© Pala Garcia. All rights reserved.

Ins Licht

Ins Licht opens with an explosive, stark unison on C between cello and piano. The cello plays extremely close to the bridge, fracturing the note into continuously fluctuating overtones. The piano’s C dissipates naturally over the 19 bars it is held, likewise giving way to other overtones, like a metallic patina oxidizing over time. The violin weaves in and out of this overtone series. Ever-higher partials emerge as the melody makes its way upward, quickening exponentially in a pulseless accelerando. This opening prepares us for an expressive cello solo, close piano intervals in quasi-ostinato, and moaning tri-tone glissandi in the violin. The physical action of playing a tri-tone on a string instrument – two digits of the left hand at odds, pressing inwards – can, in the hand, feel as dissonant and tense as its sound. But it is a paradoxical interval: in the language of Bartòk, a tri-tone could bring a lullaby to its gentle conclusion; in the language of Liszt, it could suggest something more explicitly hellish. Haas’ penchant for tritonia, Wyschnegradsky chords (built from tri-tones, octaves, sevenths) forms the foundation of an instantly recognizable, inexhaustible compositional language. While Haas’ work is often characterized as pessimistic – ostensibly true, his works undeniably tend toward the gloomier side of life -- this alone couldn’t account for artistic triumph. Even in the spiritual darkness, there is a beauty of sound, fascinating progress, and the unfurling of ideas. It is often noted that Ins Licht is one of the first pieces of Haas’ that attests to the concept of light, rather than the theme of darkness so prevalent in previous works. I had the valuable opportunity of working with Haas one summer in Lucerne, at a workshop on his third string quartet, “In iij. Noct.”, performed in complete darkness.  When the piece is done justice, there is potential for moments of harrowing dread, also exquisite musical revelations. In the total absence of light, we played and listened blind; sound became more than sound, unearthing primitive memory from a time in the world when we were at the mercy of light and darkness. - Pala Garcia