Tale of Lead and Light

2011; dur: 10′; String quartet; Score at mic.no

The backdrop for this commission was to complement music by the great Ludwig van Beethoven. Beethoven’s scores for string quartet is a cornucopia of techniques and musicality. They were certainly not meant for pure entertainment. Ending up with Beethoven’s quartet Op. 59 No. 1 as a reference for this piece, I even used elements from this quartet in my own composition.

Beethoven’s position as a free artist has been of great importance to all following composers. This is of equal inspiration as his music. As a free artist, one has to reflect upon our own time, and not be afraid of allowing reality affect our work. When I was in the middle of writing this piece something horrible happened in my neighbourhood. A bomb exploded in Oslo and a killer shot teenagers on an island summer camp. My nation’s reputation as a peaceful country to live in was drastically and forever changed. It was hard to compose. Papers and online media were soon filled with horrible pictures from the events. The lead-coloured skies being a recurring sight.

The ambiguity in the title reflects both hope and dread. Beethoven’s light shines through, strong and full of life!

(Norwegian programme note below)

The piece was commissioned by the Engegård Quartet in 2011. On the record String Quartets vol IV: Schubert-Ratkje-Britten-Haydn.

A later piece is made for string orchestra: Tale of Lead and Frozen Light (2014).

Press quotes

Hun folder ut sitt klangspektrum på fineste vis, og verket oppviser et fint, dynamisk spenn. (Dagbladet 2014)

Med sin stråkkvartett ”Tale of lead and light”, komponerad efter händelserna på Utøya och även den med referenser till Beethoven, färgade Maja Ratkje dessa festivaldagar som ingen annan tonsättare före henne. (Martin Nyström, Dagens Nyheter)

Aussagekräftige österreichische Erstaufführung. Ausgehend von Beethovens Streichquartett op. 59/1 verfasste die 39-jährige Komponistin Maja Ratkje ein Werk, das von Beginn an die Aufmerksamkeit auf sich zog, denn eine große Erwartungshaltung wurde bereits mit den flirrenden einleitenden Gesten gesetzt. Die Aura Beethovens schwang durch den musikalischen Duktus hindurch mit. Unter anderem wurden harmonische Eckpfeiler vielgestaltig kommentiert, plastisch umrankt und spannenden musikalischen Auflösungsprozessen ausgesetzt. Während des Entstehungsprozesses dieses Streichquartetts im Jahr 2011 wurde Norwegen von einer Terrorattacke erschüttert. Nachher war nichts mehr so wie bisher. Auch im Werk von Maja Ratkje hat dieser Gewaltakt Spuren hinterlassen. Dramatisch wirkte der Zusammenbruch vor allem durch die Zurückhaltung, mit dem er sich in der Musik widerspiegelte. Doch allmählich entstand wieder Neues, so dass zum Schluss hin die Farbe des Beginns wieder durchflimmerte. (Kultur 2012)

Beethoven skrev musikk for strykekvartett på bestilling fra Grev Razumovsky i 1806. Da var Ludwig 36 år gammel. Greven skulle ha tre kvartetter for å underholde sine gjester. Beethoven skrev, leverte og fikk betalt. Men skrev han det de ville ha? Disse kvartettene (Op. 59) er ikke blant de ”gale”, men de er langt ifra forlystelsesmusikk til munter passiar over en drink.

Beethoven ga oss ikke bare musikk, som fri kunstner har han inspirert skapende musikere fram til i dag. Derfor kan jeg skrive absolutt hva jeg vil når jeg setter meg ved arbeidsbordet. Og det er kanskje den største inspirasjonen, men også en forpliktelse. Den sommeren jeg skrev på dette verket hendte det forferdelige som har preget selve sjelen til landet vårt. Etter 22. juli føltes det meningsløst å komponere, men jeg fortsatte. Den blygrå himmelen preget alle de uvirkelige bildene fra denne dagen. Dette kom til å prege verket som tok en annen retning enn det jeg hadde planlagt. Jeg trengte et lys, og lar Beethoven skinne gjennom, ved bruk at bearbeidede sitater fra hans Op. 59 nr. 1.

 

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2 Responses to Tale of Lead and Light

  1. admin says:

    Dear Stefan, I am speaking breiefly about the ‘free art’ and I give a nod to Beethoven being a composer of our time. It is written at the beginning of the composing process with the quartet, and it is done to give a hint about my “flirting” with Op. 59 np 1. I hope this provieds you with enough information, as I have no time to do a proper translation at the moment. It is the English text at the top that is essential for the understanding of the piece. Thanks a lot!

  2. Dear Maja Solveig Kjelstrup Ratkje,

    My name is Stefan Susana I´m a Celloplayer and a Conductor.
    I am invited by the Feldkirchfestival for speaking some words of Introduction about the concert of the Engegard Quartet on 14. of June 2012.
    In this concert the Engegard Quartet will play also “Tale of lead and light”

    It would be very helpful for me to find the right words about “Tale of lead and light”, if you could send me your essay about Beethoven in english words, because i cannot understand the norvegian language.
    Is this possible for you?

    I would be very thankful,

    best wishes :-)

    Stefan Susana

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