Kinderlied zu Dresden


Piano Solo (for a singing pianist!)

UA: 25/7/1990, Darmstadt, (Soloist: Anthony de Mare)

CD: BVHAAST CD 0901 Konrad Boehmer – The Piano Works

Performer: Nicolas Hodges

When I visited the East German town of Dresden for the first time in 44 years (7-10 October 1989, ’40th Anniversary of the GDR’ as it was described even on sugar sachets in restaurants), I found myself between masses of demonstrators and – on the other side – police and state security service agents.

During the street battles I remembered that little song which Robert Schumann composed (to an ironic text by Goethe) during the democratic May Revolution in 1849: ‘Die wandelnde Glocke’ (The Walking Bell), op. 79 no. 18, written in Kreischa, near Dresden.

The poem describes a child who, instead of attending the church service on Sunday, chooses to stroll through the beautiful countryside. Its mother threatens that the big church bell might chase the child and cover it up. The child pays no heed and the next Sunday morning again it makes its way into the countryside – until it hears the ‘ding-dong!’ of the bell approaching. In panic the child rushes straight to the church and likewise every Sunday forthwith – with the nightmare in mind. A fearsome song about all failed German revolutions.

I got the feeling that this composition referred in a strange way to those good Dresden citizens who – in 1989 – tried to escape from their ‘red’ church only to then find themselves in a ‘black’ one. Thus I ‘de-composed’ Schumann’s Lied, transposing text and music into the situation of those days of October 1989 (when the entire GDR decomposed).

On the musical level I employed the initial motive from Schumann’s Lied (which imitates a church bell) developing it in a free manner. I only selected a few fragments from Goethe’s poem which I then updated in reference to that 1989 revolution which dragged 15 million East German citizens back to the future.

You can download the score here: KinderliedDresden.pdf