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Music in a room for five voices and keyboards
by Helga Pogatschar
The requiem was commissioned by Carl Erling
First performance on 10th and 11th November 1995 21:00
Reithalle, Heßstr. 132, Munich
The cast of the world premiere:
Helga Pogatschar - Composition, Keyboards, Production
Alexander Zimmermann - Musical direction
Gerlinde Sämann - soprano
Stefanie Früh - mezzo-soprano
Dagmar Aigner - mezzo-soprano
Andreas Hirtreiter - tenor
Jürgen Weiß - Bass
Tobias Melle - slide projection
Patricia Harlos, Martin Werhahn - Light
Ekki von Nordenskjöld - clay
Mathias Bartoszweski - Room
Peter Engelmayer - Project Management
Mars shows how our society deals with religion, death, power, war, heroism and victory. The multimedia concert works with the means of expression of the present day: media images, pop and industrial elements in an exciting relationship to modern classical serious music. Music (with elaborate Circle Surround sound), light and slide projections as a total work of art form a ritual space that simultaneously grips the visitors, as if confused.
MARS - A REQUIEM,
the title of the work already sounds
like a paradox par excellence.
An oratorio based on Catholic liturgy,
in the name of the Roman god of war?
Written by a woman who, as the cover photo of the young composer Helga Pogatschar (29) suggests, seems rather mouth-dead, Amnesian, sunk into a kind of snow-white sleep behind her closed lids, so that she probably does not even notice how a wound gapes over her entire lower half of her face, poorly held together by rough stitches? The picture seems to be photographed through a smeared disc, the glass coffin of the Brothers Grimm or rather Lewis Carroll’s heroine “Alice behind the mirrors”, brought to life in sound and image, immersed under the surface, on a voyage of discovery in true wonderland? Helga Pogachar works with the clear, firm structures of universal myths, whose echo in the inner eye, in the inner ear, and finally straight as an arrow in the heart of her audience takes on form, colour and form.
“Oscar Schellbach, the forefather of autosuggestion and pioneer not only of modern meditation and autogenic training, but also of involuntary helpers of the Nazi, Nietzsche, on the contrary, recurring education to the “will to power”, invented this name, which would also aptly characterize Helga Pogachar’s “Requiem. Original sound of old shellac recordings by Oscar Schellbach, which Helga Pogatschar has consistently and without commentary integrated into her work as the only interludes: “only as a higher person do you have a right to exist, otherwise you are lazy and sick and deserve to perish”.
A strong piece, words like that. But in this or similar form such slogans are not only thundered down from Nazi stands, but also from countless church pulpits. “…almost idle to ask why Helga Pogatschar has integrated sampled excerpts of these historical recordings into MARS. Too obvious is the innermost relationship of these suggestions, recited with holy seriousness, with that holy wrath from which the Mother Church was for centuries dissenters and heretics, but also harmless sinners with punishment and annihilation on their heels,” writes Alexander Zimmermann, the conductor of MARS, in his “Production Diary”. Helga Pogatschar explains that the “power institution church” has always been a “fascination” for them. “Incredibly clever how they incorporated all the pagan rites into their program. Thus the desire for archaism is perfectly served.” But even she, who was consciously educated atheistically by her parents, cannot completely escape the temptations offered by the “opium for the people”. “Darwinism is very destructive to me,” says Helga Pogachar. “By mixing these ancient forms with modern music I try to show the bridge between the archaic needs for religion as well as for war. Both work according to the principle of mass suggestion. Both must not be tabooed, not denied.” She accompanies the liturgical forms with martial, almost bellicose rhythms. Aggressively, full of high tension the Kyrie. In the background the threatening, stomping beat of all armies resonates since time immemorial. And also something infinitely tender, bittersweet, the longing for liberation.
In every top note, every nuance, the strong woman, the grown woman, is now present alongside the sunken little girl who once was. A thoroughly sovereign music. “Watch out, Sleeping Beauty, when you wake up your dreams might have come true,” one almost wants to shout, while the requiem ends gently but jubilantly with the Qohelet. “A farewell song. End and departure. Sadness instead of grief. Purity and hoarseness, feeling and hardness”, the conductor feels. And finally feels reminded of the humor of the Jewish Talmud: “Something that is true is never black or white”.
A Requiem promises “peace”. “Requiescat in pacem”, “rest in peace”. But to achieve this feeling of real, deep, dissolved peace, one needs the often conflicting emotions, which are sometimes reflected in the conflict of instruments, sounds and voices, and sometimes in downright supernatural harmony. Where there should be peace, there must also be room for the turbulent, the doubting, the contradiction. Nowhere can light enter without breaks. And there it is, this feeling of endless expanse, of light-flooded (soul) landscapes, of reconciliation and redemption, which is the meaning and purpose of every Requiem. Suddenly the cover photo, which at first glance seemed like an accusation, also appears in a completely different light: the glass wall is as if shattered, slowly, almost imperceptibly shattered into fine veils. The associations of powerlessness, maltreatment and torture or censorship have dissolved in the complexity of this music. Cacophonies of sampled, but exclusively natural, non-synthetic sounds have symphonically come together and now open the view: the strange object that seemed to forbid the composer’s mouth is indeed a centipede, from the joke article business. No gag, quite the opposite: this animal is a symbol of departure instead of stagnation. MARS is a Mass of the Dead, yes, but also a hymn to life, an eternal cycle that opens and closes again and again.
Infantin in Trance: Helga Pogatschar
There are so many voices in her head and body that don’t seem to age: all memory of this world. A thousand years of music history: Hildegard von Bingen, Bach, Bartok, Ligeti, Kraftwerk, Industrial - and the sound of the future?
The “Infanta” reminds us of E.T.A. Hoffmann’s doll creature Olimpia when she transforms these voices into notes as if in a trance. A compositrice that plunges back into our past shortly before the turn of the millennium in order to create the music of the 21st century: Babylonian siren songs from a hereafter that could soon become this world.
It is Dr. Mabuse’s voice haunting these engine rooms. This requiem becomes a sound mausoleum in the “Sanctus” and a trance misson into another (sound) world.
MARS features a “Wall of Sound” whose dryness is reminiscent of the former King Midas of Pop, Phil Spector. In her egomaniacal lust for inventing new sounds, the “Infanta” is the King’s little sister. And it is the power of will and imagination that connects the two visionaries.
MARS is a “bastard”, a hermaphrodite, like the Creator herself: Transitional music. Sounds that herald the insatiable longing for the Eternal Gardens of Babylon. (Vittorio Dell´Orso)
Recorded at realistic sound studio by Florian H. Oestreicher. All songs mixed by Florian H. Oestreicher except Tractus, Dies Irae and Offertorium by Jens Ohly. Mastered by Christoph Stickel, MSM.
All songs composed and arranged by Helga Pogatschar except “Mars” * composed by Dagmar Aigner and Helga Pogatschar.
Claudia Böhm - cover photo
Carl Erling - layout
* Der Titel “Mars” ist nur auf der Erstauflage des MARS-Albums enthalten.