About this work
For three of its four movements this work features some of the busiest and most in-your-face music around. It is scored for a very unusual ensemble of five strings (two violins, violas, cellos, and string bass), four winds (flute, clarinet, bassoon, trumpet), accordion, piano, and percussion (snare drum and xylophone are prominent). The harmonic idiom is tonal, although this is tonality that chomps at the bit of its own boundaries. Polytonality frequently results.
The first movement is marked Sehr schnell und wild ("Very fast and wild"). It rushes forward in a busy, scurrying texture. Sections where cheeky motivic melodic fragments obstinately make themselves heard over bustling accompaniments alternate with more straightforward toccata-like dashing.
The second movement, Maessig schnell Halbe ("Moderately fast half-notes"), takes off with the feel of a tango. Outspoken melodic figures that carry more than a hint of satire strut in review, often impudently out of key. Some lyrically sustained lines in the strings provide contrast. The rapidly shifting tonal soundscape refuses to let the music settle down into any kind of comfortable or easygoing manner.
The third movement, Sehr langsam und mit Ausdruck ("Very slow and with expression"), provides a serene contrast to the bustling tenor of the other movements. It is scored for the three woodwinds alone, with some restrained comments from the glockenspiel. Much of the texture consists of single-line soliloquies or two-part colloquies--all three woodwinds are rarely heard together. The angular melodic and harmonic idiom keeps this music from becoming sentimental or in any way warm--this is the clarity of a cold clear winter morning.
The finale, marked Lebhaft ("Lively"), resumes the busy feel of the first two movements, starting in a portentous quiet and eventually building into a mischievously and powerfully comedic polytonal farce. As in the first movement motivic melodies make their way in a scurrying atmosphere. At one point the trumpet introduces a foxtrot tune amid the swirls. The movement carries the sub-title "1921, " a reference to the founding year of a concert series at Donaueschingen.