2002 (10 minutes)
Composed for: Works for solo instrument (excluding keyboard)
First performed: Cho-Liang Lin, La Jolla SummerFest, La Jolla (US), 10 August 2002
Salonen: ‘The title Lachen verlernt(Laughing unlearnt) is a quotation from the ninth movement of Schönberg’s Pierrot Lunaire, Gebet an Pierrot (Prayer to Pierrot). The narrator declares that she has unlearnt the skill of laughing and begs Pierrot, the ‘Horse-doctor to the soul’, to give it back to her. I felt that this is a very moving metaphor of a performer: a serious clown trying to help the audience to connect with emotions they have lost, or believe they have lost. Lachen verlernt is essentially a Chaconne, which in this case means that there is a harmonic progression that repeats itself several times. The harmony remains the same throughout the whole piece; only the surface, the top layer of the music changes.
Lachen verlernt starts with a lyrical, expressive melody (the same melody has an important role in my orchestral work Insomnia, which I was writing at the same time, in the summer of 2002). Gradually the music becomes faster and more frenzied until it develops an almost frantic character, as if the imaginary narrator had reached a state of utter despair. A very short Coda closes this mini-drama peacefully. I wrote Lachen verlernt for Cho-Liang Lin, to whom it is also dedicated. Lachen verlernt was commissioned by the La Jolla Chamber Music Society's SummerFest with the generous support of Joan & Irwin Jacobs.’
Published by: Chester Music Limited
Copyright: Esa-Pekka Salonen