THE BLUE FLOWER
There is a dream that is as old as humanity, of a forgotten land, hidden in time, beyond an
enchanted gate, where all that we wish, at once and forever, can be. Some call it
unattainable, or even deny its existence, others claim a life pursuing it will usher us in, still
others that it does not exist until imagined and pursued.
In the Spring of 2003 a manuscript was uncovered from a cave in southern Germany. The
Blue Flower, consisting of thirty three measures for solo piano, is signed, Heinrich von
Ofterdingen, but this is a pseudonym: Ofterdingen is the hero of a novel by Novalis, the
Romantic poet, a novel whose plot centers on the quest for a dream-flower that symbolizes
A stylistic analysis of the score indicates the presence of the Lisztian method of “thematic
transformation”: this pinpoints the date of composition to a time no earlier than the mid -
1850’s. The numerous “pregnant pauses” on half-cadences followed by surprising tonal
shifts bespeak an acquaintance with Wagner’s “Tristan” (1857) - or did Wagner get the idea
from "Ofterdingen"? But the delicate chromatic shifts are combined with a butterfly-
suppleness of rhythm and melody resulting in a musical impression distinct from anything
found in the Liszt / Wagner circle (with the exception of some rare moments in the lieder of
Peter Cornelius). The tone is somehow both innig and aloof from the cloying sensuality
that mars the efforts of the aforementioned group. At the same time the miniaturism of the
piece combined with its aura of solitude (it relates to nothing outside itself) evoke images of
some huge, unknown opera (even tetralogy - forever lost?) to which the music before us
may be but a sketch for a Prelude. On the negative side, The Blue Flower indulges in
certain sins common to its period: excessive sequence, a chromatic matrix too provocative
for its proportions, and a rather desultory effect, despite its brevity. “Herr Ofterdingen,” like
so many of his contemporaries, seems to have lacked the epic sense achieved only by the
great masters of the past.
And yet for some there is a moment, a soft turn of melody, that seems slightly to lift the
enchanted gate: an inexplicable optimism arises, and, breathless, we seem to catch the
divine dream's dim echo, beckoning us out from ourselves...
The work at hand being until now completely unknown, the question of its influence on
future generations may be dismissed. Yet all the more forcibly do the music’s prescient
qualities emerge: in its preference for tritone transpositions and chromatic saturation the
work anticipates the next century and in so doing lends the credence of an independent
voice to our conviction that Romanticism (like so many of its heroes) as a movement carries
a death-wish and bears the seeds of its dissolution into either the madness of
Expressionism or the icy cold of Existentialism.
In conclusion, The Blue Flower is either:
1. The work of an unknown 19th century composer, probably German, who, in an ultimate,
extravagant act, sublimated his creative output (Is there more music lurking in other
caves?), hiding it from the world, to await its discovery in some remote, utopian future, or
2. A fraud perpetrated by some anonymous (bitter? demented?) musicologist, who has
attempted to reconstruct not only the musical language but the larger Welt - anschauung of
Romanticism, perhaps intending the exercise as an ironic commentary on the issues of
musical style, quality and originality, or perhaps (we suspect) hoping to make fools of the
scholarly community (as heinous as it is cowardly an endeavor).
It has been deemed advisable to publish a facsimile of the autograph, in order to bring the
musician into the closest possible contact with the composer’s intentions. For fingering and
pedal we recommend common sense and musical taste (if available).