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Klee Sketches

Klee Sketches

for clarinet/bass clarinet, alto-/baritone saxophone, violin/viola and piano

1. In the current six tresholds (Green and red)

2. Rhyth-misches

3. Narr in Trance

4. Rhytmical, Stricter and Freer

5. Harmonisierter Kampf

6. Drei Subjecte, polyphon

7. In the current six tresholds (Red and yellow)

8. Exotischer Klang

9. In the current six tresholds (Yellow and blue)

This oeuvre contains 9 miniatures based on 7 paintings by Paul Klee (1879-1940). My fascination for this artist arose when analyzing the form, the rhythm, the polyphony, the sound, the harmony, the dynamics and the variations in his work. Being a musician himself, Klee used these terms in his classes at the Bauhaus to explain his abstract work. Klee’s paintings and drawings are very musical because they visualize the absolute essence of music. The ‘Klee Sketches’ were composed after scrupulously analysing the paintings, with the purpose of ‘translating’ them into music.

In ‘In the Current Six Thresholds’ (1929) the dark multiphonics of the bass clarinet and the low tones of the baritone saxophone give voice to the dark background while the piano plays the horizontal lines, based on the rhythms that occur on the left side of the painting. This painting is used 3 times in the ‘Klee Sketches’. In the beginning only the green and red lines are used.  The second time only the red and yellow ones and at the end only the yellow and blue lines are combined.



‘Rhyth-misches’ and ‘Rhythmisches, strenger und freier’ (both painted in 1930) are similar to each other. The color fields are ‘translated’ into chords in the piano, reading the paintings like a musical score (from left to right).



‘Narr in Trance’ consists of one single line, resulting into the clownish figure. The line is meticulously transformed in one melody, alternately played by the four instruments, resulting in a humoristic music that evokes a ‘fool’ being in ‘trance’.




In ‘Harmonisierter Kampf’ (1937), the black lines are played by the bass clarinet, baritone saxophone (using ‘slap tongue’ techniques) and viola (using bartokian pizzicati) in my imagination related to sounds of a battle with swords and sticks. The piano playes the color fields with 47 abruptly interrupting chords.


‘Drei Subjecte, polyphon’ (1931) is played by the 3 melodic instruments. Each of them symbolizes a specific figure in the painting that repeats itself in several variations. The movement evolves slightly into a complete polyphonic 3-voiced composition.



‘Exotischer Klang’ (1930) consists of one big melodic line, played by the viola, repeated in several variations. The wind instruments play the colors and the small figure in the center.



21 minutes
  • Clarinet in Bb / Bass Clarinet in Bb
  • Alto Saxophone / Baritone Saxophone in Eb
  • Violin / Viola
  • Piano
Commissioned by
Ensemble Hommages