Category Archives: Germany

Listening to Graupner

At the beginning of May, we attended the Distinguished Artist Lecture at UWA – with Artistic Director of WA Opera, Brad Cohen.

One of the points raised by Brad in his lecture was the vagaries of historical fortune, or the fact that talent will not always rise.

Music historians of our time invariably describe the early 18th century as the era of Johann Sebastian Bach. But if one were to have asked German musicians living at the time, they might well have described it as the era of Georg Philipp Telemann. The distinguished music encyclopedia published by Johann Gottfried Walther – J.S. Bach’s cousin, as it happens – in 1732 devotes four times more space to the fashionable maestro of Hamburg than to the humble Thomaskantor. And there were many others who were considered greater masters than the parochial Bach.

Telemann entered university to read law in 1701, but in the very next year he founded a musical society or collegium musicum for students. The regular public concerts initiated by this society, which were aimed at the city’s bourgeoisie and where coffee was served too, laid the foundation for the concert institution as we know it today. Telemann and his fellow students turned Leipzig’s conservative musical scene upside down within a few years. There was music everywhere, officially and unofficially. Johann Kuhnau, who as Thomaskantor was theoretically responsible for all official musical performances in the city, had to acknowledge that the situation was no longer under his control. A handful of law students had achieved what a senior civil servant with all the resources of the city at his command had not managed! It must have been a bitter pill to swallow.

Kuhnau’s copyist and amanuensis was also a law student. His studies were interrupted by a rather less than friendly excursion by a group of Swedes and Finns – not tourists, though equally destructive – led by King Charles XII in 1706. It was a military intervention intended to safeguard Protestants against Catholic oppression and as such did not directly threaten the general population; however, this budding barrister, who like many other law students in Leipzig later gave up law for music, considered it prudent to remove himself to Hamburg. He was Christoph Graupner, a close friend of Telemann’s and the future composer of ten operas, a hundred symphonies and over a thousand cantatas.

Christoph Graupner was born into a family of weavers and tailors in the tiny village of Hartmannsdorf bei Kirchberg in Saxony in 1683. His first musical mentors were the local church musician Michael Mylius and his uncle, organist Nikolaus Küster. Young Christoph followed his uncle to Reichenbach and then entered the Thomasschule in Leipzig in 1696.

In Leipzig, Graupner studied music with Thomaskantor Johann Schelle and his successor Johann Kuhnau. As mentioned above, when the Swedish Army marched into Saxony, he fled to Hamburg. He found employment as a harpsichord player under Richard Keiser at the Oper-am-Gänsemarkt and was inspired to compose operas himself. One of the young violinists in the orchestra at the time was one Georg Friedrich Händel. Graupner continued his pursuit of opera after finding employment with Landgraf Ernst Ludwig in Darmstadt in 1709. He was appointed Hofkapellmeister or Court Conductor in 1711, his principal duties being to produce secular instrumental music and sacred vocal music at the court.

The finances of the Darmstadt court declined notably in the 1710s, however. The opera house was closed down, and many court musicians’ salaries were in arrears (including Graupner’s). After many attempts to have his salary paid, and having several children and a wife to support, in 1722 Graupner applied for the Thomaskantor in Leipzig, competing for the position with five other candidates, including Telemann and J.S. Bach. Having heard the auditions, the selection committee recommended Telemann, Graupner and Bach for the post – in this order of preference.

Following Telemann’s withdrawal (after securing a salary increase in Hamburg), Graupner was invited to direct the Christmas music service in December of 1722. His Magnificat was composed specifically for this occasion, possibly the only Latin text-setting of his output. The composition is written in the Thomaskirche tradition, especially the works of the late Kuhnau, and ends with a massive doublefugue. Along with the Magnificat, Graupner presented two cantatas on January 17, 1723, to further support his application process; the two cantatas were Aus der Tieferufenwir, and Lobet den Herrnalle Heiden. These cantatas were scored for a larger number of instruments accompanying the chorale setting note-for-note, without altering the harmonic language. Musical expression was left to the virtuoso elements in the orchestral accompaniment, also found in the freely composed chorus movements of the cantatas. The Graupner’s Italian compositional style used in setting the audition cantatas must have impressed the Leipzig town council, as he was offered the position of Thomaskantor.

