The Composer Matthias Georg Kendlinger

from Claudia Seidl and Dr. Felix Loy

The many years in which Matthias Kendlinger devoted himself to dance music (1981 to 1994) have certainly left deep traces in his work; but instead of maintaining this light tone in his symphonic work, he turns to more profound subjects such as manipulation in the first symphony and human rights in the third symphony. For these, he favors minor keys in particular.

„I experienced the profundity and the Slavic soul especially when I met my wife Larissa, who was born in Tashkent (Uzbekistan). The melancholy and the profound conversations impressed me. And I love contrasts.”

Kendlinger about his piano concerto Larissa

The Violin Concerto Galaxy in A Minor is also rich in contrasts, weaving an almost galactic energy over pacing orchestral sounds right from the beginning. The result is an urgent sense of forward compulsion, which not even the melody, which in the slower sections (Meno mosso) is particularly densely woven and compressed, is able to interrupt. The first movement ends almost lightheartedly and certainly in a somewhat unorthodox manner – as if it is time for the lyrical-melancholic story to be told.

States of Suspension

The stringing together of motifs or slightly varied patterns results in recurring drastic transitional situations throughout the entire concerto. Kendlinger never leaves the territory of the tonal music and yet manages to create states of seeming suspension. While some listeners may be looking forward to the following motives with renewed attention during the final – often fermata – note of a section, it may also happen that on repeated hearing, bridges between the sections form in the inner ear as if by magic. With a tranquil cantilena in A minor, the solo violin slowly soars into the heights of the second movement, where it is carefully supported by strings and woodwinds. A short tutti (which actually only includes horn and percussion as additional instruments) confirms the violin, but the harmonic shift to B minor is once again refreshingly unexpected, almost as if the tutti wanted to tell the story again with their eyes – and they see it somewhat differently.

Distinctive dialogues

Distinctive dialogues unfold particularly in the final movement, where flute and clarinet join in the violin’s narrative. This leads to an escalation which is averted by an abrupt unison sound on the keynote a. The following section “Children’s Eyes” in triple meter contemplates the initial problem with provocative simplicity and thus contributes a balancing and calming effect. This larghetto hovers above the heads like a journey into times long past which nevertheless have an impact on what we do now. With renewed strength from the insights gained from this – “Children’s eyes do not lie” – the work heads into the brilliant finale.

Both Galaxy and the 2nd Symphony are exemplary for Kendlinger’s artistic life, for his musical work, which aims to unite peoples and countries as well as time and again bringing different “musical worlds” into relation with each other, most especially those of folk music, classical music and film music. Another major subject is also the socio-critical debate.

In his compositions, Matthias Kendlinger repeatedly addresses various aspects of bridge building in his very individual musical language. He deliberately gives his 2nd symphony the title “Austrian-Ukrainian.” In his Opus 9 he combines music from these countries, both of which offer him a home in their own way, with the most ambitious art form of classical music.

Detached from the expectations of the avant-garde classical music scene in the tradition of Schönberg or Stockhausen, he rather refers to the tonal compositions of Mozart, Wagner or J. Williams, with the aim of reaching the listener directly. Thus his 2nd Symphony in C sharp minor begins with powerful tubular bell strokes which, in two rapidly swelling orchestral tuttis, raise the colorful curtain for this bilateral performance. Mahler’s 5th Symphony – also in the rare key of C sharp minor – begins with a funeral procession reminiscent of the general march of the Austro-Hungarian army. Kendlinger’s beginning with a funeral march triggers such associations and thus evokes another facet of the crossing of borders between the genres. The presentation of the first theme wanders through numerous voices and voice combinations, whereby the composer shows a special knack for the instrumentation of his often dense orchestral settings. As in film music, he shapes his clear motifs more through rhythmic conciseness than through melodic artifice.

Darkly lyrical worlds of sound

The second theme is also introduced with expressive string sounds, but already suggests that lyrical, somber soundscapes will develop from it in the course of the piece, and carefully diverges into various moods. With low brass and timpani, the second movement in 6/4 meter moves inexorably downwards – even towards ruin. Redeeming from this, the high woodwinds enter into a lucent dialogue, first in distant spheres, then becoming more substantial in majestic dance sections strung together until the pace practically doubles.

But Kendlinger shies away neither from only apparent redemption, nor from deep ruptures. New musical thoughts which seem to completely oppose what went before are unfolded; frequently a harmonically surprising turns highlights a new path. Alpine and Slavic musical material is placed side by side, is combined by rhythmic crossings and thus forms a stable wall. The rondo-like Scherzo stands out in its structure, but once again illustrates the connection between two opposites. Thematically, the entire movement is based on the simple folk tune “Die Tiroler sind lustig” (also “Kommt ein Vogel geflogen”), which Kendlinger takes apart according to all the rules of the classical art of variation and pours into a strict, traditional form. Many a harmonic outburst, many a newly assembled motive is a commentary of the Tyrolean composer – also refracted ironically.

Ruptures and conjunctions, deep brass sounds and whirring flute tones, but also the transgression of formal boundaries by intuitively thinking more broadly to encompass the audience characterizes the works of Kendlinger. Instead of creating abstract artworks for analysts and music critics, he composes directly for the listener. His inspiration is essentially nourished by longer-term thoughts and is supported by immediate experiences which he presents in his music, lending them a universal relevance in this abstract form.

Ruptures and conjunctions

All of this is often created at night, half asleep, without interruption from outside and alone with nature. Thus he will sit in his Tyrolean “composing cottage” and let the seeming tranquility take effect. Out of this silence powerful works develop which shake up the listener and cause him to reflect.

Claudia Seidl (*1990) Claudia Seidl (*1990) studied law, philosophy and historical musicology in Passau and Tübingen. After starting her career as an editor at Carus-Verlag Stuttgart, she now works as an editor, publisher and author for music publishers and festivals in the German-speaking world.

Dr. Felix Loy (*1963) studied musicology and German literature in Tübingen. He is an editor of the Neue Schubert-Gesamtausgabe (Tübingen/Vienna). He also works as a freelance editor and author for publishing houses (including Beethoven-Haus Bonn; Richard-Strauss Edition, Munich) and music publishers.