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The Yellow Sound

“The Yellow Sound” (“…der gelbe Klang”) is a stage composition by W.Kandinsky involving pantomime, an instrumental ensemble, soprano solo and a mixed choir (1983) W.Kandinsky’s stage composition was published in the famous almanac “The Blue Rider” (1912) According to Kandinsky, it is a synthetic work combining color, movement, speech and music (pantomime, colored projectors, orchestra and singers). Kandinsky’s libretto is plotless which manifests the Abstract art whose theoretician and forebearer he was. The publication in “The Blue Rider” also contains a detailed lighting plot and instructions on the nature of music and pantomime movements. The genre of the “stage composition” was theoretically justified by Kandinsky in his book “Concerning the Spiritual in Art”. This work frequently states the idea of art synthesis and the word is defined as “the inner sound”. The concept of “yellow” is also the focus of the book theoretical development. It makes “the first great contrast” with blue: yellow is warm, orientated towards the viewer, moving outwards (eccentrically); blue is cold, oriented from the viewer, inwardly (concentric). Following Kandinsky’s libretto #Schnittke wrote a double-purpose composition: it could be either staged or played at a concert with reproductions of Kandinsky’s paintings.

All six paintings of Kandinsky’s libretto were retained in music, there is also characters’ verbal text (very little) and symbolic key sounds a and h. By the nature of the music content, Schnittke’s composition develops concentrically from well-defined melodics in Part I to its gradual melting when it becomes aleatory and improvisatory in the centre and later gradually restores its melodic pattern towards the end. It is enframed by a sonoristic type introduction and conclusion. Kandinsky’s libretto was first set to music by the artist’s collaborator, the Russian composer with a German surname, Thomas de Hartman. A new version was made by the band leader of Regtime ensemble, the composer and director G.Schuller who accomplished the premiere in the early 1980s in New-York. “The Yellow Sound” was also staged in Paris with music by Webern. In the USSR “The Yellow Sound” was first performed in Tchaikovsky Concert Hall on January 6, 1984.

Premiere on 12 May, 1972 at the Guggenheim Museum, New York City, United States
4 March 1976 - Theatre des Champs-Elysees, Paris
9 February 1982 - Marymount Mahattan Theatre in New York City
7-8 September 1982 - Altes Opera, Frakfurt am Main
6 January 1984 - TCHAIKOVSKY CONCERT HALL, Moscow
12-15 February 1987 - Bern Theatre, Bern Switzwerland
21 March 1992 - NIA Centre, Manchester U.K.
November, 2010, - Target Margin Theatre Co. at The Brick Theater, New York City, United States
10 April 2011 - Palazzo dei Congressi, Lugano. Original score composed by Carlo Ciceri.


American production based on the original score by Gunther Schuller (composed by Thomas de Hartmann)
French production - on a score by Anton Webern
Russian production - on a score by Alfred Schnittke

Giedrius Mackevicius, composed by Alfred Schnittke 1984