However Graupner’s patron (the Landgrave Ernst Ludwig of Hesse-Darmstadt) would not release him from his contract. Graupner’s past due salary was paid in full, his salary was increased; and he would be kept on staff even if his Kapelle was dismissed. With such favourable terms, Graupner remained in Darmstadt and declined the offer for the position of Thomaskantor.

After Telemann and Graupner both turned down the appointment, having been offered a tempting salary increase by their respective employers (plus which, of course, they would not have to teach Latin), the committee was obliged “to settle for the mediocre, as the best men turned out not to be available”, as the story goes. Like most good stories, this anecdote is only marginally accurate. What happened was that Bach also initially refused to teach Latin, and the committee was forced to consider someone even less remarkable than the top three. It was to this situation that the immortal words of Ratmann Platz referred.

After hearing that Bach was appointed Thomaskantor, on 4 May 1723 Graupner graciously wrote to the city council in Leipzig assuring them that Bach “is a musician just as strong on the organ as he is expert in church works and capelle pieces” and a man who “will honestly and properly perform the functions entrusted to him.”

So it came to pass that Graupner, officially verified as a composer better than Bach, remained in Darmstadt until his death in 1760. He went blind in 1754, but not before creating a distinguished career spanning nearly half a century at one single court. Operas gave way to cantatas, orchestral works, chamber music and keyboard music. A significant part of his orchestral output consists of concertos and suites with diverse, sometimes very curious instruments in the solo ensembles.

Graupner’s total surviving output comprises some 2,000 separate works, including 85 orchestral suites and 44 concertos. The bulk of Graupner’s output consists of more than 1,400 cantatas, an astonishing number. Nearly all of Graupner’s cantatas were conceived as chamber music, that is, for few performers in the excellent acoustics of the Court chapel and were composed for the Sunday afternoon services. His gigantic output also includes some 60 chamber music works, most of them titled Sonatas or Trios. The trio sonata was the principal genre of chamber music in the Baroque era, and the ensemble represented the essence of the musical style of the time.

The term ‘trio’ refers to three independent voices, in this case two melody instruments and an accompaniment that usually requires both melody instruments and harmony instruments to produce. In fact, ‘accompaniment’ is not really an appropriate description; the continuo has more in common with the drums-and-bass (plus guitar) rhythm section of a jazz or rock band. The continuo carries the movement of the music just like a rhythm section. The harmonies are produced by the musician playing the harpsichord, organ or lute, improvised on the basis of numbers over the bass line indicating the harmony or, as in Graupner’s case, on the basis of the bass part alone. This required a great deal of knowledge, skill and experience.

As the term ‘trio’ specified the number of voices involved, not the number of instruments, a Baroque trio ensemble might be anything from one musician (as in the organ trios by French organists or J.S. Bach) or two musicians (as in Bach’s Sonatas for obbligato violin or flute and harpsichord) to just about any number of musicians – someone like Monteverdi or Corelli might have a continuo group that included an organ, a harpsichord, a harp, a cello, a violone, and so on. Graupner specified only the harpsichord as the continuo instrument in his trios.

Among the rarer solo instruments he favoured were the flûte d’amour, a flute pitched a third lower than the normal transverse flute, and the viola d’amore, an instrument roughly the same size and shape as a viola but with resonating free strings in addition to the (usually) seven strings played with the bow. Bach also used the viola d’amore in some of his vocal works, most notably the St John Passion.

Combining the traverso and hunting horn in the same concerto, or the viola d’amore and the chalumeau, was extremely exceptional for the period. One of the rare comparisons is Bach’s Second Brandenburg Concerto, where the solo ensemble consists of trumpet, recorder, oboe and violin.

