Orchestra | 1999

Schiffbruch mit Zuschauer

“Shipwreck with spectator“
The third work on this CD is in fact a Studio, the orchestral piece “Schiffbruch mit Zuschauer“ (Shipwreck with spectator). It dates from 1995 and is – like the slightly later double concerto “Die Sorge geht über den Fluss“ – an homage to the German philosopher Hans Blumenberg, who in 1979 published his book with the same title, translated into Italian with the title “L’ansia si specchia sul fondo“ "It is the longing to stay on the shore and to watch how the boats are thrown this way and that on the open sea“, wrote the Roman poet Lucretius in his book “De rerum natura“. Since then, “Shipwreck with spectator “has been one of the most revisited metaphors from literature; today, not only in view of numerous natural catastrophes and daily terrorist attacks, it seems to be particularly topical. The image of the spectator who from the shore observes a pain extraneous to him brings us to the centre of our multi-medial perception. Contemplating the unhappiness of the world and of the individual from the outside, being only spectators of others' shipwrecks, with an analytical, distant, "objective" and cold gaze – this is the normal situation of those who use the media.
The greater the urgency with which he observes others' pain, the clearer the fortunate situation becomes to the spectator of not (or not yet) being himself affected. The sense of relief that seeing others' catastrophe brings with it, from the psychological point of view, is accompanied by the rhetoric of dismay that must cover possible senses of guilt. And the moment when the horror is still able to produce a kind of sublime effect: it is precisely at that moment that catharsis, which theatrical tragedy procures for us, is not so distant.
But the metaphor of “Shipwreck with Spectator“ has, from the viewpoint of the history of ideas, still another component. The danger of the shipwreck is, in antiquity, automatically etched in every journey of the soul. It consists in punishment for the blasphemous step beyond one's frontier, beyond the place assigned by higher forces. On the other hand, every shipwreck is necessary to clear one's mind about first causes and to meet new dangers. Shipwreck is the first step towards progress. And, add cultural historians, it is the very origin of culture.
The concrete vision of the shipwreck becomes still more significant, when the ship, which is breaking up, functions as a metaphor for an ideology. What happens to the shipwreck and to the spectator on land, apparently immobile, when the ship-ideology is transformed into a wreck? What certainties then remain, what parts of the old system will be saved, what new systems will be built on the rubble of the old? This question, proposed from the book by Hans Blumenberg, serves the German director Christian Petzold, one of the most precise observers of social relationships, as a starting point for his film “Die innere Sicherheit“.
All this – in the background – plays a role in the orchestral piece by Lucia Ronchetti, even if it is not explicitly expressed. “Shipwreck with Spectator“ is an orchestral work elegantly composed in sound, convincing as a drama without seeking to be a philosophical thesis. The only concrete reference is not to Blumenberg, but to a composer. In a quiet section of the Adagio, to be precise halfway through the work, the oboe is heard in a brief solo. This section, says Lucia Ronchetti, is homage to “Aura“, an orchestral piece by Bruno Maderna. The composer limits herself to explaining only a few technical aspects of the composition, which are also indicated in the subtitle Studio: "The basic harmonic material derives from an analysis of the spectrum of the extreme sounds of the bass flute. The harmonic accumulations that derive from this behave in conformity with the shifts in the chromatic and melodic microtonal lines, which merge in the glissando and give prominence to the middle register of the orchestra. A regular pulsation underlies the chromatic development, so that in each single element a rhythmic ostinato and the corresponding oscillating harmonic variation are formed. The musical material flows with reiterations and becomes ever more intense, broken only by pregnant pauses between the various episodes."
Hans Blumenberg's philosophy is concerned with the life of man in a world dominated by chance. How can one live as a shipwreck victim, he who is thrown this way and that by the fury of life? By using Blumenberg's title, Lucia Ronchetti makes this problem her own. We cannot however exclude that the Italian composer might respond in the words of her compatriot Giuseppe Ungaretti, convinced that one must see the naufragi (shipwrecked) as cheerful men. The title of one of his poems is in fact “Allegria di naufragi“ .

Rainer Pöllmann (from the CD booklet: Lucia Ronchetti Portrait Stradivarius STR33772)
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Studio per orchestra da Hans Blumenberg (1997, rev. 1999) – 2.2.2 - percussion –
Commission: Orchestra Regionale Toscana
First performance: Festival ECLAT, Stuttgart, 13 February 2000
SWR Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart
Manfred Schreier (conductor)
Publisher: Durand
Duration: ca. 12 m
Recording: CD Stradivarius Portrait STR 33772