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Work of the Week – Aribert Reimann: Fragments de Rilke

‘La secret de la vie’, (the secret of life) is the topic of Aribert Reimann’s recent work, Fragments de Rilke, which will receive its world premiere on 23 February 2019 at the Berlin Philharmonie. This song cycle for soprano and orchestra was commissioned by the Deutsche Symphonie-Orchester Berlin who will give the first performance as part of the Brahms-Perspektiven festival with chief conductor, Robin Ticciati and soprano soloist, Rachel Harnisch.

It was while writing his most recent opera, L‘Invisible (2011-2017) that Reimann first worked with Rainer Maria Rilke’s poetic fragments; the texts have since found their way into a number of works for voice and piano. In Reimann’s new orchestral settings, however, Rilke’s influence has been allowed to extend to its accompaniment, colouring the composer’s dramatic orchestral writing.

Aribert Reimann: Fragments de Rilke – The human experience

Reimann’s chosen texts, written between 1911 and 1926, deal with questions of defining human experience: what shapes a life – could it be love, fate or something divine? The work consists of a single movement, which is divided in the score into a prelude followed by 12 fragments and highly varied interludes. The piece concludes with the fragment ‘Profond amour qui de la terre s’élève’ (Deep love that rises from the earth), after which Reimann states that the intellectual objective has been satisfied.

“Everything that happens
a mask on our face that
never dares to be definitive
The wind of which memory, of which life the wind
has in passing laid a mask on my being”
(Fragments V and VI)

In an introduction to the concert on 23 February, Aribert Reimann will discuss his work with musicologist Habakuk Traber. There are a number of other opportunities to hear Reimann’s vocal music this year: On 10 March Reimann’s …oder soll es Tod bedeuten after Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy will be played in Chemnitz, and on 22 March Drei Gedichte der Sappho will be performed in Karlsruhe.