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Work of the Week – Christian Jost: Dichterliebe

photo: Adobe Stock / Arman Zhenikeyev

These days, there is a renaissance of song recitals. Song cycles offer a welcome opportunity for concert or scenic events with a very limited number of persons involved. Either with piano accompaniment or arranged for ensemble, they gain popularity. A special project is planned to commence on 20 June at Staatstheater Darmstadt: Christian Jost’s Dichterliebe. Eight singers from the theatre will alternate in singing the vocal part of the cycle, the nine instrumentalists from the State Orchestra Darmstadt will play under the baton of Jan Croonenbroeck.  

The form of presentation is the special element of the project: It will be shown in front of a audience and online as a live concert with film, directed by Franziska Angerer, stating:

“Wir machen einen Film — was nicht heißt, dass wir das Theater damit ersetzen wollen. Ganz im Gegenteil: Ich glaube, es ist wichtig, dass wir die Leerstelle Theater auch als solche gelten lassen. Und auch wenn wir uns nun filmisch mit der „Dichterliebe“ auseinandersetzen, verwenden wir trotzdem theatrale Mittel. Gerade für dieses Projekt eignet sich das Medium Film an sich jedoch sehr gut. Der Komponist Christian Jost beschreibt seine Komposition als einen assoziativen Strom, der Schumanns und Heines Lieder wie Inseln in sich trägt und miteinander verwebt. Hierdurch entstehen viele Zwischenräume, die sich mit den Mitteln des Films wunderbar erschaffen lassen; man hat andere Möglichkeiten und Zeitlichkeiten als im Theater, was ganz wunderbar ist.”

Christian Jost – Dichterliebe: das Prinzip des Weiterdenkens

Dichterliebe was commissioned by the Berlin Konzerthaus and the Copenhagen Opera Festival, and received its world premiere at the Berlin Konzerthaus in 2017. The work is inspired by Robert Schumann’s well-known Dichterliebe op. 48 based on poems by Heinrich Heine. Jost’s reinterpretation changes and increases the cycle’s instrumentation, as well as doubling its length, effectively integrating Schumann’s romantic art song with his own modern style. The music is further supplemented by video sequences which provide a visual representation of the songs’ themes.

The 16 songs of Schumann’s cycle tell a sorrowful story of lost love. The singer’s expressions shift through pain, indifference, sorrow and joy, perhaps in a dream or perhaps reality. In Heine’s poems, the river Rhine acts as a symbol for this stream of emotions, and Jost’s songs also flow. The tenor seems to surface time and again out of the dense, wave-like instrumental accompaniment of legato ostinato, and the harmonies and melodies of Schumann’s composition are developed by Jost into a tonal stream. For example, the short motifs from Schumann’s piano accompaniment are expanded by Jost throughout the whole cycle with greater depth.

The four scheduled performances of Dichterliebe take place on 20, 27 and 28 June as well as 11 July. 

photo: Adobe Stock / Arman Zhenikeyev


Work of the Week: Alexander Goehr – Vanishing Word

On 25 November, Ensemble Modern will give a concert focused on the music of Alexander Goehr at the Wigmore Hall in London, including the UK premiere of his major song cycle Vanishing Word with mezzo-soprano Lucy Schaufer and tenor Christopher Gillet. The following day, the same performers present the concert at the Alte Oper in Frankfurt, marking the work’s German premiere. Continue reading “Work of the Week: Alexander Goehr – Vanishing Word”