• Britta Byström
  • Der Vogel der Nacht (2010)

  • Edition Wilhelm Hansen Copenhagen (World)
  • 2+pic.2.2+ebcl.2/4330/3perc/str
  • 9 min

Programme Note

Der Vogel der Nacht (The Bird of Night), wrote Gustav Mahler in the original score to his Third Symphony, as a comment to a small oboe phrase in the fourth movement. The words come from a poem by Friedrich Hölderlin. In the completed score, Mahler changed the poetry for an instruction: "Wie ein Naturlaut". The little phrase, repeated like a sad signal, seems to comment the surrounding music. In an essay about Mahler's Third, the Swedish author Carl-Johan Malmberg compares it to Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven: a voice which keeps saying "Nevermore" to the longing human. This was the image I had in mind during the composition process. Distorted echoes of the little "signalphrase" create a kind of refrain between other, brighter parts in the piece - parts of "longing". In these, I have let the bells which accompany boy's and women's choirs in the fifth movement in Mahler's symphony wander into the piece, dressed in new notes. Mahler's post-horn solo and the long, hymnlike ending have also left traces in my composition. And one can find echoes of other birds than "the bird of night": the lonely singer transforms suddenly into a hole bird choir, chirping in dawn.

Der Vogel der Nacht was first performed during the Baltic Sea Festival 2010, with Swedish Radio Orchestra and Esa-Pekka Salonen.

Britta Byström