A diptych for Gerhard Richter and Eduardo Ventura - for violin and viola (2010)

Commissioned by Rita Ficher and Galerie Ficher Rohr for the vernissage of the exhibition “Gerhard Richter and Eduardo Ventura”


Gerhard Richter’s grey paintings of 1973 strike me speechless. They proclaim their expressive force so strongly that I grow silent, they maintain their monolithic character and yet effect an exchange of energy thanks to the contradiction between this very character and their so incredibly painterly, delicate surface. I am tempted to sense this tangibly, trace their lines and inner movements as a viewer.


The point of departure for the reference of my musical composition was the imaginative unity of figure and space in Richter’s grey paintings, which one profoundly senses despite – or perhaps because of – this contradiction. One merges with the other, becomes the other. In my music as a temporal art, an art in time (expression through imaginative changes in the material through time), an imagined unity of figure and space/time (as far as this is possible at all) implies a considerable reduction in the material employed – from the use of the monochrome instrumentation of violin and viola down to a 6-note-series (c – b – b flat – d – c sharp – a) from which everything develops, including contrasts – ensuring that the musical elements continually unfold and circle around one another. The material develops in a spiral form, yet again and again leads back to the point of departure. Especially in the second part of my composition, the aspect of repetition and the yearning to gain a firm hold on something yet break out again, takes on meaning – inspired by the delicacy with which Ventura depicts his figures. The people in his paintings disappear in them (into anonymity?). Their figures and faces are barely perceptible, yet at the same time so close and familiar thanks to the perspective employed. Take the woman in the foreground of his Cena Urbana. She is very close to the viewer, prompting affection, and yet we remain at what amounts to an analytical distance.


There can be no 1:1 musical translation. As described, I have rather attempted to approach the works ideally, by way of the contradiction between monolithic form and intimate surface, by way of tenderness and detachment in the handling of the material.

The subtitle of my composition, Diptych, characterizes the clear bipartite nature of the one movement piece. The first formal section oscillates between rawness and melody. In the second I attempt to capture the moment of a gesture. Please remain… The bipartite character is underscored by a change in tone color; in the second part, the use of a metal mute deprives the tone color of materiality, “spirits it away.”


The title of the composition, Forest I – playing a bit on Richter’s art book Forest, 2008 – has a richness of romantic associations and at the same time symbolizes the conceptual density and interweave of musical links and relationships I strive for. To borrow the metaphor commonly used in the nineteenth century – I dissolve the frozen architectural form into temporal processes, in the course of which I emphasize and savor contradictions in an attempt to evoke the greatest possible richness of relationships in the material.

Sven-Ingo Koch