The autumn of 1916 was a busy and emotional time for Diepenbrock. His Missa in die festo (RC 27) had been premiered, although the performance had been mediocre. However, the performance of two of his a cappella works by Sem Dresden and his choir, the Madrigal Society, shortly afterward was perfect. Incantation (RC 132) was the first ‘art song’ Diepenbrock had composed in a long while. Meanwhile, new developments in the war, such as the deportation of
Belgian men being sent like slaves to Germany in open cattle trucks! were weighing him down. (BD IX:187) His outrage at the German atrocities manifested itself in all the things he did for the Alliance for Neutral Countries. His setting of Le vin de la Revanche (The Wine of Retaliation, RC 135) was a musical counterpart to his involvement. At the end of November he came down with a high fever and all kinds of pain – as it turned out he had a jaw infection – which kept him from doing much for several weeks. A few days before Christmas his health improved (although he still regularly felt dreadful) and his mood brightened up.
From 25 December 1916 to 7 January 1917 Diepenbrock and his family stayed in Laren. On the third night, a beginning of what could become an orchestral work came to his mind. The four measures might also have served as an introduction to a piece for voice and orchestra, or for choir and orchestra. The sketch has been notated as a score, with each part on a separate stave. The instruments are given: four trumpets in C, three trombones, contrabassoon and tuba, first and second violins in unison, violas, cellos and double basses. The dynamics of the individual melodies have also been exactly specified. The fiery, upward-moving theme, that encompasses more than two and a half octaves, cannot be linked to any other work by Diepenbrock. So we may assume that it is the start of an independent composition. Apart from the one annotation, “the night of 27 Dec 1916 Laren”, nothing is known about the sketch.
However, it is clear from his correspondence that this was precisely when the crisis in Diepenbrock’s marriage began to become manifest in all its vehemence. A letter to his wife reveals that on 29 December 1916 Elisabeth opened a painful conversation with her husband, which he afterwards said was
good and necessary to
melt the ice at last, so we could be open and cordial towards each other again. Under the pressure of external events, we had lately become too much set in our ways. That melting of harshness and suspicion once again gives an inner joy and that feeling of happiness and warmth we cannot do without. (BD IX:194)