Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Luigi Dallapiccola's: Die Sonne kommt

**This essay makes references to a marked score which is not included in this version. Although a score is not necessary, it is helpful to have on hand while reading.**

Luigi Dallapiccola was born February 3, 1904 at Pisino d'lstria (currently Pazin, Croatia) to Italian parents. Given the political climate of the day, namely the onset of World War I and later World War II, Dallapiccola's musical endeavors were stifled. He and his family were considered seditious by the government during the first World War and were consequently placed in internment camps at Graz, Austria. After the war Dallapiccola was able to return to his hometown. He didn't stay long however and did extensive traveling during this time. He also received a degree in piano from the Florence Conservatory in the 1920's. This was followed by a long stint as professor at the same conservatory from 1931 until 1967. Dallapiccola is considered to be the first Italian composer of twelve-tone music*. It is evident that Dallapiccola's outlook on the world, and his musical output, was highly influenced by war and dictatorship; first with World War I, followed by the fascist regime of Benito Mussolini, and finally by Adolph Hitler. Dallapiccola's wife was Jewish and consequently he was pushed into a position of Nazi opposition. He and his wife were forced into hiding two times for several months during the Nazi invasions. He was able to continue performing piano recitals but only in regions not occupied by the Nazis. Regarding his frustration he wrote in his dairy “in a totalitarian regime the individual is powerless. Only by means of music would I be able to express my anger.”* After the war had finally ended Dallapiccola found himself being noticed by critics and the public with his opera Il Prigioniero. This mild fame would be short lived however and afterwards he fell into relative obscurity. Although he was still sought after as a lecturer and teacher he wouldn't find critical acclaim again until he wrote another opera, Ulisse. Ulisse is considered by most to be the compositional highpoint of Dallapiccola's career. With his compositional career waning, late in life he was primarily known for his essays in music theory. His failing health rendered him unable to complete any more musical compositions after 1972 and he would soon die in Florence on February 19, 1975 of edema of the lungs.

Turning to the piece under analysis, Die Sonne kommt from The Goethe Lieder, we find that it is a twelve-tone piece in the form of a canon. In comparing the music from The Goethe Lieder to that of Anton Webern, Oxford Music Online states “Dallapiccola's contrapuntal processes are comparable though less rigid , and he obviously learnt much from Webern's rhythmic and melodic methods; yet the fact that even here the basic series contains diatonic segments is itself enough to prevent the result from sounding like Webern.”* The claim that Dallapiccola's music is less rigid than that of Webern's is arguable. Die Sonne kommt conforms to strict order in regard to the rows used, and that is also very common in Webern's music. The only element of Die Sonne kommt that may be considered less rigid than Webern's techniques are the pitch repetitions found in mm. 6, 12 and 13. Webern would have been less likely to repeat a pitch within a tone row. Similarly, the fact that the basic series contains diatonic segments (triad subsets) gives this piece a more tonal sound. Although it is a twelve tone piece the triad subsets used evoke a vague sense of tonality and perhaps this is the “less rigid” aspect of the piece referred to in the Oxford Music Online article. I was inspired to write about this piece in part because I was unable to find much existing literature on it (particularly works regarding the text). I find this piece to be interesting for several reasons, which are outlined as follows: A broad general interest in the way Dallapiccola can write such a seemingly simple piece, yet upon further inspection it is clear that a more complex hierarchy of processes are involved. Second, the use of only two twelve-tone rows, P8 and I9 (RI9 and R8 are also presented in the second half of the vocal melody). Third, the idea of a palindrome and what it could possibly represent. Finally, given a seemingly lacking amount of literature on the topic, I am interested in the ways in which the music informs the text in this song and vice versa.

The literature that does exist on this piece is primarily in reference to the music, and not so much the text. “A Proliferation of Canons: Luigi Dallapiccola's Goethe Lieder No. 2,” by Thomas DeLio, is a wonderful essay that points out the uses of the rows and draws attention to the use of rhythm, dynamics, and trichordal and hexachordal partitioning. DeLio argues that the trichordal and hexachordal partitioning serves to illuminate the canonic form of the piece. This relates to the hierarchy mentioned above. In this piece there are different levels of the canonic structure; the obvious one being the vocal lines interaction with the clarinet. The entrance of the clarinet in m. 8 forms the first hierarchical level of the canon by repeating the opening vocal line, while simultaneously the vocal line sings it's own retrograde. I will be addressing DeLio's essay in regard to the rows and the hierarchy of the canonic structure throughout this paper. A few other works of importance worth mentioning regarding Die Sonne kommt are A Dallapiccola Chronology, by Luigi Dallapiccola and Rudy Shackelford, Text and Form in Dallapiccola's Goethe Lieder, by Michael Eckert, The Music of Luigi Dallapiccola, by Raymond Fearn, and Luigi Dallapiccola, by Roman Vlad.

