“The Serdar” by Vlastimir Nikolovski is written in a cyclic form consisting of three independent staves designated by the author with two titles: Prolog – Lamentation the first one. Dream – Funeral march the second one, and Battle – Oath the third one. The cycle begins with a complex three-parted form (frequent form in the cantatas), but here with shortened repetition – coda and with the movement in a tempo of slow grieving pace. The general tonus of the music whose intensity increases to the end of the stave is lamentingly – tragic and is the most adequate musical equivalent to the contents of the poetic text dealing with the killing of the famous Serdar. The second stave branches into three pictures: pastoral-fantastic– the dream of the mother of the killed one, grieving-bringing of Kuzman’s dead body, and the mourning of the mother. The third one is constructed by two bigger totals: precomposed – the story of the battle, and hymning-recitatve – the oath of the serdar’s enemies. The dismembering of the form of the two last staves into pictures and introduction of the characters give dramatic traits to the composition and consequently cause declining from the norms of the cantata genre. The form of the first stave although strongly individualized stays in the limits of the traditional structures which enter into the frames of more genres among which is the cantata as well. It begins with a prolog – a one-part form in function of exposing a basic thematic material of the stave, but also of introducing the contents of the whole cycle. In it, apart from a basic music character materialized by seven – voiced accorded parallelisms with punctuated, grieving rhythm (an example no. 1), intonations cam be encountered that presage the most important thematic materials in the cycle, which continue in the next two staves; recitative intonations (in the stringers) with intervals of enlarged quarts which enter into the theme of the mother’s ill-fated dream in the second stave and the introduction to the story of the Gega for the tragic killing of the Serdar – the third stave. This connection of the prolog’s intonation with the rest of the staves provides for the meaning of “overtire’ constructed with the materials of the action that follows – a phenomenon peculiar for the opera, but not for the cantata. The middle part of the first stave – The Lament – has a polyphone structure, a phenomenon widely used in the genres of the chorus music with or without company. In it are interwoven elements of the equally functional polyphony with its two varieties, imitative and contrastive polyphony and a homophonic polyphony. But it should be immediately added that the imitative one is not given in its traditional kind and is distinctive by changes in the theme during its traducing to others feet. The thematic materials are in the constant process of developing and process of constant sprouting of their variants – characteristic for works based on a programmatic principal, and also for the Macedonian folk tradition. The theme of the middle part of the form is getting formed with every new imitation and as its final form stands out the last, apotheosis, and not the first, initial appearance. As if the theme were passing through events, dramatic situations, and actions that transform it and condition its final kind. In the middle part of the stave in the fugato field in the woman chorus can be separated clearly the principals of the contrastive polyphony – the counterpoint of the theme is constant and distinguishes with its completeness and character-based thematic material. These properties remind partly of the traditional double and triple complex counterpoints. At the end of The lament as a third is added the variant of the theme of the fugato in the men chorus. The elements of the homophonic polyphony are reflected in the usage of the bordun in middle voice, not less in the position of the theme – always in the higher voice, providing in such a way register and dynamic domination, and also in the bigger or smaller overlapping of the caesuras in the voices – typical for the under-voiced polyphony that emerges in works based on the folk tradition. It is characteristic that in the Prolog are not used the soloists or the chorus. In the whole cantata their usage is linked with dramaturgic role defined in advance – the chorus in a role of the suffering people of Reka and in the role of the author’s voice, the solo alt – in the role of the mother of the Serdar, solo baritone – the leader of the Gegi ad the recitationist – in the role of the narrator. The sticking of the vocal lines to certain roles and functions in the dramaturgy attributes to the work elements of dramatic action characteristic for the oratorio. The dramaturgic center of the cycle in the development of the both poetic and musical content is situated in the second stave. In it the all people tragedy gets its sharpest and most articulated dimension – the individual. For the first time, here the soloists with clear dramatic roles are included – the mother (solo alt) and the narrator (recitationist). The second stave is written in a complex triple form consisting of three different parts. The first one “The Dream” has a structure of a simple poetic form with a recitative as a middle part and a changed, variant repetition. Again we are underlining the author’s avoiding of literal repetitions, the inclination to variants (not variations) that attribute to the musical work special dynamics, bigger plasticity and the unity with the poetic text in the construction of the music-poetic genre. The first part – sentence period-, opens pastoral acoustic picture. The sound effect of space is accomplished with usage of the flageolets in the string corpus