The chalumeau was the predecessor of the clarinet, and Graupner is probably the most prominent composer to have written for the instrument. Other composers had a nodding acquaintance with it, such as Telemann, Vivaldi and Fux. The clarinet displaced the rather narrow-ranged chalumeau around the middle of the 18th century, although Christoph Willibald Gluck did give the instrument an important role in the first version of his opera Orfeo ed Euridice, written in Vienna in 1762.

What is significant in Graupner’s music is his exceptional command of melody and harmony, which are individual and unique. Perhaps it is because he spent fifty years cooped up in the same court and wrote a huge amount of music that his music somehow seems detached from its time and the surrounding world. His eccentric choices of instruments were probably dictated by availability, as with the pigments available to great visual artists. But what is significant in his music is his exceptional command of melody and harmony (brushstrokes and composition, if you will), which do not really resemble those of any of his contemporaries.

The form and texture of Graupner’s compositions tend toward the classic style of Haydn and Mozart, rather than continuing baroque forms and trends. He was well informed regarding newer techniques, including the influence of Johann Stamitz at the Court of Mannheim. Clearly he was actively a part of the bridge between baroque and the Viennese Classic, including the concern for the “Edle Einfalt” (Noble Simplicity).

His life’s work was inaccessible for a long time because of a dispute between the rulers of Hesse-Darmstadt and the Graupner estate. The estate lost the court case and was prohibited access to Graupner’s manuscripts. Graupner was largely forgotten. What is fortunate, however, is that virtually all of his works have been preserved in one place at the library of the University of Darmstadt, unlike the works of J.S. Bach, which were dispersed among his children. While some of his children lost some / many of J.S. Bach’s works, they also tirelessly advocated for him, resulting in the current belief of J.S. Bach as the father of music.

Graupner’s reputation as a noteworthy composer has come to light only in the last few years. Through the recent world premiere recording of such ensembles as the Montréal based Les Idées heureuses, and research by its leader Geneviève Soly, Graupner has become a more central figure in the already well-established canon of Baroque composers.

We have selected two recordings by the Finnish Baroque Orchestra.

Back to Brad’s lecture, little bears enjoyed it beary much 🙂

Mathematician to know: Emmy Noether

On any list of history’s great mathematicians who were ignored or underappreciated simply because they were women, you’ll find the name of Emmy Noether. Despite the barricades erected by 19th century antediluvian attitudes, she managed to establish herself as one of Germany’s premier mathematicians. She made significant contributions to various math specialties, including advanced forms of algebra. And in 1918, she published a theorem that provided the foundation for 20th century physicists’ understanding of reality. She showed that symmetries in nature implied the conservation laws that physicists had discovered without really understanding.

Joule’s conservation of energy, it turns out, is a requirement of time symmetry — the fact that no point in time differs from any other. Similarly, conservation of momentum is required if space is symmetric, that is, moving to a different point in space changes nothing about anything else. And if all directions in space are similarly equivalent — rotational symmetry — then the law of conservation of angular momentum is assured and figure skating remains a legitimate Olympic sport. Decades after she died in 1935, physicists are still attempting to exploit Noether’s insight to gain a deeper understanding of the symmetries underlying the laws of the cosmos.

Yay, it’s story time!

Albert Einstein was in over his head. He had worked out his general theory of relativity, but he was having problems with the mathematics that would have to correspond. So Einstein pulled in a team of experts from the University of Göttingen to help him formulate the concepts. The team was led by David Hilbert and Felix Klein, who were held in extremely high regard for their contributions to mathematical invariants. But their legacy, in part, is the community of scholars they fostered at Göttingen, who helped the university grow into one of the world’s most respected mathematics institutions. They scouted talent. For the Einstein project, Emmy Noether was their draft pick.

