with epic slowness, light and confident (originally a minor theme here in G-dur) in a warm and deep timbre of a solo cello. Here is the last mention of the creation of man: the initial motive of the second part (the theme of the creation of man) flashes twice, performed by flutes, and then by clarinets on pianissimo, first in major, then in minor: “Everyone perished”… Three central episodes paint scenes of the apocalypse. They are tense and powerful; drama and expressiveness merge here together. The quiet steps of death are brought to them – pizzicato of cellos and double basses: “Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died”. Then the run-up, the concentration of energy – and the undivided dominance of the themes of destruction, the dance of death, sweeping away everything in its path. Polyrhythms, multidirectional movement, flickering fragments of motifs, rolling into the hellish abyss (an echo of culmination-catastrophe from Cain) convey a chaotic bustle, confusion, desperate screams, cries of horror. The culmination of the universal destruction is the sound-expressive third episode. The amazing skill of the embodiment of the overflowing water element, callously consuming and washing away all living things into the abyss, comparable only with unsurpassed marine painter Aivazovsky and “marine composer” Rimsky-Korsakov! Giant splashes of water are literally traced in the score: wave-like passages of flutes, clarinets and strings, harp glissando of an unimaginable range, carried away into nowhere. The “disorientation” of the flood is created by a whole-tone mode, devoid of harmonic tendency. One can also talk about a temporary wave that unites the entire part: drops – rain – arriving water – the absorption of the Earth (on the crest of a wave) – and the descent of water, shown with the help of chromatically sliding, tapping and gradually fading passages of flutes, harp, piano and trembling high strings. The returning theme of the ark symbolizes Noah’s salvation. The recapitulation of the first episode has one small, but significant change in comparison with the statement of the exposition, namely: the second statement of the motif of the creation of man, which at the beginning sounded like a farewell, is performed in major key now, and most importantly, in an appeal to the Almighty. It is directed upwards, towards rebirth (“Only Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained alive!) Following this, the passage of the harp moves the rainbow to the sky.
№7 “The Token of Covenant”. Narrator: “Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and offered burnt offerings on the altar…And the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma”. The unity of the expressive and pictorial principles again provides the audience with the opportunity to enjoy beautiful music and “read” the content of the work from notes at the same time. After the destructive storms of the previous part, blessed enlightenment comes: C-dur, diatonicism, harp and piano have graphic motifs that delineate the space and shed light between heaven and earth. It’s a rainbow theme. The ascending tertian intonation from the third to the fifth degree at the end of each motif, as it were, carries the aroma aloft. Flutes with clarinets echo the narrator, who voices the text, the meaning of which is forgiveness: “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; And I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done”. The composer does not miss the details: with the words “man’s heart is evil from his youth”, a downward line appears in the melody along with the sounds of a reduced seventh chord, but the phrase ends with the same ascending third. The gradual growth of the texture symbolizes the birth of a new life, the formation of a new world, bright and beautiful. Against the background of the theme of the rainbow, the horn, supported by the cello, sings a simple and natural, like nature itself, melody in which the intonations of all lyrical themes of the symphonic poem are generalized.
Between the performances of various variants of the theme, the main musical idea of the symphonic poem, the leitmotif of the creation of the world, performed by strings and piano, sounds for the last time clearly, lightly and sublimely. Here it is, the covenant of the Almighty – the harmony of the Universe, the unity of man with nature and God.
Baruch Berliner is a mathematician, artist and philosopher who comprehends the events and stories of the history of mankind and modernity, creates his own world in his works and shares his views, thoughts, emotions with people. He is also a deeply religious person, poet and composer – the creator of music, poems, formulas, ideas, harmoniously combining the spiritual and rational experiences, preaching with his art the goodness and rationality of the order of the Universe, separating Light from Darkness, rejecting hatred and envy, glorifying the all-conquering Love.
Marina Plazinskaya for belcanto.ru