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World Première: Best Regards Bruno – Letters from Stalingrad

March 20, 2019

image © Ralf Gawlick

Composer Ralf Gawlick never knew his uncle. In 1942, Bruno Gawlick became one of the countless soldiers who went missing at Stalingrad. He was just eighteen years old; his body was never recovered. Instead, what survives of Bruno are two letters, one typed and one handwritten. The handwritten letter, rediscovered by family kin in 2017, is dated December 28, 1942: just two days before Bruno went missing.

These two letters form the structure and inspiration for a new electro-acoustic work, Best Regards Bruno – Letters from Stalingrad. Ralf Gawlick blends recorded and live piano (an instrument Bruno played as a teenager) with spoken text from the last letters and sung text from religious passages and prayers the young soldiers intoned. Against these sonic planes is the incessant, pervasive soundscape of Stalingrad itself, which interacts with the other elements of the piece and serves as an agent of musical drama.

“Immersing myself into the hell and depravity of Stalingrad through archival sources and specialist literature has been heart-wrenching, profoundly painful and moving,” says Gawlick. “This work is both highly personal and contributory to a larger commemoration.”  Gawlick completed the manuscript on the 75th anniversary of the end of the Battle of Stalingrad; the recording of the work in Immanuelskirche, Wuppertal, took place on August 1, 2018, Bruno’s birthday; he would have been 95 years old. This new work explores the personal and the collective sorrow of war; it is unique, and in its intimacy and profound reflections, constitutes a fierce anti-war memorial.

The world première of Best Regards Bruno – Letters from Stalingrad features Bradford Gleim, baritone, and Chi-Chen Wu, piano and will take place on Saturday, March 30 at 7:00pm. Find more information here.

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