Symphony No. 2: Aussöhnung

  • September 9, 1986
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Text: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


Commissioned: Meet the Composer Residencies Program for the Houston Symphony, with grants from Exxon Corporation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts Dedicated to Sergiu Comissiona


Premiere: October 25, 1986; Houston Symphony; Sergiu Comissiona, conductor; Judith Bettina, soprano



3(3.pic).3(3.ca).3(3.bcl).3(3.cbsn)-, b.d, tam-t, cym, sus cym, gong, glsp, mar)-2hp.pno-str


Duration: 30’

Publisher: Schott Helicon Music Corporation (BMI)




sym2-2Aussöhnung is the first song I ever wrote. The poem was given to me by my close friend, the soprano, Judith Bettina after she purchased a book of Goethe's poems from a street vendor on Broadway, took the book home, found the poem and burst into tears upon reading it. When she gave it to me she suggested that I set it to music.  It lay on my piano for a long time. Every time she visited me she asked if I'd done it yet and I'd say I was working on other things and would get around to it one day. Eventually years went by. She was visiting for the weekend at my family's house in upstate New York. She'd brought the poem with her. She said to me: "go in your studio and don't come out until you've set that poem."  So, I sat down and wrote the song. I then invited her and and she sang it with me at the piano. After a few adjustments it was finished.  A few years later she suggested that I turn it into a symphony and it became the basis for my Symphony No. 2. The poem had special personal meaning for both of us and we both understood it’s meaning without ever even having to discuss it.



Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


Die Leidenschaft bringt Leiden!—Wer beschwichtigt,

Beklommnes Herz, dich, das zu viel verloren?

Wo sind die Stunden, überschnell verflüchtigt?

Vergebens war das Schönste dir erkoren!

Trüb ist der Geist, verworren das Beginnen;

Die hehre Welt, wie schwindet sie den Sinnen!


Da schwebt hervor Musik mit Engelsschwingen,

Verflicht zu Millionen Tön um Töne,

Des Menschen Wesen durch und durch zu dringen,

Zu überfüllen ihn mit ewger Schöne:

Das Auge netzt sich, fühlt im höhern Sehnen

Den Götter-Wert der Töne wie der Tränen.


Und so das Herz erleichtert merkt behende

Daß es noch lebt und schlägt und möchte schlagen,

Zum reinsten Dank der überreichen Spende

Sich selbst erwidernd willig darzutragen.

Da fühlte sich—o daß es ewig bliebe!—

Das Doppel-Glück der Töne wie der Liebe.




translated by Richard Howard


From passion, pain: and who can make amends

to your anguished heart for all that it has lost?

Where are the hours that have dissolved so fast,

what good the glimpse of beauty you once had?

Your mind is dull, its purposes are blurred,

and from each sense the splendid world escapes.


Then, hovering the way a seraph might,

music weaves its notes together, sounds

that make their way into your secret self,

filling, spilling over; this is beauty!

Your eyes fill too, how longingly you feel

the godliness of music and of tears.


And so your heart is comforted and knows

it is alive, and beating, and will beat

in gratitude for a gift so undeserved,

eager to give itself up, to make return.

Now you feel—if only it would last!—

the double joy of music and of love.



Text used by kind permission of Richard Howard. All rights reserved.


The Houston PostCarl Cunningham

"During the year that he has lived here, Houston Symphony composer-in-residence Tobias Picker has not exactly been idle...Picker [also] has been writing music, which is the main purpose of his residency here under the Meet the Composer program..."


"Subtitled Aussöhnung (Reconciliation), Picker's Second Symphony takes its name from a poem by Goethe on the power of music to restore an awareness of beauty to senses that have become dulled by stress and everyday cares."


"In a burst of inspiration, he set the poem as a song, thinking it might become part of a larger orchestral work. Indeed it did become both the theme and the culmination of his 30-minute, 10-movement Second Symphony."


"Though the song...was composed first and is the theme upon which the nine variations are based, it is placed at the end of the work, expressing the resolution and reconciliation of various ideas and emotions dealt with in the variations."


"Despite the fact that the theme is heard last, Picker said that the music really flows organically from the musical ideas heard in the first variation. He also said that the nine short variations are grouped into three larger sections. The first two sections have a slow-fast-slow sequence of variations, while the third section is cast in a fast-fast-slow plan. And there is a short prelude before the nine variations."



Recording available on First Edition Records and Elektra


TP MI0000960122

for soprano and orchestra

3(3.pic).3(3.ca).3(3.bcl).3(3.cbsn)-, b.d, tam-t, cym, sus cym, gong, glsp, mar)-2hp.pno-str