Der Leidverweser

Complete Work Title: 

Der Leidverweser (The Woe-administrator) — character study after Elias Canetti

Performance Medium: 

solo contrabassoon




to James Rodgers

Date Composed: 

June 1998

Additional Information: 
  • Awarded First Prize in the “El Ruiseñor Grave” Competition (1998).
  • Included on the album Improbable Encounters (innova 873, 2014).
  • This work is part of a collection of solo works based on character studies in Elias Canetti's book Der Ohrenzeuge (Earwitness).
  • Solo works from this collection may be programmed as a set, or in conjunction with the semi-improvisational, open-form works Canetti-menagerie (for five to eight instruments) or Conversations (for two to four instruments), which use these works as source material for improvisational interplay.

Performance/Broadcast History: 
  • 19 March 2021; University of North Texas (Denton, TX)

    Jorge Cruz, contrabassoon

  • 23 October 2018; James Madison University Concert Hall (Harrisonburg, VA) — JMU Contemporary Music Festival

    Josh Ballinger, contrabassoon

  • 7 March 2011; University of North Texas (Denton, TX)
  • 6 March 2011; Voices of Change Salon Concert (Dallas, TX)

    Kathleen Reynolds, contrabassoon

  • 9 August 2001; University of West Virginia (Morgantown, WV) — International Double Reed Society Conference

    James Rodgers, contrabassoon

  • 13 August 1999; University of Wisconsin, Madison — International Double Reed Society Conference [premiere]

    Monica Fucci, contrabassoon

Program Notes: 

Der Leidverweser ("The Woe-administrator") is the fourth in a series of short works for solo instrument based upon 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. This collection, begun in 1997, was inspired by the vividly surreal depictions of Canetti’s characters, and comprises twenty-two solo works to date—composed for familiar instruments such as violin, guitar, piano, and trombone, as well as less common instruments such as ocarina, cimbalom, glass harmonica, and carillon. In Canetti's depiction of this character, The Woe-administrator "has lost all he had six times. He has known poverty and hunger; and since he was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth, he has had to make do with iron. He has always worked his way up with iron energy. No sooner did he reach the top than he lost everything again."

Der Leidverweser was composed in June of 1998 for contrabassoonist James Rodgers. The work received the 1998 El Ruiseñor Grave Prize and was first performed by Monica Fucci on 13 August 1999, for the International Double Reed Society Conference at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. It is included on the album Improbable Encounters (innova 873, 2014), performed by James Rodgers.