Notes of (and on)
AUTUMN SONATA Music is instrumental to Ingmar Bergman’s Autumn Sonata. He studded his script with musical references— the title, Charlotte’s profession as a pianist, and allusions to numerous composers—but he also allowed musical structures to inform the dramaturgy of this work. Below is a key to some of the musical references in and influencing Bergman’s script. SONATA A sonata usually centers on the interplay between two instruments—often, a piano and a stringed instrument, but it can also be a solo or a trio. CHAMBER MUSIC To call a piece “chamber music” usually suggests an intimate piece for four instruments. Here, Bergman works with his four instruments: Eva, Charlotte, Viktor, and Helena.
CHAMBER PLAY Bergman draws not only from music, but from theatre, in his use of the chamber form. August Strindberg, another of Sweden’s famous sons, revolutionized playwriting at the beginning of the 20th century. Strindberg’s chamber plays feature small casts, domestic settings, and dynamic landscapes. An accomplished theatre director, Bergman found great inspiration in Strindberg’s work. One of Strindberg’s most famous chamber plays is his 1907 The Ghost Sonata, but his play The Pelican, with its complex familial relationships, treads on similar subjects as Autumn Sonata. KÄBI LARETEI Laretei, a concert pianist, was married to Bergman from 1959-1969. Autumn Sonata’s Charlotte shares some similarities to Laretei, who played piano for the soundtrack to both Autumn Sonata and Fanny and Alexander.
CHOPIN’S OPUS 28, NO. 2 Both Eva and Charlotte take a turn at interpreting Chopin’s prelude. In his analysis of this prelude, music scholar Lawrence Kramerdescribes the piece as “a gradually unfolding antagonism between melody and harmony, a process that begins with the immediate contrast between the smooth, sinuous right hand part and the square, abrasive accompaniment.” BEETHOVEN’S HAMMERKLAVIER The Hammerklavier (which literally means “hammer-keyboard”) refers to the composer’s Piano Sonata no. 29 in B Flat Major. The sonata is considered one of Beethoven’s most challenging works—noted for its complexity and vastness, a rigorous exploration of tension and conflict.
The great composers found in Bergman’s work—Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Ravel, and Schumann, among others—have influenced the soundscape of Yale Rep’s production. But, in addition to these classic musicians, whose sonatas, piano solos, and concertos are nestled in Charlotte’s bag of sheet music, director Robert Woodruff and music director Michaël Attias have also been influenced by twentieth-century melodies and harmonies. Morton Feldman’s compositions, part of the school of indeterminacy in music and peer of innovative avant-garde composer John Cage, inspired the musical world of this production. Feldman once described his often-atonal work as “vibrating stasis” and found kinship with the works of Abstract Expressionist painter Mark Rothko. As Bergman’s words leap from the screen into new life on the stage, the sounds that emanate from the parsonage’s pianos and radios now must find harmony with a distinctly different kind of music. —AMY BORATKO, PRODUCTION DRAMATURG