Der Schönheitsmolch

Complete Work Title: 

Der Schönheitsmolch (The Beauty-newt) — character study after Elias Canetti

Performance Medium: 

solo bass saxophone




for Andreas van Zoelen

Date Composed: 

January-February 2001; completed October 2008

Additional Information: 

Included on the album Improbable Encounters (innova 873, 2014).

Performance History: 

Eric Nestler, bass saxophone:
• 6 October 2014; University of North Texas (Denton, TX)
• 15 September 2014; University of North Texas (Denton, TX) [premiere]

Program Notes: 

Der Schönheitsmolch ("The Beauty-newt") is the eleventh in a series of short works for solo instrument based upon the vividly surreal characters in Der Ohrenzeuge: Fünfzig Charaktere ("Earwitness: Fifty Characters"), written in 1974 by the Bulgarian-born British-Austrian novelist Elias Canetti (1905-1994). Canetti’s distinctive studies incorporate poetic imagery, singular insights, and unabashed wordplay to create fifty ironic paradigms of human behavior. Begun in 1997, there are fifteen works in this series to date, composed for contrabass, violin, contrabassoon, ocarina, glass harmonica, bass flute, alto saxophone, trumpet, percussion, bass saxophone, guitar, piccolo, organ, basset horn, and violoncello. In Canetti's depiction of this character, The Beauty-newt "is keen on all the beautiful things that have existed, do exist, or will exist in the world, and he finds them in palaces, museums, temples, churches, and caves… it would be ungentlemanly to describe his repulsive looks. Let it be said that he never had a nose. His pop eyes, his jughandle ears, his goiter, his black, rotten teeth, the pestilential stench he exudes from his mouth, his sometimes squeaky, sometimes croaking voice, his doughy hands… he never holds them out to anyone and unerringly finds his place in front of all beauties."

Der Schönheitsmolch was completed in October 2008 for bass saxophone specialist Andreas van Zoelen. It is included on the album Improbable Encounters (innova 873, 2014).