Der Tränenwärmer

Complete Work Title: 

Der Tränenwärmer (The Tear-warmer) — character study after Elias Canetti

Performance Medium: 

solo viola




to Michael Capone

Date Composed: 

May 2020

Additional Information: 
  • 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.

Program Notes: 

Der Tränenwärmer (The Tear-warmer) is the nineteenth in a series of short works for solo instrument based upon characters from 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 of works, begun in 1997, was inspired by the vividly surreal depictions of Canetti’s characters and includes works for contrabass, violin, bass flute, ocarina, contrabassoon, glass harmonica, trumpet, percussion, bass saxophone, piccolo, organ, basset horn, and violoncello, among others. In Canetti's depiction of this character, “the tear-warmer goes to movies every day.... all that counts is that they fulfill their purpose and elicit tears galore from him.... [He] was not always so well off, there were times when he was dependent on his own misfortune.... He twisted about in life uncertainly, towards a loss, a hurt, and inconsolable grief.... It took the tear-warmer many disappointments to realize that no man has enough unhappiness in his own life to get his money's worth.”

Der Tränenwärmer was composed in May 2020 for violist Michael Capone.