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Judith Weir

Publisher: Chester Music

Really? (2002)
Text Writer
Johann Peter Hebel / Brothers Grimm
Chester Music Ltd
Solo Voice(s) and up to 6 players
Year Composed
9 Minutes

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Programme Note
Judith Weir Really? (2002)
1.Incidents in Traffic (Johann Peter Hebel)
2.The Expansion of Porridge (Brothers Grimm)
3.What is Eternity ? (Brothers Grimm)

These three musical presentations of stories were written to illustrate my thoughts about the many ways in which music helps, and hinders, storytelling. The three short settings use a wide variety of vocal styles. The first story is spoken throughout; the second includes Sprechstimme (i.e. melodically heightened speech) and operatic declamation; the final piece is entirely sung. The scoring is for soprano, clarinet, viola and, in the third movement only, harp.

The stories are roughly contemporaneous. Hebel, a very great writer to those who know him (his admirers have included Tolstoy, Kafka and Wittgenstein), devised nearly all his work for publication in an almanac.
I have added my own titles for the three pieces and slightly adapted the two Brothers Grimm stories. The Hebel text is translated by John Hibberd.

1. Incidents in Traffic: A man and his son set out for a ride on a donkey, and receive a great deal of unsolicited advice from passers-by, which does not ultimately prove to be helpful.

2.The Expansion of Porridge: A girl is handed a magic cooking pot, but her mother only half-understands its use, with almost disastrous consequences.

3.What is Eternity ?: A king asks a shepherd boy three difficult questions about the nature of the universe, which he answers brilliantly.

Weir's brilliance at musical narrative is enhanced in a miniature story-cycle in the first half, Really?, in which she wrings a world of imagery from the smallest of musical ideas, like a viola solo or a harp chord.
Tom Service, The Guardian,16/06/2006
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