Noether had been making a name for herself steadily. In the eight years prior, she worked at the University of Erlangen without a salary or a job title. By the time she left for Göttingen, she had published half a dozen or so papers, lectured abroad, taken on PhD students, and filled in as a lecturer for her father, Max Noether, who was an Erlangen mathematics professor suffering from deteriorating health.

At the time, Noether’s specialty was invariants, or the unchangeable elements that remain constant throughout transformations like rotation or reflection. For the general theory of relativity, her knowledge base was crucial. Those interlinked equations that Einstein needed? Noether helped create them. Her formulas were elegant, and her thought process and imagination enlightening. Einstein thought highly of her work, writing, “Frl. Noether is continually advising me in my projects and…it is really through her that I have become competent in the subject.”

It didn’t take long for Noether’s closest colleagues to realize that she was a mathematical force, someone of extraordinary value who should be kept around with a faculty position. However, Noether faced sharp opposition. Many of the people who supported the push to make her a lecturer also believed that she was a special case and that, in general, women shouldn’t be allowed to teach in universities. The Prussian ministry of religion and education, whose approval the university needed, shut down her appointment: “She won’t be allowed to become a lecturer at Göttingen, Frankfurt, or anywhere else.”

The shifting political landscape finally cracked open the stubborn set of regulations governing women in academia. When Germany was defeated in World War I, socialists took over and gave women the right to vote. There was still a movement internally to get Noether on staff, and Einstein offered to advocate for her. “On receiving the new work from Fräulein Noether, I again find it a great injustice that she cannot lecture officially,” he wrote. Though Noether had been teaching, on paper her classes were David Hilbert’s. Finally, Noether was allowed a real position at the university with a title that sounded like fiction. As the “unofficial, extraordinary professor,” Emmy Noether would receive no pay. (Her colleagues joked about the title, saying “an extraordinary professor knows nothing ordinary, and an ordinary professor knows nothing extraordinary.”) When she finally did receive a salary, she was Göttingen’s lowest-paid faculty member.

Pay or no pay, at Göttingen she thrived. Here’s how deeply one line of study, now called Noether’s theory, influenced physics, according to a physicist quoted in the New York Times: “You can make a strong case that her theorem is the backbone on which all of modern physics is built.” And the dent she made in mathematics? She was a founder of abstract algebra. In one paper, published in 1921 and titled “Theory of Ideals in Rings,” Noether dusted her work free of numbers, formulas, and concrete examples. Instead she compared concepts, which, the science writer Sharon Bertsch McGrayne, explains, “is as if she were describing and comparing the characteristics of buildings—tallness, solidarity, usefulness, size—without ever mentioning buildings themselves.” By zooming way, way out, Noether noticed connections between concepts that scientists and mathematicians hadn’t previously realized were related, like time and conservation of energy.

Noether would get so excited discussing math that neither a dropped piece of food at lunch nor a tress of hair sprung from her bun would slow her down for a second. She spoke loudly and exuberantly, and like Einstein was interested in appearance only as it related to comfort. Einstein loved his gray cotton sweatshirts when wool ones were the fashion; Noether wore long, loose dresses, and cut her hair short before it was in style. For Einstein, we call these the traits of an absentminded genius. For Noether, there was a double standard—her weight and appearance became the subject of persistent teasing and chatter behind her back. Like the trivial annoyances of title, pay, and politics, the comments didn’t bother Noether. When students tried to replace hairpins that had come loose and to straighten her blouse during a break in a particularly passionate lecture, she shooed them away. Hairstyles and clothes would change, but for Noether, math was her invariant.

With a mind working as rapidly as hers, it was a challenge for even Noether to keep up with her own thoughts. As she worked out an idea in front of the class, the blackboard would be filled up and cleared and filled up and cleared in rapid succession. When she got stuck on a new idea, students recalled her hurling the chalk to the floor and stomping on it, particles rising around her like dust at a demolition. Effortlessly, she could redo the problem in a more traditional way.

