«Nachtgesänge» for Mezzo-Soprano and Orchestra (1999)

Part of the CD-booklet-text by Thomas Meyer: In January 2001 David Zinman and the mezzo soprano Malena Ernman premiered Fabian Müller`s Nachtgesänge at the Tonhalle in Zurich. Zinman encouraged the composer to orchestrate the piece which was originally composed in 1993 for mezzo soprano, English horn, Horn, Harp and String Quartet. Fabian Müller (born 1964) does not see himself as a typical composer of Lied. Texts play a secondary role in his music and correspondingly he does not strive to write music with conceptional, literary or political influences; he strives to write an «absolute music, music that does not want to be anything but music. When I consider all the accomplishments of Western music, today`s greatest challenge is to write music which does not need extra-musical content to be complete or to be understood». Nonetheless his «musical strings» start vibrating when he reads a good text, especially one by Hermann Hesse: «perhaps because his poems seem like musical entities and it does not even seem appropriate to attempt to render a musical version of the textual content; perhaps also because Hesse`s poems are strongly inspired by moods and are capable of calling forth moods». Müller wants to capture these moods--an essential source of inspiration for him--and «roll out the red carpet for Hesse`s words» with music with an emotional content closely related to the poems but largely free of any hint at a literal meaning. Of course he can`t ignore all «hints»: for example the jagged descending gesture during «O taumelbunte Welt» (Oh frenzied World) or the high accents on «Glanz» (shine), «Licht» (light) and «Tod» (death). On the word «Draussen» (outside) in the third song it seems as if the voice wants to briefly break out of the dark texture. These small elements are much less important than the long line which goes through the whole piece, often in the voice but also in various instruments. This line gives the piece its elegiac, melancholic character. This line often goes into lower registers. Thus the climax in the fourth poem seems even more vehement. «Nur die ewige Mutter bleibt, von der wir kamen» (Only the eternal mother from whom we came remains) is the emotional high point of the piece. Something seems to revolt against the past and remain in the present, even afterwards when the music seems to return to the beginning. After a final lowpoint the voice ascends out of this darkness one more time. The ending with a descending line in B-major has something conciliatory about it.


for mezzo-sopran and big orchestra after poems by Hermann Hesse Composed originally for chamber ensemble, 1998/99 arrangement for large orchestra and addition of the first and fifth movement.


I. Nachtgang I
II. Bei Nacht
III. Einsamer Abend
IV. Vergänglichkeit
V. Nachtgang II


2 Flutes, 2 Oboes, 1 Cor anglais, 2 Clarinets (A), 2 Bassoons
4 Horns (F), 2 Tenor Trombones, 1 Bass Trombone
Timpani, Percussion
Violin 1, Violin 2, Viola, Violoncello, Double Bass


about 18 minutes


Complete Work on hire


Study Score


22,- sFr / 14,- €

Piano reduction


24.- sFr / 15.- €



Malena Ernman, Mezzo Sopran

Philharmonia Orchestra, London

David Zinman, Conductor

col legno - WWE 1CD 20205 (P 2002)

World Premiere

12th January 2001 with the Tonhalle Orchester Zürich, David Zinman, conductor, and Malena Ernman, mezzo sopran at Grosser Saal / Tonhalle Zürich


January 12th, 2001 - Tonhalle Zürich


Malena Ernman, Mezzo-Sopran
David Zinman, Conductor
Tonhalle Orchester Zürich