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Program note: Gone with the Waltz

  • The Song Company
  • Source: M for Murder 20,21 June 1997

Gone with the Waltz* Elena Kats-Chernin (b. 1957)
The Russian-born composer studied in Moscow, Sydney and Hanover and lived in Germany
for 13 years working for a number of leading theatres in Berlin, Vienna, Bochum and
Hamburg. She has composed soundtracks for several films and has written concert pieces for
the SSO, Sydney Alpha Ensemble and Ensemble Modern amongst others. She returned to
Australia in 1994 and has since received numerous grants and prizes. 'Cadences, Deviations
and Scarlatti' won the Sounds Australian Award for best composition in 1996.
Gone with the Waltz was commissioned by The Song Company with assistance from the
Music Fund of the Australia Council and was written in April 1997. As the title suggests, it is a
walz-song, yet with the obsession of a funeral march. The conflict between the hard staccatos
(chop-chop) and the schmaltzy legato melodies (in sugary German) provides the main musical
tension for this tribute to the German genre of the 'Moritat', a macabre yet sweetly type of
ballad. The sentimentality of certain popular German singers of the 20s and 30s as well as the
laconic and biting dryness of German cabaret represent simultaneously the morbid fascination
with that which is frightening and abhorrent yet sweetly alluring to the public's taste for
The jargon-like words that constitute the text are by the composer except for the Woyzeck
quotation ' Ein schöner Mord, ein guter Mord' - 'a nice murder, a good murder...'.
*World premiere