and harmonic pedal in high flutes in piano dynamics. Between this and the middle part another part is inserted – its variant with changed tonal center – which fulfills the function of a basis upon which the author depicts the appearance of the mother of the Serdar. Her appearing in the scene – the middle part of the second stave – puts the recitationist in the leading role. The recitative principal achieves its culmination. The orchestra is an illustrator of the picture reflected in the poetic text – four Gegi are carrying the body to the mother. In the culmination is included the chorus with the thematic materials from The lament. That is the crucial place in the whole cantata, the general culmination of the cycle. On the descending from that peak is the morning of the mother, the third part of the form, accompanied by the women chorus – the author has kept the ritual norms of the lament genre according to which only women mourn. The last, third stave basically is a melodic recitative in fast tempo (quarter to 96) in which as if were united the recitative manner of Musogorsky and the narrative of Schenberg – the author in the first tacts of the part for solo baritone pointing to the appropriate manner for the declamation wrote semi cantato – semi-singing – an equivalent to the term spechstimme by Schenberg. In the music the character of the text as a whole is reflected in general, without fixating of the attention on the details _ The Gega narrates the tragic event. The stave begins with orchestral introduction – powerful unisonous in the whole string orchestra accentuated with tympanis and accentuated and pedalled with separated wooden and brass instruments. In its intonations is recognized the thematic homogeny with the fugato of the men chorus from The lament. That is the first thematic arch between the final stave and the preceding one. The appearance of the soloist coincides with the end of the introductory theme. The ostinato and the often used by the author toccata facture accompany its recitative line. (Here it has to be noted that two of his often-performed works are written in the genre of the toccata – The toccata for piano and the Toccata from the piano concert.) The structure of the stave is constructed according to the structure of the text. Every bigger caesura in its development is accompanied by the forming of the new orchestral situation. The orchestration stands out as another form-creating vehicle. The central part of the recitative is separated from the initial one by the shortened repetition of the introduction. It distinguishes with the rising of the expressivity in the line of the solo baritone (the use of the high register) and with new orchestral “picture” – the rhytmics rely on the eight parts values. In the part of the contrabasses and basses the sounding melody is close in its intonation to the fugato of the men chorus in The Lament. To the culmination of the soloist – that is in the end of middle part – is added a longer orchestral episode constructed in the ostinato-toccata manner. In it can be heard the intonations of the lament as well, but with motor rhytmics. That is a kind of musical materialization of the battle. It features the use of more orchestral effects, before all in the brass, which are performing shortly. In the culmination of this “episode of the battle” the soloist is included who seems as if he petrified the evolving of the action with the words “he lifted his sword and hit sharply”. The orchestra is hastily reduced in order to be heard the verses: “ that’s how the wood-cutter cuts an oak that storms has fought and the oak deadly wounded bend down.” That is the psychological culmination of the dramaturgy of the cantata. A soloist and muffled orchestra! “The Oath” represents a short recitative – solo baritone and men chorus, in which again apart of the usual one, it is used the declamatory manner semi cantato – semi parlando i.e. sprechstimme. In the initial score published by The association of the composers of Macedonia, in this part of the stave a replica of Neda is included which is there in the record copy of the work. Here, as well, the main form-creating vehicle is the literary text transformed into a short musical scene. The coda frames the whole cycle using intonations from the Lament in the choral and orchestral parts. This choice for the construction of the coda makes an emphasis on the principal of the lament as a main, the one that cantata begins and ends with. The cyclically of the Serdar relies on the connection of the staves with the same theme – the lament from the first stave. With its appearance in all staves it imposes itself as a leit-theme in whole cycle, the basic musical character which only in the final tacts it seems as getting more heroic tone. By this transformation the line of the basic idea of the Serdar is formed – the transformation of the grieving into heroic, of the lament into hymn. The form of the cantata features high degree of individualization. At first sight it seems that the small number of the staves comparing with the examples of this genre from different epochs is compensated with the increasing of the their volume by connecting of the potential numbers. Thus the effect of the voluminousness is achieved and that is reflected in the lasting of the performance (25min.). With the above mentioned role of the dramatic action and the mutual interaction of the dramatic and lyrical principals, and also in some formal-musical characteristics it is apparent that the one sided defining of the Serdar as a cantata does not exhausts the many genres associations that is typical for the contemporary music in which the principal of the genre-mix is one of the leading.
Translated by: Katarina Cipuševa