Both social and generous with sharing ideas, many, many important papers were sparked by Noether’s brainpower and published without her byline but with her blessing. In fact, whole chunks of the second edition of the textbook Modern Algebra can be traced back to her influence.

Politics in Germany affected her career again. Though Noether had established herself as one of the greatest mathematical minds of the twentieth century, the Nazis judged only her left political leanings and her Jewish ancestry. In May 1933, Noether was one of the first Jewish professors fired at Göttingen. Even in the face of blatant discrimination, perhaps naively, the math came first. When she could no longer teach at the university, Noether tutored students illegally from her modest apartment, including Nazis who showed up in full military gear. It wasn’t that she agreed with what was happening, but she brushed it aside for the dedicated student. “Her heart knew no malice,” remembered a friend and colleague. “She did not believe in evil — indeed it never entered her mind that it could play a role among men.”

For her generosity, Noether’s friends were wholly dedicated to her. Understanding that staying in Germany would put her in serious danger, in 1933 her friends arranged for Noether to take a position at Bryn Mawr College in the United States. It was meant to be a temporary post until she could land somewhere more prestigious. But just two years after she arrived, Noether died while recovering from a surgery on an ovarian cyst. She was fifty-three. Following her death, Einstein wrote a letter to the New York Times. “Fräulein Noether was the most significant creative mathematical genius thus far produced since the higher education of women began.” Today, some scientists believe her contributions, long hidden beneath the bylines and titles of others, outshine even the accomplishments of the ode’s writer.

Physicists tend to know Noether’s work primarily through her 1918 theorem. Because their work relies on symmetry and conservation laws, nearly every modern physicist uses Noether’s theorem. It’s a thread woven into the fabric of the science, part of the whole cloth. Every time scientists use a symmetry or a conservation law, from the quantum physics of atoms to the flow of matter on the scale of the cosmos, Noether’s theorem is present. Noetherian symmetries answer questions like these: If you perform an experiment at different times or in different places, what changes and what stays the same? Can you rotate your experimental setup? Which properties of particles can change, and which are inviolable?

Conservation of energy comes from time-shift symmetry: You can repeat an experiment at different times, and the result is the same. Conservation of momentum comes from space-shift symmetry: You can perform the same experiment in different places, and it comes out with the same results. Conservation of angular momentum, which when combined with the conservation of energy under the force of gravity explains the Earth’s motion around the sun, comes from symmetry under rotations. And the list goes on.

The greatest success of Noether’s theorem came with quantum physics, and especially the particle physics revolution that rose after Noether’s death. Many physicists, inspired by Noether’s theorem and the success of Einstein’s general theory of relativity, looked at geometrical descriptions and mathematical symmetries to describe the new types of particles they were discovering.

Emmy Noether’s theorem is so vital to physics that she deserves to be as well known as Einstein. – Brian Greene

Noether’s theorem to me is as important a theorem in our understanding of the world as the Pythagorean theorem. – Christopher Hill

Mathematicians are familiar with a variety of Noether theorems, Noetherian rings, Noether groups, Noether equations, Noether modules and many more. Over the course of her career, Noether developed much of modern abstract algebra: the grammar and the syntax of math, letting us say what we need to in math and science. She also contributed to the theory of groups, which is another way to treat symmetries; this work has influenced mathematical side of quantum mechanics and superstring theory.

Story from Headstrong – 52 women who changed science and the world, by Rachel Swaby, and Fermilab/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory Symmetry Magazine.

Berlin Here We Come

So it turns out that Madrid is not the only European capital with the bear in the coat of arms, Berlin and Bern have a bear as well. We’ll overlook how the bear got on the coat of arms for Bern and expect everyone to be beary friendly!

We have found plenty of evidence that Berlin is a bear city and beary friendly 🙂

Buddy Bears
Buddy Bears

Buddy Bears are a series of painted, life-size fibreglass bear sculptures originally developed in Berlin, Germany. The first Buddy Bear was created by the German businesspeople Klaus and Eva Herlitz, in cooperation with the sculptor Roman Strobl in 2001. Artists painted approximately 350 bears to appear in the public domain, as decorative elements in the streets of Berlin. Four different bear designs (one standing on all four paws, one standing on two legs, one standing on its head and one in a sitting position) took part in this activity in the city centre of Berlin.

