KAISER-LINDEMANN: Hommage a Nelson M., Op. 27
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At Home with NelsonMandela
After I had read the last pages of Nelson Mandela's autobiography ALong Walk to Freedom during a holiday in Hawaii in 1995, I was so moved bythe charisma and the human greatness of this man that from then on one burningwish never left me: the wish to meet him personally, to feel his strength atfirst hand, to be allowed to take his hand and look into his eyes.
I felt that by using music as mediator between all people of this worldI might have a chance of being able to transform my wish into reality. The ideaof commissioning a composition dedicated to Mandela occupied me more and more.
Title: Hommage ?á Nelson M. for cello and percussion. With thiscombination of instruments I wanted to create a musical bridge between theEuropean music tradition and the native feeling for rhythm of the blackpopulation of South Africa.
In the composer Wilhelm Kaiser-Lindemann I found an ally; we exchangedideas, and he began to write the composition. Our common objective: the firstperformance should take place in South Africa with Mandela as guest of honour.
Thanks to my friendship with Johannes Rau, who was at the timeMinister-President of Northrhine?¡-Westfalen and is now President of Germany, Iwas then able to deliver a letter to Mandela during his state visit to Germanyin which I informed him about our idea which had been engendered by my ferventadmiration for him.
Unfortunately it turned out impossible to realise our plans for aconcert in South Africa. Since, however, I was determined to release thecomposition and its message into the world as quickly as possible, the firstperformance took place in December 1996 in the Tonhalle, the concert hall inD??sseldorf, before an audience which was deeply moved by the music. Then in1997 I received an invitation to give a concert in the Nico Theatre in CapeTown on 14th September - Heritage Day in South Africa - including Hommage ?áNelson M., with the president as guest of honour in the front row. My joywas indescribable, but also my disappointment when Mandela called off hisattendance the day before the concert. As President he had to attend to otherrepresentational duties on this national holiday.
However, he sent his closest friend, Govan Mbeki, to my concert. The85-year-old came backstage after the concert, obviously very moved, and invitedme to visit him in Parliament the next day. What a warm-hearted encounter!Govan Mbeki, who had been imprisoned together with Mandela on Robben Island for24 years, assured me that he would tell his friend Nelson Mandela all about theconcert in detail.
I flew back to Germany, and received an invitation from PresidentMandela a few weeks later to visit him in his residence in Cape Town. In themost exciting moments of my life I gave a completely private concert - onlyfive people were present - for the State President. I played parts of thecomposition and explained connections between his autobiography and the musicalideas resulting from it. These happy moments will stay with me all my life as asource of inspiration; to have experienced in the person of Nelson Mandela oneof the great personalities of the century, a man with a brilliant intellect,iron discipline and an unyielding will free from all feelings of hate, with unshakeablefaith in the goodness of every single person and an almost superhumanpersistence in the pursuit of his aims. Nelson Mandela, a man of great personalmodesty and humility.
Translation: Diana Loos
Hommage ?á Nelson M.,for solo cello and percussion, Op. 27
Hommage ?á Nelson M. >was suggested by the cellist Maria Kliegel.
Consideration of the charismatic personality of Nelson Mandela had made aprofound impression on me. What kind of man and politician is it, I askedmyself, who, illegally imprisoned for 26 years, humiliated and maltreated, oncehe is President and in power does not let the heads of his tormentors andpolitical opponents roll but with his programme of national reconciliationfinds his own way to come to terms with the past? Since I had no opportunity toknow Nelson Mandela personally, I was only able to approach him as a composer,that is intuitively and through meditation. I have tried to express in musichis circumstances and his hopes. After the first performance of the work on16th December 1996 in D??sseldorf the ambassadress of the Republic of SouthAfrica in Germany, Mme Lindiwe Mabuza, told me that she was particularlysurprised how a non-African artist had been able so to put himself into theSouth African situation. I am happy to try to raise in my music a monument,however modest, to Nelson Mandela.
Mandela's early years in prison were very difficult. He and his closecolleagues were subjected to harsh routines, and even victimisation. Later thesituation improved somewhat and he was allowed, among other things to startprogrammes of learning and teaching in which finally even his personal guardtook part. This first movement is characterized by numbing despair withoutbursts of feeling, but also certain positive visions of the future can beperceived. The second movement, Hunting, is a concept derived frombe-bop-jazz, in which the instruments alternate in fast tempo, in pursuit ofeach other. This and other jazz elements are the basis of the movement.
Included, however, is something different, that is a man-hunt. An evilmovement, although also calling for particularly demanding virtuosity and veryrewarding for the soloist. Metamorphosis is certainly the most Africanmovement. It is in 7/8 and expresses something of the African joy of living,sometimes restrained, sometimes obvious. It describes, at least subliminally,my hope for South Africa's own progress in normality and spiritual freedom. Lullabyfor Zaziwe, the fourth movement, provides a tranquil finale, based on alullaby from Mandela's own people. Here I have composed my wish for thiscountry, that mothers can finally sing their lullabies in peace, without thefear that the door may be broken down and the arbitrary abuse of power byman-hunters triumph. Zaziwe is a grandchild of Mandela and between the twothere is an obviously close emotional bond.