Die dreizehn Monate (The Thirteen Months) - Mixed Choir
The rain is jangling with just one finger
The grass-green Easter-melody.
The year is ageing – while getting younger.
Oh paradox of harmony!
– Erich Kästner: “The April” (translated by Hartwig Riedl)
The 13 Months are Erich Kästner's last cycle of poems, which Hartwig Riedl set to music as a song cycle for soprano and piano. My choral version is the arrangement of the songs by Hartwig Riedl for four-part mixed choir, retaining the original piano accompaniment. The result is a cycle of 13 choral songs of quite epic dimensions with a performance time of about 45-50 minutes, which tells about the course of the year and life in a cheerful and also thoughtful way.
The timeless subject matter of Kästner's texts and the equally timeless style of Riedl's music make this cycle interesting for choirs that have a desire for sophisticated contemporary choral literature, but which should also be accessible to the very widespread circle of amateur choirs.
The present version for four-part mixed choir was created under this basic assumption. The tonalities and formal concepts of the original version have been retained throughout, as has the original harmony. The basic concept is the homophonic four-part choir of soprano, alto, tenor and bass; voting divisions were completely dispensed with. The soprano usually carries the melody of the original.
Nevertheless, this choral cycle is not a monotonous homophonic movement: voice reduction and imitative compositional techniques attempt to be a further element of the interpretation of the text. Two-part passages offer the opportunity to "play off" the timbres of men's and women's voices against each other; there are special moments for the lower voices to be able to "squeeze" the melody from the soprano.
In addition to the performance of the cycle in its entirety as a large concert work, it is conceivable, with regard to the pragmatism of performances, to also perform individual months like singular choral songs, since they are self-contained. Perhaps a choral society enjoys performing only The May at a singers' meeting in spring, or the three months of a season.
It is also quite possible to perform individual passages as a solo and to do without the polyphony of the choral writing. Be it because the rehearsal period was too short or because a soloist (or a small group) is able to create additional tonal variety to the choir.
So I hope that with this choral version I can make a contribution to the spread of the textual and musical gem of the “Thirteen Months” and I wish all choirs who dare to do it a lot of joy in living through the annual cycle.
Further information about Hartwig Riedl's song cycle as well as a more comprehensive insight into additional pages of the trial score and audio samples for soprano and piano can be found here in the edition riedl - The 13 Months.