As mentioned above, I have found little information on the ways in which the music informs the text and vice versa. In addition to investigating the rows used in the piece, the transformations of these rows, the hierarchical levels of the canon, and the palindrome, I hope to illuminate the text and offer possible explanations for the use of certain musical devices in the framework of the text. The study of Art Song necessarily places a great deal of importance on the text and the study of Die Sonne kommt should be no different.

Die Sonne kommt is one of the most deceivingly simple pieces of music I have come across. On the surface it is a simple canon written for solo voice and Eb piccolo clarinet. The sparse texture reinforces the simplicity of the song, but dig a little deeper and it becomes clear that this piece is anything but simple. The structure of this piece is in two sections, a statement which consists of the row P8 in the vocal line (mm. 1-9), and an answer on the same row. (mm. 8-17). The answer begins in m. 8 when the clarinet enters and plays the opening statement while simultaneously the voice performs the retrograde of the statement (RI9 and R8). That being said, the midpoint of the piece occurs at the two eighth rests in m. 9. This is the point where the vocal melody reverses on itself (retrograde) and begins it's journey back to the opening pitch, G# (this will become important later when we consider the text). This relatively obvious statement of the canon I will refer to as the first hierarchical level of the canon. To further understand the next level of hierarchy we must analyze the pitches of each row more closely.

As mentioned the rows used are:

P8 = (G# A G F B E D Eb Bb Db C F#)

I9 = (A G# Bb C Gb Db Eb D G E F B)

To provide a more visually representative model of the rows I will provide a chart using integer numbers. The following charts have been adapted from Thomas DeLio's essay, A Proliferation of Canons: Luigi Dallapiccola's Goethe Lieder No. 2:

P8 = 897 5e4 23t 106

I9 = 98t 061 327 45e

Upon closer inspection it is clear that P8 and I9 have something in common. They are related by a transposition level of 5. I have grouped the integer numbers in groups of three for a reason. Dallapiccola uses rhythm and note groupings to create another level of canonical hierarchy. Almost all of the three note groups are separated by a rest(s). The only place the trichords are not separated by rests are the last trichord of each row. So, the first hierarchical level is expressed simply through the exposition of the rows, the second is expressed through the groupings of the trichords. In doing so Dallapiccola reinforces yet another point of continuity in the piece.

Looking back to the integer numbers chart it is clear that there is yet another level of symmetry which aids in the canonical structure of the piece. The first and third trichord of P8 “line up” with the first and third trichord of I9. I put “line up” in quotes because they do not align perfectly. Pitches 1 and 2 of the first and third trichords have changed positions with each other, yet they remain in the same row. Similarly pitch 3 of the first and third trichords have changed positions with each other, and they have also changed rows. Visually this is represented as:

1st and 3rd trichord of P8 = 897 23t

1st and 3rd trichord of I9 = 98t 237

There is a similar phenomenon that occurs in the second and fourth trichords of P8 and I9. This time all of the pitches in the fourth trichords have alternated positions from where they began in the second. The pitches have been shifted to the left by an increment of one. In addition the pitches have also alternated the rows in which they appear. Visually this is represented as:

2nd and 4th trichord of P8 = 5e4 106

2nd and 4th trichord of I9 = 061 45e

The groupings of these trichords is yet another way of creating a sense of symmetry and to reinforce the canonical structure of the piece.

This piece, in addition to being a canon, is also a musical palindrome. The vocal line is in perfect symmetry, a mirror image of itself, which reverses midway through m. 9 (this is an important point in the piece which will be addressed later). We can say that this is the “obvious” form of the palindrome in the piece. But are there more? The answer is yes. Looking at the music on both sides of the fermata in m. 12 indicates another palindrome. The final A-natural of m. 12 in the vocal line is repeated on the downbeat of m.13. Similarly the final F# in m.12 in the clarinet is repeated on the downbeat of m. 13. You will notice that these note repetitions have alternated voices and continue on to create another palindrome. Measures 13-16 of the clarinet part are a retrograde restatement of the vocal line in mm. 9-12. The vocal line in mm. 13-17 is a retrograde restatement of the clarinet line in mm. 8-12. Notice once again the importance of m. 9. The points of symmetry always have their beginning or end at this G#, A, G motive and it is no coincidence that these notes occur in mm. 8-9, as we will see later.

In addition to a canon, what are some possible explanations for why Dallapiccola chose to make this piece a musical palindrome? Michael Eckert's essay may be able to provide some clues. He goes on to say, “the original form of the row is associated with the sun, the inversion with the moon.”* This is very important because the sun and moon are in a perpetual state of rising and falling, advancing and retreating. This piece functions in a similar way in that there is a sense of rising from m. 1 to m. 9. and a sense of falling from m. 9. to m. 17. This becomes even more apparent when we consider that m. 9 contains the highest pitches in the song (B-natural). Similarly, the second note and the penultimate note are the lowest in the piece (A-natural). This aids in reinforcing a sense of rising and falling.

