May I have the next dance? - New CD

Dienstag, 23. Feb 2010

Poet’s words and music in one’s head


Francis Picabia claims that our heads are round so that our thoughts can change direction- and so my thoughts further circle around that claim, and I ask myself: so how fast are they? My thoughts, ours, today? What contribution does the time we live in make, how does it affect the few centimeters diameter that is the "racing ball" of our thoughts? Fast, even faster, accelerando, stretta? Or could it mean idleness?

How different are a person's circles of thoughts in relation to his origin and his present, how different are ours from our forebears, if we review the past two centuries? The general agitation of these small "racetracks,"which seems to be connected with the general speed of society and its daily small earthquakes of stimulus satiation, makes my thoughts center increasingly often on one idea: how is an artist to resist the general drive for speed and the resulting limitation of the senses which seem to dominate our times? He tries to create a spiritual ritardando until he recaptures the ability to go weak in the knee, to be moved to tears in the face of a Dutch or French landscape painting, a Chinese watercolor, a small portrait by an Italian master, at the sight of a dried flower in a herbarium, when reading poems by an Arab, Russian or German poet, at the sound of music, beholding the Acropolis,

Petra or a cliff on a small Croatian island from which only the infinite blue is visible, where one hears the cicadas and smells the perfume of rosemary...

Already the traces of the circling thoughts become more colorful, new trains of thought appear as if by magic, showing us new interconnections.

Did you ever ask yourself what Beethoven must have felt when reading Goethe? What Goethe felt when he heard Beethoven's music? Why Schumann, of all composers, felt the urge to set E.T.A. Hoffmann to music? Why Granados composed Goyescas, Liszt set sonnets by Petrarch to music, why Brahms quoted Morgenstern in his music, and why Rimsky-Korsakov was inspired by the Tales of 1001 Nights to write his Scheherazade?

I have spun a web of poetic words around the music on my CD - words by Goethe, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Mickiewicz and Tolstoy.

One of Ludwig van Beethoven's early sonatas, his Opus 10 No. 3, bubbles over with wit, elegance, mockery, is full of surprises. Yet, the slow movement puts the listener into the completely opposite mood - Beethoven told his biographer that Klärchen's death in Goethe's Egmont had inspired him for this movement.

Largo e mesto - broadly and sadly. At the time, Beethoven had to overcome his mother's death. When his own mother was dying, Johannes Brahms was composing the Horn Trio Opus 40, and he inscribed the slow movement with mesto- something he would only do one more time in all of his works. In his own words, he also takes over the form, number of measures and structure of Beethoven's movement. And where Brahms lifts the spirit again in the following movement with a hunting horn motif, Beethoven also brings the light back with a minuet and trio which might conjure up Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, but also with a finale full of power - however ending the sonata - the most voluminous Beethoven had written to date -with a slow fade-out.

Kapellmeister Kreisler, that colorful personality from E.T.A. Hoffmann's Lebensansichten des Katers Murr ("The life and opinions of the Tomcat Murr"), inspired Robert Schumann to write his Kreisleriana. The work was written within a few days, while his beloved Clara Wieck was on a concert tour. Schumann sent Clara the work, and she found it "appallingly muddleheaded."

Thereupon, the offended Schumann dedicated it to his friend Chopin. In the person of the Kapellmeister, the reader (and the listener) encounters a passionate man who lives for love and might die for it, a dreamer who suffers for love and blossoms through it. The moodswings - the poetic, suffering, warm-hearted, the loss of balance and the flights from one extreme to the other - might even give us the idea that these Kreisleriana might be Schumann's self-portraits. What might his "racetrack" have looked like? Schumann considered Kreisleriana one of his best piano works, one that "made you think".

Frédéric Chopin, who did not like Schumann's music particularly, dedicated his Fourth Ballad to his colleague, as a thank-you for Kreisleriana (which he only looked at months after receiving it), and told him that his ballads had been inspired by poems by Mickiewicz.

Adam Mickiewicz was the greatest Polish poet of the romantic era. His Third Ballad is about the water world - about Undine, enchanting siren voices, the dialogue of lovers, heroism. This may also be where other circles are closed. On a voyage to Italy, Mickiewicz met Goethe - who has "Undine" appear as a symbol of water in the study scene of his Faust. Undine - or Rusálka, as she is called in the Slavic region - was also the topic of a work by Pushkin of the same title. Sergey Prokofiev, who studied literature throughout his life, composed not only music for Eugene Onegin and Pique Dame, but also a Pushkin Waltz. This CD, however, contains another waltz, one from his opera War and Peace based on Leo Tolstoy.

Amidst fear, tension, escape and impressions from far-flung Soviet regions (during World War II, artists were evacuated far away from Moscow), the seeds for this work were already laid in 1941. "At that time, I had the idea of writing an opera based on Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace. The chapters about the struggle of the Russian people against Napoleon's hordes in 1812 acquired a certain greatness and familiarity for us under the circumstances. In the Caucasus,I worked on the first six scenes, portraying the peaceful life of the protagonists, with their smiles, tears, hopes, their disappointments and their aspirations." The listeners are invited to paint their own pictures, to explore and create interconnections on their own "racetrack of thoughts," to experience and stand still, to take the composers and poets along on their journey, be it with a carriage or a space shuttle - as you like it. MayI have the next dance?


Anika Vavić

translated by Alexa Nieschlag  


comments (1)


17. 04. 2010, 14:03:36

To Anika

Magico, fantastico


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