Eva Herlitz with the Golden Buddy Bears
Eva Herlitz with the Golden Buddy Bears

The bears were on display between June and November 2002, in a circle around the Brandenburg Gate. Around 1.5 million people visited this first exhibition. After the exhibition, the bears were moved to new locations, including their respective countries embassies in Berlin, or back to the country that they were based on. Some of the bears were auctioned off to raise money for UNICEF. Nowadays, these Berlin Buddy Bears are exclusively presented on private premises, in front of hotels and embassies as well as in the foyers of various office buildings. There better be a map of all these locations!

After the circle of “United Buddy Bears” had been such an overwhelming success in 2002, a new circle was created in 2003. The idea was to send the circle on a global tour with a message of peace, international understanding and tolerance among the nations, cultures and religions of this world.

Buddy Bear
EU Buddy Bear

The United Buddy Bears are an international art exhibition with more than 140 two metre tall fibreglass bears. Under the motto: We have to get to know each other better, it makes us understand one another better, trust each other more, and live together more peacefully more than 140 countries acknowledged by the United Nations are represented, promoting tolerance, international understanding and the great concept of different nations and cultures living in peace and harmony. The bears stand hand in hand in a peaceful circle (The Art of Tolerance).

One important prerequisite for this international unifying project is to choose artists from the individual countries — for the circle to reflect the diversity of the cultures of one world. The observer learns about the culture, the history, the people and the landscape of the individual countries — large or small. Hence the United Buddy Bears circle has become a platform for even the smallest and poorest countries which frequently remain unnoticed. Suddenly, they are equal to larger and often rich nations.

On their global tour, the “United Buddy Bears” promote peace, love, tolerance and international understanding. The circle changes every time it reaches a new city. This is not only due to the local conditions, but also to their constantly changing order, as the bears are always set up in alphabetic order, following the local language of the host country. This always leads to new and sometimes politically very interesting proximities.

In every exhibition city, the United Buddy Bears exhibitions are supported by the government, the foreign ministries, the mayors and the UNICEF organisations. Heads of state – for example the Japanese Prime Minister, Junichiro Koizumi, the German Federal President, Horst Köhler and First Lady of Egypt, Suzanne Mubarak as well as UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors such as Sir Peter Ustinov, Jackie Chan, Christiane Hörbiger, Mia Farrow, Iris Berben and Ken Done have opened these exhibitions all over the world.

Buddy Bears Sofia 2011
Buddy Bears Sofia 2011
Buddy Bears Helsinki 2010
Buddy Bears Helsinki 2010
Buddy Bears Cairo 2007
Buddy Bears Cairo 2007
Buddy Bears Paris 2012
Buddy Bears Paris 2012
Buddy Bears Vienna 2006
Buddy Bears Vienna 2006
Buddy Bears Berlin 2006
Buddy Bears Berlin 2006
Buddy Bears Jerusalem 2007
Buddy Bears Jerusalem 2007
Buddy Bear Buenos Aires 2009
Buddy Bear Buenos Aires 2009
Buddy Bears Astana 2010
Buddy Bears Astana 2010
Buddy Bears Kuala Lumpur 2011
Buddy Bears Kuala Lumpur 2011
Buddy Bears Rio de Janeiro 2014
Buddy Bears Rio de Janeiro 2014

In 2006, the United Buddy Bears were in Sydney. And we had no idea!

Buddy Bears Sydney 2006
Buddy Bears Sydney 2006
Buddy Bears Sydney 2006
Buddy Bears Sydney 2006
Australian Buddy Bear
Australian Buddy Bear

Next year, the Buddy Bears are off to Havana. We’ll have to see where we can catch up with them after that.