One may be compelled to ask, why does Dallapiccola use a given note or gesture over certain parts of the text? There are many instances of text painting in this piece and the first occurs right away, in mm. 2-3. The words “sun comes up” is sung on notes that span a distance of an octave and a minor 6th. This distance is covered through A – G – F, ascending (this motive is labeled on the score as the “sun motive”). The sun is coming up just as the notes are doing the same. This instance of text painting becomes even more apparent when we consider that this is the widest ascending vocal leap in the piece, and it is the only instance in which these words are used. Dr. Jack Boss would refer to this as semantic text painting. That is, the musical devices used are done so in a way to express the meaning of the words. Taking this one step further, and once again using Dr. Boss's terminology, we could call this depictive text painting. That is, “subjecting musical elements to a process that parallels the action being described in the text.”*

Thomas DeLio mentions an interesting point that occurs in m. 6. He claims that this is the only point in the piece where the rows are disrupted, which is true. There is a repetition of the G# and the A. DeLio's claim is that since this is the opening and closing two pitches of the piece, they are re- articulated in m. 6 to reinforce their importance. Although I agree that this is probably the case (it is unlikely that it is pure coincidence that these were the two notes chosen to break the 12-tone row) there is another, possibly less intuitive explanation, and it is yet another example of text painting. Consider the text “The crescent moon embraces her.” It is plausible to take the literal meaning of an embrace and apply it to the melodic contour of m. 6. The repetition of the A and G# serve as a way to “embrace” the lone Bb in the measure (this motive is labeled on the score as the “embrace motive”). The idea of an embrace is very important in this piece, particularly when we reach m. 9. Given the subtleties of this piece it is not that big of a stretch to assume that Dallapiccola is using this gesture as a way of foreshadowing the ultimate embrace at m. 9.

Continuing with the idea of a musical embrace to illuminate the text I will focus next on mm. 8-9. As previously mentioned the answer in the clarinet begins at m. 8 and the retrograde of the vocal line begins at m. 9. This is the point in the piece where the most obvious example of the embrace is presented. It is the most clear because there are three separate instances of the embrace occurring simultaneously. The first being simply the text, which states “The crescent moon embraces her.” Second, this is the point in the piece where the clarinet enters and joins the vocal line for the first time creating the effect of an embrace. The vocal line up to this point can be seen as a solitary entity which then finds it's canonical counterpart, the clarinet. The pianissimo dynamic marking in the clarinet also serves to imply a soft, gentle embrace of the vocal line. Finally, the vocal line in m. 9 is where the retrograde occurs and the two high B-naturals serve the function of embracing the exact midpoint of the piece, the two eighth rests. Further, these rests are the exact midpoint of the text. The poem is one stanza consisting of four lines which is divided into two halves by the rests. All of the above mentioned elements of the embrace can also be applied to the next line of text, “Who could unite such a pair?” Just as the music informs the text regarding the embrace, it does the same regarding the metaphorical union of the sun and moon.

In conclusion, I hope that I have achieved a very basic explanation of the structure of the canon in this piece, the interaction of the rows and how they serve to express the meaning of the text, the idea of the musical palindrome and why it may have been used, and the ways in which the music informs the text and vice versa. Also, it is my hope that the insights I have presented will serve to create a more enjoyable listening experience and encourage others to examine more closely the subtleties, nuances, and creative genius of Dallapiccola's music. Regarding the impact it will have on my work as a teacher it is important that, first and foremost, I understand the material. This is a great piece for students to study who are not experts in non-tonal music but who would like to whet their appetite to its possibilities. The piece is twelve-tone but the way in which it is constructed makes it an approachable piece for analysis regardless of your post-tonal theory background.


Thomas DeLio, A Proliferation of Canons:Luigi Dallapiccola's Goethe Lieder No. 2, Perspectives of New Music, Vol. 23, No. 2 (Spring-Summer 1985), pp. 186-195.

Michael Eckert, Text and Form in Dallapiccola's Goethe Lieder, Perspectives of New Music, Vol. 17, No. 2, (Spring -Summer 1979), pp. 98-111.

Oxford Music Online, Dallapiccola, Luigi,

Hutchinson Encyclopedia, Dallapiccola, Luigi (1904-1975),,+Luigi

Gavin Thomas, Gavin Thomas Introduces the Work of Luigi Dallapiccola,

"Luigi Dallapiccola." The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, 11 Dec. 2008,

Jack Boss, “The 'Continuous Line' and Structural and Semantic Text Painting in Bernard Rands's Canti d' Amor”, Perspectives of New Music, 36/2 (Summer 1998), pages 143-185.

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