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.

Performance/Broadcast History: 
  • 9 March 2023; Northern Illinois University (DeKalb, IL)

    Anthony Devroye, viola

  • 20 February 2023; University of North Texas (Denton, TX) [premiere]

    Michael Capone, viola

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, 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 tear-warmer goes to movies every day.... all that counts is that they fulfill their purpose and elicit tears galore from him.... there were times when he was dependent on his own misfortune.... He tried any number of things, he even tried joys... [though] tears of joy do not go very far.... Nor do fury and anger prove to be any more productive. There is only one cause to be counted on: losses, whereby the irrevocable kind are preferable to all the rest, especially when happening to people who do not deserve them.”

Der Tränenwärmer was composed in May 2020 for violist Michael Capone, who first performed the work on 20 February 2023 at the University of North Texas.